South Africa’s most tech-savvy teachers arrive in Johannesburg next week to do battle for a place at the so-called “World Cup” of technology in education, Microsoft’s worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum (ITF) awards.
The 20 finalists, who are drawn from a spread of schools representing six provinces, will compete in the South African leg of the awards at the African School Technology Innovation Centre (STIC) in Newtown on 3 August. Four category winners will represent the country at the worldwide finals in Cape Town in October.
The event, which is run jointly with the Department of Basic Education, focuses on innovative ways of using technology to improve teaching and education in schools. It showcases projects created by teachers that incorporate different types of technology into the classroom – and often benefit the broader community at the same time.
Last year’s Community category winner, Fiona Beal of Fish Hoek Primary in the Western Cape, got Grade 4 and 5 learners to teach the local elderly community how to blog, and linked them with classrooms around the world.
This year’s finalists include a project that saw 6 and 7-year-old boys working with their peers to collect eight tons of waste in six weeks to raise funds for charity. They created ebooks, found information about recycling and collated it online.
Another project saw learners from four Bloemfontein high schools working with universities, community members and social work professionals to determine the needs of vulnerable children, and make a difference in their lives.
“South African teachers are increasingly embracing technology as a tool to enliven and enrich their teaching environments, and overcome historical and socio-economic disadvantages to give their students the best possible education,” said Reza Bardien, Microsoft South Africa’s education lead.
Bardien says the Innovative Teacher Forums were introduced five years ago to recognise those teachers who use technology in uplifting ways. The Forums create communities of teachers who share ideas and best practices in integrating technology in the learning process.
The awards review projects in four key areas of innovation – community, content, collaboration and challenging contexts, as well as a special peer review prize, where the finalists vote for their favourite project.
The venue for the final is fitting: the STIC is itself a hub for teachers to develop a better understanding of how to use digital tools in education, and is located in the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, where a love of science and technology is nurtured among learners.
A past winner, Pretoria teacher Jacqui Batchelor, has based her PhD on a study of the Innovative Teachers’ programme, which she says transformed her view of teaching practice. “The programme highlights the process teachers undergo to become innovative practitioners and how this feeds into emerging educational practices,” she said.
More information about the Innovative Teachers Forum is available at www.microsoft.com/presspass/events/wwteachersforum.