Microsoft is inspiring teachers, through the use of a forum, to find out new and interesting ways in which technology can be used within lessons.
The software giant’s Partners in Learning (PiL) programme was designed to get teachers swapping ideas about how technology can be used throughout all lessons – not just in ICT classes.
Steve Beswick, director, education, at Microsoft, explained that the PiL programme breaks down the barriers of technology.
“For teachers it provides tools and a place to share best practices and ideas about where technology can be embedded into a range of lessons. Some teachers may not feel comfortable using technology in their lessons, so this programme will give them ideas. Microsoft has a role to play to help these teachers break the barriers of technology and inspire the teachers to embed technology in to their lesson plans,” he said.
“ICT is taught a lot in schools, however there is not enough ICT used to teach. It is about bringing technology into all lessons, not just ICT, and harnessing that technology to make the lesson more interesting. This will be needed when they move into the workplace,” added Beswick.
The PiL programme currently works with four million teachers, across 100 countries, engaging with 80 million children.
“We are delivering against a vision – any time, anywhere learning for all," said Beswick. "This will be achieved through the use of technology. It is about enabling all children to have access to technology, not just the ones that can afford it. Children may not know they have a talent, until they have the chance to work with technology. This in turn will lead to more computer scientists in the future.”
Engaging pupils with technology
Ray Chambers, a teacher at a school in Scotland, agreed with Beswick. “If you don’t show someone how easy technology can be to use, then they start to close down right away. This programme shows kids how easy technology can be, so straight away they are engaged,” he said.
Chambers said that through Microsoft Kinect, he has not just been able to build applications for his ICT lessons, but he worked with the "K-Team" in other lessons too. For example, allowing students to use their arms to tell the time, which has been useful in maths lessons.
“Through using the Xbox, children have linked technology into their literacy lessons. The Xbox is a gaming experience, where they use the Xbox controller to write a story which is programmed,” he added.
The PiL programme was launched six years ago. Chambers said he has been a part of it for about two years now.
ICT is taught a lot in schools, but there is not enough ICT used to teach
Steve Beswick, director, education, Microsoft
“The website enables teachers to talk through a forum. There are competitions available to inspire other teachers in ways to use technology. This forum is inspiring for the teachers, not just the students who will benefit from the technology,” he said.
Last year, Chambers made it through the European final of a PiL competition with his Kinect applications project.
“These are not just used in ICT for quizzes, but used in other lessons too – for instance, for spelling quizzes in English lessons. In addition, I built a database, so students can analyse their results. If they are playing a maths game with the xBox, they can go back and analyse the data afterwards,” he said.
Chambers started a lunchtime computer club at the beginning of the year, commencing with two students.
“Once the word got round that the club is about coding games and applications, it became very popular, and I’m now turning people away because I only have 30 machines in my ICT classroom,” he said.
Microsoft's Beswick concluded: “Some lessons can be considered as dull, but it’s how they are delivered. Ray is inspiring the talent of the future through his lessons.”