Whether they’re flipping, gamifying, Skyping or MIXing their lessons, teachers are always on the lookout for inspiration and ways to bring their teaching to life. As Microsoft’s CEE President Don Grantham rightly put it, “everything starts with education”, and in an ever-digitizing world, staying ahead of the curve is more critical than ever to equip future generations of entrepreneurs and inventors with the right skills.
And what better way to get inspired than through hearing from the best teachers out there?
Last week, we invited over 300 forward-thinking, tech-savvy and trendsetting teachers from around Europe and the world to Budapest for one of the most inspiring education events of the year: The Microsoft E² Global Educator Exchange event. During the conference’s three energetic days, teachers, educators and school administrators got a unique chance to meet in person, network and attend workshops on an array of topics, including innovative pedagogy, gamified learning, coding and virtual teaching, just to name a few.
Among the participants were some of the most innovative minds out there, including our distinguished regional Microsoft MIXathon winners who recently brought education to new heights with their cutting edge classroom MIX’s. The MIXathon Challenge served as an opportunity for the most innovative teachers in Central and Eastern Europe to introduce and support new learning models to prepare their students for life and work in the 21st Century. 18 countries took part in the challenge, and hundreds of teachers worked with their students to create cool interactive lessons using Office Mix – the new PowerPoint extension that easily turns presentations into interactive online lessons.
We sat down with Ibolya Straussová, our MIXathon champion and primary school teacher from Košice, Slovakia, to get a glimpse of what it is really like to #HackTheClassroom in 2016.
What are your impressions of this year’s E2?
The event in Budapest was very inspiring, crazy, funny and motivating. It’s my second time attending a Microsoft E² event, and it’s always really interesting to meet people whom I know from social networks and other teacher groups. It’s nice to see friends again and be able to work on new challenges with them. The work that we’re doing together at E2 helps me understand how teachers from other parts of the world are working with their students. For instance, the day before E², I organized a fieldtrip with fellow teachers to a school here in Budapest. We got a lot of interesting insights and inspiring ideas.
Were your expectations met?
In 2014, I attended the E² conference in Barcelona. While I was there, I met a lot of other inspiring teachers and we did various E² activities together. After the event, I started using new products, such as Office Mix. Soon after, Tracy Christenson from Microsoft in Education wrote to me asking if I would be willing to create an Office Mix “lesson plan”. They were looking for great examples of Mixes in action from some of their standout teachers and thought of me. Of course, I said yes! I was honored and still am, even today. I knew that the Education event in Hungary would be the same.
How did you create your MIXathon Mix?
My English is not perfect. I’ve only been learning this language for a few years and that is why I only teach English to first-graders in primary school. It’s a real problem in our country since there’s not enough English teachers. One day, I had prepared a lesson in PowerPoint to use on an interactive board but, unfortunately, I couldn’t go to school. It turned out to be a perfect opportunity to use Office Mix. So I “mixed” the PowerPoint lesson at home and the children learned it at school – as if I was there in the classroom with them. The pupils really liked it and that’s how we started using Office Mix in other lessons. For example, they created a PowerPoint about their favorite toys, turned it into a Mix and recorded children presenting their toys. It was great!
How is technology transforming the learning experience in your classroom?
In my previous school, I was using tablets every day; I was running a “tablet classroom”. This year, a lot has changed, I’m at a new school, still teaching but I also now work as the school’s headmaster. We decided to become a Microsoft associate school and we’ve decided to start teaching with tablets in first grade. My experience is that using technologies, such as interactive boards, is more interesting for children. Do you know the Chinese proverb? “Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.” Using technologies is the perfect way to make sure that children understand – simply because it’s interactive and children enjoy it.
Is there a way to better connect our students to the world that awaits them?
We should respect each student’s individuality and encourage them to develop their own talents starting from a young age. The teacher plays a major role in making sure that happens. I also think very highly of the idea of so-called dual-education, where companies act as partners in education.
What do you think education will look like in the future?
I’m actually very optimistic, and I just hope teachers will get more freedom and better support for their non-traditional forms of education. The perfect future is about using technology in a clever and useful way. We have so many clever and creative teachers, but many of them cannot develop their talents. The reasons are that they don’t get the support they need from their school management or the right financial resources for their activities. This has to change! Using technology requires investments.
Read more about the national MIXathon winners here, and if you’re interested in learning more about our education programmes and initiatives, make sure to head over to the Microsoft Educator community website here. If you’d like to read more about Ibolya check here and don’t forget to check out #HackTheClassroom on Twitter.