Irish teachers celebrate classroom tech at global forum

8 Nov 2011

Participants attend the opening day of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum 2011 in Washington, DC

Four Irish schools are today taking part in the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum 2011 in Washington, DC, where educators from more than 70 countries are converging to celebrate innovative uses of technology in the classroom.

The 2011 Partners in Learning Global Forum is being held from 7-10 November 2011. Partners in Learning is 10-year, nearly US$500m commitment by Microsoft to help education systems around the world.

Winners of the 18 Global Forum Educator Awards will be announced, and 18 new Mentor Schools will be recognised at a gala dinner at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture this week.

As part of the conference, Microsoft today announced new and continuing collaborations with the U.S. Department of Education, the British Council and the Smithsonian Institution to engage educators to successfully inspire students in their classrooms using technology.  

The Irish schools taking part in the global forum are:

  • St Philomena’s Primary School in Bray, Co Wicklow
  • Ballyclare High School, Carrickfergus Model Primary School, Co Antrim
  • Scoil Chonglais Post-Primary School in Baltinglass, Co Wicklow
  • St Mary’s College in Londonderry, Co Antrim

This year’s forum is the culmination of a year’s worth of country and regional events honouring teachers and school leaders who are creatively and effectively using technology in their curriculum.

Microsoft says the event provides these educators with an opportunity to compete and gain recognition at the global level and to share and collaborate on best practices, key learnings and how to implement creative ideas.

“Participating in the Partners in Learning for Schools Program contributed to our reputation and inspired us as a learning community, as well as enabled us to reach out to other schools with a view to sharing the potential that the Partners in Learning initiative offers to those willing to embrace their own innovative journey,” said Paul Wade, ICT manager at St Mary’s College in Londonderry, speaking from Washington today.

The Irish projects

Recently named a Microsoft Mentor School, St Mary’s College is involved in a project entitled ‘Developing The Leaders Of The Future’.

The aim is to co-construct a partnership with University of Ulster, the partner schools in the Foyle Learning Community and the global partners in Africa, Spain and Palestine.  

The school’s “dare to be digital” programme promotes creative thinking across all areas of the curriculum through the development of multimedia platforms that will develop the pupils’ skills in 3D modelling, multimedia authoring, character production and animation and all aspects of interactive multimedia development.

Doreen McHale of St Philomena’s Primary School in Bray, Co Wicklow, was the leader for the ‘Birds of Bray’ project. It was designed to develop the 4th grade pupils’ non-fiction report writing skills within the context of a local bird study. The pupils used Web 2.0 tools to collaborate with others on shared research and report writing projects.

Christine Murphy-Gardner has led the project ‘Empowering Communities: Targeting Innovation at the Heart of Learning’ in Ballyclare High School & Carrickfergus Model Primary School, Co Antrim, teaching computer technology. She partners with teachers, working alongside them in the primary classroom, and provides targeted training of computer technology applications and skills.

Scoil Chonglais Post-Primary School in Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, has been commended for its integration of technology into the classroom.

Merging business with social responsibility – Anthony Salcito, vice-president of education at Microsoft Corp

Speaking today, Anthony Salcito, vice-president of education at Microsoft Corp, spoke about how the company believes that well-prepared educators can help today’s youth overcome the emerging opportunity divide and can help put students on a path toward the education, skills and opportunities they need to prosper in the 21st century.  

“The Partners in Learning program is one of the many investments Microsoft is making to help educators more effectively prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Salcito. “At Microsoft, we believe that magic happens when business needs merge with social responsibility, and in an increasingly competitive global economy, bringing together organisations that are equally passionate about education can be a successful formula for preparing the next generation of leaders.”

Inspiring teacher recruits in the US

Salcito also announced in today’s keynote that Microsoft will collaborate with the U.S. Department of Education to support a campaign aimed at inspiring and recruiting young people to enter the teaching profession. As part of this, Microsoft is assuming overall management of the TEACH website. In the coming months, Microsoft will be taking the lead in developing a coalition of private-sector companies and other key organisations to further support the campaign and will be moving the site to

Partnership with British Council

Microsoft also announced a new, five-year partnership with the British Council to increase quality and access in education and training around the world. This partnership will combine the assets of Microsoft and the British Council to nurture the use of ICT for innovative practice in teaching and learning.

Microsoft and the British Council have each committed US$1m to the partnership’s first project, which will build 80 digital hubs at schools across Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda using Windows MultiPoint Server.

The project is expected to train more than 20,000 school leaders and teachers and provide more than 100,000 learners and communities with digital access, while promoting literacy throughout the region. The project was inspired by similar work already under way in Africa by the British Council and by a commitment that Microsoft and other partners made at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2010 to build labs powered by Windows MultiPoint Server in 40 “lighthouse” schools in Haiti, serving 24,000 students.

Microsoft Partners in Learning, the Smithsonian Institution and TakingITGlobal are continuing to expand the Shout programme, which was announced at last year’s Global Forum in South Africa. The partnership harnesses the power of technology to connect research and education resources with teachers and their students so they can act as a driving force for significant, positive contributions to the environment.

This year’s programme will focus on water quality and quantity, to ensure that water is safe for both people and the environment, as well as managing the crises of too much water and not enough water.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic