Irish teacher scoops global Microsoft educator award

14 Nov 2011

Doreen McHale, teacher at St Philomena's Primary School Bray, Co Wicklow (centre), Anthony Salcito, vice-president, Worldwide Education for Microsoft (right) and Kapil Wadhera, general manager, Intel

Doreen McHale, a teacher at St Philomena’s Primary School in Bray, Co Wicklow, has won second place in the Microsoft 2011 Global Forum Educator Awards’ ‘Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom’ category for her Web 2.0 classroom project.

McHale was recognised for her ‘Birds of Bray’ project that she carried out with her Irish fourth-class group at St Philomena’s Primary School.

The Microsoft Global Forum Educator Awards themselves were held at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture in Washington, DC, last week.

This year’s winners were selected from more than 115 projects, narrowed from more than 200,000 applicants, who competed at national and regional events during the year to qualify for the worldwide competition.

McHale’s project took second place in the Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom’ category. Her ‘Birds of Bray’ project was designed to develop the St Philomena’s Primary School students’ non-fiction report writing skills. Within the context of a collaborative, local, wild bird study, McHale’s students used Web 2.0 tools to collaborate with others on shared research and report writing projects. Students also participated in online collaborative writing, and published and provided feedback on their class blog.

At the Microsoft ceremony, 18 awards were presented to educators and their projects in six categories. The top three finalists in each category were recognised and received an Intel-powered classmate PC for their classroom.

The award ceremony was attended by more than 700 teachers, school leaders and education leaders, as well as government officials from more than 70 countries.

More than 200 school leaders from the Partners in Learning for Schools programme also attended the Global Forum. The 66 Pathfinder Schools and 32 Mentor Schools were honoured for their approach to systemic change and educational transformation.

Participants were judged by an international panel of 50 education experts on a number of criteria. Through virtual classroom tours and onsite interviews by judges, the judges looked at how teachers demonstrated innovative teaching practice, giving their students critical 21st-century skills, such as collaboration, critical thinking and social responsibility, by leveraging technology resources.

The 2012 Partners in Learning Global Forum will be in Athens, Greece, the first time the event will be held in the central Europe region. Country and regional competitions for next year’s awards will take place beginning this month. Interested teachers should contact their local Microsoft office for more information or look online.

Chilean school to get 30 Intel-powered classmate PCs
The school Liceo Bicentenario de Molina in Chile was recognised by its peers because of its strong vision for creating a school community that fosters creative approaches to learning and is driving toward whole-school transformation but was greatly impacted from a recent earthquake. In recognition, this school will receive 30 convertible Intel-powered classmate PCs, plus one mobile-charging cart with a wireless access point.

Microsoft Innovative Educator
Microsoft also announced the inaugural 800 educators to earn the designation of Microsoft Innovative Educator, a title the company said signifies an expertise in implementation of innovative teaching and learning practices and a commitment to engaging with a global community of professional practice.

The global Partners in Learning for Educators program has trained nearly 10m educators since 2003. Microsoft also announced it is expanding its Partners in Learning for Educators programme with redesigned curriculum and professional development resources, ranging from fundamental use of technology to in-depth, research-based methodologies for increasing student mastery of 21st-century skills.

New online content
Content is set to be rolled out from mid-November 2011 through March 2012 and will be available through more than 500 face-to-face trainings and online learning experiences.

The Global Learning Program has also announced a new collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education to inspire and recruit teachers, a partnership with the British Council to drive access to education around the world, and the continuation of the Shout programme with the Smithsonian Institution and TakingITGlobal – this year’s focus will be on water conservation and caretaking.

Anthony Salcito, vice-president, Worldwide Education for Microsoft, spoke about how education is critical to the social and economic development of every nation and to the ability of individuals everywhere to reach their full potential.

“We are honoured to recognise these amazing professionals for the work they do every day to enrich the educational experiences of children around the world,” said Salcito.

Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom
Winner: Chris Clay (New Zealand)
Project: Linking Educational Accomplishments to Real-World Needs
Clay created an online community that connects more than 140 teachers and students across New Zealand to tackle real-world biological challenges. Using technology, students learned to develop collaboration, critical-thinking, problem-solving, communication and digital literacy skills, as well as a love for learning.

First runner-Up: Doreen McHale (Ireland):
Project: Birds of Bray (described above)

Second runner-up: Tessa Van Zadelhoff (Netherlands)
Project: A Travel Agency in our Classroom
Via Twitter and a blog, students provided travel advice to a network of “customers.” By calculating costs via Microsoft Excel, they created digital tourist guides, videos, digital storybooks and translation guides, the students learned about European geography.

Winner: Doug Bergman, Johnny Kissko, Louis Zulli, Donna Thomas and Margaret Noble (United States)
Project: When Fish Fly
Integrating computer science, fine arts, business and economics, student design teams developed a dynamic motion-based game simulation for Kinect for Xbox 360 that replicates the sights, sounds, history and “sense of place” of Pike Place Fish Co. in Seattle, Washington.

First runner-up: Rui Silva (Portugal)
Project: Eco-Partnerships
Designed to improve students’ information communication technology skills while focused on environmental education, the project involves students interacting with other students in schools and organisations around the world via Facebook, Windows Live and other technology to share knowledge, experiences and works.

Second runner-up: Zhao Yi (China)
Project: Jack Magic Vegetables Company
To combat the scarcity of vegetables in China due to pesticides and limited outdoor space, students researched and developed a soilless culture technique, and applied real-world business applications by setting up an online store for people in the community to buy the soilless devices.

Knowledge Building and Critical Thinking
Winner: Margaret Noble and David Stahnke (United States)
Project: Illuminated Mathematics
Using technology and creativity, students researched maths theories and then produced self-selected digital art projects, which examined mathematics through the lenses of art, history and science. This inspired students to dig deeper, find real-world applications and develop their own perspective and understanding of how mathematics impacts their world, said the teachers.

First runner-up: Athena Hain-Saunders (Australia)
Project: Real Science Beyond the Classroom
Using their outside environment as a working laboratory, students conduct research and scientific monitoring and experimentation at a local wetland. This project lets students be hands-on learners, working with professional scientists to learn about biology, and collect meaningful data to support critical university research.

Second runner-up: Kara Barker and Roger Lister (Sweden)
Project: Forensic Science
The aim was to increase enthusiasm for natural science and maths by incorporating forensics to help solve crimes. Weekly labs where students experiment in a variety of areas such as DNA, anthropology, and hair and fiber evidences are applied using various tools such as Windows Movie Maker, podcasts, OneNote and SharePoint.

Innovation in Challenging Contexts
Winner: Sandra Caldas Saragoca (Brazil)
Project: Education Beyond Walls
This project focuses on educating and mentoring girls aged 12 to 21, who are currently in prison. Through this project, students learn interpersonal, social and academic skills, and then use technology tools like Windows Movie Maker to engage and share lessons with students in local schools.

First runner-up: Gareth Ritter (United Kingdom)
Project: Interactive Resources Made by Pupils for Pupils
Engaging students’ natural interest in music and technology to encourage a creative and student-directed learning environment. Through this project, students researched music-recording production and created video tutorials to support the learning of others. Students learned new music and business skills, while mentoring others, and recordings supported production of the school podcast station and a new album recorded in the school studio.

Second Runner-Up: Sangeet Shukramani (India)
Project: One Earth … Our Earth — Together We Can Make A Difference
Aimed at creating awareness and sensitising students toward the 21st century’s most issue-environment conservation. Students learned about their immediate environment and collaborated with students and teachers around the world.

Cutting-Edge Use of Microsoft Technology for Learning
Winner: Louis Zulli Jr, (United States)
Project: Center for Advanced Technologies News and Information Portal (CATNIP)
Using a wide variety of technology programs, students collaboratively developed and managed their school’s intranet, which integrates campus communication, curriculum planning and facilities management into one site.

First runner-up: Steven Ronsijn (Belgium):
Project: genY
This project put students in control of their own learning, using technology tools including live@edu, video and Microsoft Tag to create interactive lessons for younger students. Through this project, students became teachers and the teacher became the student in learning new technology skills.

Second runner-up: Zainuddin Zakaria (Malaysia)
Project: Kodu in Classrooms Around the World
Students create games using Microsoft Kodu Game Lab that teach environmental lessons. Students learn about co-operation, logic and creativity in addition to programming, and share the games with students around the world.

Educators’ Choice
Best Practice: Carlos Antonio Carlo (El Salvador)
Project: I Want to Make Movies
Designed to create significant learning opportunities where students are protagonists of their own learning. Through this effort, students used Windows Movie Maker and Windows Media Player.

First runner-up: Marina Vasileva (Macedonia)
Project: Grandma’s Games
Encourages students from kindergarten to college to survey family members and preserve traditional games and culture through information communications technology. Students created videos and lesson plans for the games, and one student created a Kinect for Xbox 360 game based off a family tradition.

Second runner-up: Wen-Ching Yang and I-Fa Su (Taiwan)
Project: Travel the World Together from the Bazhang River
From observations of the characteristics and behaviour of Black-winged Stilt, students explore and learn about the annual migration of birds through project-based learning.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic