SA teachers scoop awards in Microsoft competition

Four South African teachers scooped awards during the annual Microsoft Partners in Learning Middle East and Africa Forum held in Aqaba, Jordan last month. The quartet will now compete against 500 peers from all over the world in Washington, DC in November this year.

The winning teachers are Louise Clarke and Kim Jackson of St Cyprian’s School in Cape Town, Lyneth Creighton of Brescia House School in Bryanston, Gauteng, and Natalie Meerholz of Holy Rosary School in Edenvale, Gauteng.

Clarke and Jackson won in the Collaboration category with their project called Toolbooth Movie Maker, in which grade four learners created their own stories using Windows Movie Maker. Creighton scooped the Cutting Edge Use of Technology award for her DigiGirlz puzzle IT out project that saw grade 10 learners using social media tools to discuss the book Cry the Beloved Country by the late Alan Paton.

The fourth winner, Meerholz, won in the Extending Learning Beyond Classroom category. Her project, E-Waste, encourages learners and the community to tackle e-waste.

Locally, the awards are hosted by Microsoft South Africa in collaboration with the department of basic education to highlight innovative ways in which primary and secondary school teachers use technology to enrich classroom teaching practice.

Ahead of a number of countries
The four teachers were elated and were confident that they would do well in Washington. Said Creighton: “The experience was an eye-opener to me. It was interesting to meet teachers from other parts of the world who are as keen to use technology to enhance teaching in the classroom. I was happy with our presentation, which showed we are ahead of a number of countries as far as technology is concerned. It was also a networking opportunity for us and I am grateful to Microsoft for the support they provide.”

Speaking on behalf of her colleague (Jackson), Clarke said she was also impressed with the South African contingent’s amazing presentation. “The experience really opened my mind. I was exposed to a range of new and exciting technologies. It was a fantastic opportunity to share practices and to network with our counterparts from other countries. The one thing that blew me away was the presentation by teachers who, although coming from impoverished communities, still displayed a passion for technology and made amazing presentations. One school relied on only one laptop.”

During the announcement of the winners last month at St John’s College in Houghton, judges praised the quality of entries, saying it reflected the creativity and depth of teachers’ understanding of information and communications technology (ICT) as a crucial learning tool.

Entries ranged from computer-aided cover design, creative cinematography, podcasting and Wikipedia entries, environmental activism and fundraising to responsible e-waste disposal and social entrepreneurship.
Phil Mnisi, director of the department of basic education’s e-Learning curriculum, said efforts by the department to train teachers in how to integrate ICT into the curriculum are steadily gaining momentum, with about 14 000 trained so far.

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Thabo Mohlala
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