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Tech-savvy teachers honoured

They don’t wear capes in the classroom. But give them an educational problem that needs a dash of technology, and their super-powers emerge. They’re Microsoft’s Expert Educators and Mentor Schools, and they’re coming soon to a school near you.

Microsoft has just announced the first three educators and school in South Africa to take part in its Expert Educator and Mentor Schools programmes. Members of both programmes become part of a global one-year initiative to recognise teachers and schools who are using technology in innovative ways in the classroom.

Over the next year, Cheryl Douglas from Bishops Diocesan College in Cape Town, Phuti Ragophala of Pula Madibogo School in Polokwane and Mabusane Tlali from Maseru will work with Microsoft to share their experiences using technology in education with their peers around the world, and help train other teachers in education technologies.

At the same time, Johannesburg’s Brescia House School will be sharing the impact that its connected classroom policy has had in teaching learners 21st Century skills.

In addition to representing Southern Africa at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona next year, Expert Educators and Mentor Schools receive a range of benefits such as free tablets for their schools, access to Microsoft strategies and technologies, professional and career development opportunities and certifications in peer coaching.

Ragophala, the principal of Pula Madibogo School, believes learners must be encouraged to think past the prescribed textbook curriculum. ‚”I never teach without using technology tools or providing my students with an opportunity to learn while making a difference. I constantly challenge my students to share knowledge on a practical and theoretical basis, the lesson must be taken beyond the classroom to the community, and have an impact on bettering their own circumstances.‚”

Microsoft South Africa’s managing director, Mteto Nyati, said the Expert Educators and Mentor schools were ‚”inspiring examples‚” of how individuals and schools in South Africa are using technology to prepare their students for the Information Age.

‚”Not only are they doing innovative work in the classroom, but they are actively mentoring others and creating real change within South Africa’s education system,‚” said Nyati. ‚”They set an outstanding example for their peers and we hope that they will benefit from the access to technology that they receive as part of Microsoft’s ongoing programs.‚”

To be considered for Mentor status or as an Expert Educator, schools and educators must demonstrate a commitment to innovation and the ability to overcome obstacles in preparing students to be 21st century learners. Schools are selected based on a record of educational success, community leadership and successful school management. Educators are selected based on their innovation, leadership skills and effective use of technology for better learning and student outcomes.

‚”Being selected as a Microsoft Mentor School is an amazing honour for our school and has inspired us as a learning community to encouraging progressive thinking skills, enabling our learners to showcase their understanding of what they have learnt,‚” said Lyneth Crighton from Brescia House School. ‚”We look forward to using this community to help us better prepare our students for the work place in a time when it is so important to arm teachers with the right kind of skills to produce a world-class workforce right here in South Africa.‚”

Cheryl Douglas, a biology teacher, said using technology to research human impact on the environment exposed her Grade 11 pupils to real world problems and encouraged critical thinking.

‚”They used the Internet, PowerPoint, business cards, QR codes and ebooks to find practical solutions to problems in areas such as water, food security, loss of biodiversity, climate change and solid waste management. The impact this had was immense and I’m excited to share it with other teachers around the country as well as with like-minded educators at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum,‚” said Douglas.

Two other local schools, Bloemfontein’s Eunice High School and St Cyprian’s School from Cape Town, have been chosen as so-called World Tour Schools for a second year. These schools have gone through the Mentor School process and are now available for other schools and government leaders from around the world to visit them as an example of 21st Century education approaches as well as how Microsoft technology and programmes support their work.

Find more information on Expert Educators and Mentor Schools.

* Image courtesy of shutterstock


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