If you were one of the approximately 100 teachers at Microsoft House in Auckland last weekend (14-15 July), you would have been greeted with an exciting atmosphere. The whizzing of drones filled the air, sounding like miniature Formula 1 cars, and colour-changing Sphero balls rolled around, with robots looping figure eights in the Microsoft cafeteria while teachers watched, enthralled.
This was all part of the inaugural Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert Hui 2018, which brought together teachers from across New Zealand for a weekend of professional learning, collaboration and networking. The hui, organised by key innovative teachers from New Zealand in conjunction with Microsoft, brought together New Zealand MIE Experts – a group of teachers selected by Microsoft each year for using technology in innovative ways to improve student outcomes across the curriculum and help them succeed in a digital world.
“Hosting this hui was intended to inspire teachers and pass on some useful tools that will boost learning outcomes in today’s classrooms and create the classroom of tomorrow,” says Anne Taylor, Education Manager for Microsoft New Zealand.
“It’s all about empowering teachers and students to achieve more through smart use of technology across all subjects and year levels, as the new national curriculum requires, not just those subjects traditionally associated with digital technology.”
Chris Dillon, one of the workshop presenters and a digital technology teacher at Cambridge High School says the tech industry needs to follow Microsoft’s lead by providing more opportunities for teachers to build skill levels and confidence using technology, to capitalise on all the tools now available.
“There is only a limited number of digital technology teachers coming out of New Zealand universities each year,” he says.
“Those of us who are trained Digital Technology teachers can only reach so far, so we need industry, who have the expertise and funding, to get involved and help by facilitating events and wider networks like this. Events like this are about demonstrating the possibilities and showing how it can be done.”
One of the prime benefits of being a MIE Expert is joining a global community of like-minded individuals who are equally passionate about using technology to improve the classroom experience. The network of 60+ teachers from around New Zealand, ranges from small rural primary schools to large urban high schools.
MIE Experts help Microsoft to lead innovation in education, advocating for technology in the classroom and sharing tips on effective use of technology with peers and policy makers.
“At your school you’re in a group that has a certain set of skills and being in a network like this just gives you extra ideas,” says Aaron Herber, a physics teacher from St Peter’s College in Auckland.
“Technology adds a whole lot of new facets to teaching physics and gives you new ways of reaching your students. And you’re learning new things all the time. The teacher who stops and says ‘I’m done’ should be doing something else. Today I’ve learnt tips on how I can do things better,” he says.
Attendees were able to learn from a number of experts during immersive sessions. These were designed to share how different tools can be used in the classroom to teach concepts like computational thinking and creativity.
Gerard MacManus, a digital technology teacher from Hobsonville Point Secondary School says, “I’m not an MIE Expert, but I’ve come to attend the immersive sessions and see how well technology is being rolled out across the curriculum. We need greater connectedness across learning areas and sharing between teachers, and I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen today.”
The weekend hui also included keynote speakers from the US and Australia, including Insight2Execution director Becky Keene.
“It might sound cheesy, but there’s nothing more exciting or energising than being with people who love helping kids and empowering them to do more,” Becky says.
”The energy of this weekend has been incredible. I feel that Microsoft is listening to educators and their product teams are making changes that make a real difference to students’ learning.”
Microsoft anticipates that the MIE Expert hui will be even bigger and better next year, and is looking forward to working alongside New Zealand’s teachers as they drive digital transformation in education.