For Mirela Tanc, a secondary school teacher at Oltea Doamna in Oradea, Romania, teaching is more than just a job – it’s a passion that has defined her entire life, over her 20-year career.
“As a child, I saw how much pleasure teaching gave my parents, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up. I couldn’t wait to change the world.”
An active member of the Microsoft Innovative Educator program, Mirela was introduced to the potential of Microsoft’s Education platform by Rashmi Kathuria – a teacher from India – back in 2016. Today, she has almost 90 badges and certificates which show off her competency in Microsoft’s vast offering of educational tools and services.
Representing Romania at the Education Exchange (E2) summit at , Mirela has also worked on countless projects and educational initiatives from teachers and students all around the world, and will help organize a conference in February called ‘Teaching in the 21st Century – examples of good practices’, which will also be attended by teachers from abroad.
From virtually travelling to interact with teachers and students across 17 countries during the most recent global Skype-a-thon, to sharing knowledge with other educators as a Microsoft Trainer, Mirela believes the future of Europe’s education is bright – and she’s excited for what’s to come.
Molding young minds for the future
“I love working with my students,” Mirela explains. “My work inspires me, it motivates me. It always makes me improve myself. I believe teachers can help children discover, reflect, and provide guidance.”
This guidance and preparation for the future is an important role for today’s teachers, especially with the growing digital skills gap. According to a study carried out by the World Innovation Summit for Education, 93 percent of today’s jobs require at least a minimum level of digital skills – and the importance of these skills in future job markets will increase, as cloud, AI and other technology continues to grow in use and importance.
Fostering the skills and enthusiasm for technology in students from a young age is therefore crucial to ensure students are prepared for the future – and Mirela’s pupils have no shortage of experience.
In her classes, Mirela uses Minecraft in Education, OneNote, Sway, Skype, Paint 3D and much more, using the technology to inspire students in ways that traditional teaching methods cannot achieve, unlocking a world of new creativity:
“As a literature teacher, I initially did not think Minecraft would help me. However, I thought about how I could encourage the students to read by applying their existing skills.”
“I asked them to recreate a scene from a book in Minecraft, before analyzing it. In order to build the scene, they of course had to read and carry out research, achieving more motivation than classical teaching methods.”
Minecraft: Education Edition has revealed its Chemistry Update at the BETT education conference, allowing children to explore countless interactive experiments and lessons designed to help them explore world of chemistry – especially useful for schools that don’t have the budget to run real experiments with costly equipment and materials.
Using technology is clearly a vital foundation of Mirela’s approach to education: “Creativity is the key to preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s world. It empowers the next generation to be free thinkers who are able to create new concepts and products that can change the way we live.”
Using Skype, in conjunction with Microsoft Translator, Mirela shares her ideas, and learns from students and teachers from around the world. Through the Microsoft Educator Community, she has, along with her students, visited museums and art galleries, virtually travelled to a farm in Kenya, and learned to create literary characters and listen to stories, with the help of other teachers in the US – to name a few examples.
Mirela’s examples of collaboration with institutions around the world could fill pages and pages, and they are a real testament to the collaborative power that technology offers both students and teachers alike.
“Even if we live in a world of technology, some skills will always be in demand: empathy, connection, experience, imagination and clear values. All of these things can only be taught with a teacher – not a machine.”
A collective responsibility to cultivate curiosity
Despite the importance of technology in education, Mirela believes parents and teachers have a responsibility to make sure children are embracing these new tools:
“We live in a time of accelerated transformation, and the only way to survive is continuous adaptation, and not denying reality. We have a duty to naturally integrate technology into the school experience. If we exile technology at the gates, we will remain isolated and alone.”
The generation of teachers who haven’t kept pace with technology are putting both their students and themselves, at a disadvantage, by not providing engaging learning experiences that challenge and inspire young minds.
The role of a teacher, Mirela believes, is no longer to simply convey information, but to use the new tools that technology provides to present information in a relevant and engaging way, providing more motivation for learning.
The benefits of encouraging new skills and ways to learn at home are also apparent. If parents choose to upskill themselves in tandem with their children, they will not only offer motivation and encouragement, but they will also be improving their own development as well.
The future of teaching
We are already at a point where the children of today are born into a world where touchscreens, AI, collaborative tools and more, are a natural part of our lives. Today’s children don’t see technology as a tool – they are digital natives.
In the future, according to Mirela, teachers will be more than just sharers of knowledge. Instead, it will be there role to guide students, and teach them to be critical of information – such as not believing that everything they read on the internet is correct, and that sources should always be checked.
“Even if we live in a world of technology,” Mirela states, “some skills will always be in demand: empathy, connection, experience, imagination and clear values. All of these things can only be taught with a teacher – not a machine. The role of teachers is to find the balance.”
Inspired by how Mirela Tanc integrates technology in her classrooms? Why not join our community and become a Microsoft Innovative Educator. For more information on how Microsoft is helping today’s youth get ready for the future, visit our new Digital Skills website.