Ramón Rodríguez Galán: Upskilling Spain’s teachers with technology

Standing on the sidelines of a junior basketball game, a sudden realization hit Ramón Rodríguez Galán – like a ton of bricks.

While most people cannot pinpoint the exact moment they decide their future career, Ramón, a math, technology and Spanish language teacher at Maristas Mediterránea in Seville, remembers as if it was yesterday.

“During High School, I had a part-time job as a junior basketball coach. Now, when you think about it, there are only subtle differences between teachers and coaches. Fundamentally, both guide, motivate and support their pupils for success – and I loved helping the kids on my team reach their full potential. This was the spark that ignited my passion for teaching.”

“The motto of my classroom is that every student will have a better day than the last. In the same way we tell kids the most important thing about sport is having fun, students also need to be happy and have fun while learning.”

An active member of Microsoft’s Innovative Educator (MIE) community, Ramón believes the key to making learning fun is empowering teachers with the digital skills to build bespoke lessons plans and the independence to embrace their own teaching styles.

“If teachers are forced to conform to a boring and stagnant style of teaching, then chances are the students will feel the same. While it is important to have a school curriculum focused on giving students the skills they need for the future, it is equally vital that teachers have the confidence to deliver content in an engaging way so students can actually absorb information.”

Cross-country coaching
In his capacity as an MIE Master Trainer, Ramón regularly travels throughout Spain to meet and advise teachers in new technologies and demonstrate how they can implement these in their classrooms and courses.

During Ramón’s sessions, teachers are introduced to Office 365, learn how it can be used in and out of their classrooms, as well as make lesson planning and preparation more efficient. Having traveled across the country and worked with a variety of schools – from high achieving to those facing challenges – Ramón is passionate about demonstrating the value of technology in the classroom.

“Technology underpins the world today, and is embedded in almost every facet of modern society. Whether it is communicating or playing games with friends, students are interacting with technology every day and most workplaces expect this generation to have a high-level of digital literacy,” says Ramón. “But the problem is not so much having technology in the classroom, rather it is having teachers who are confident and capable in making technology meaningful instead of harmful.”

“In the same way we recognize that no two students are the same, teachers also have different styles and techniques. From my experience, when educators are empowered to teach in a way that is natural and enjoyable for them, combined with access to the latest tools and resources, only then can students start to enjoy learning.”

Transforming teaching techniques
Since starting his career 15 years ago, Ramón has taken the lead in modernizing his school’s pedagogical approach. Acting as the school’s ICT Manager, he introduced a range of new technologies to support different areas of innovation, which helped Maristas Mediterránea become a Microsoft Showcase School.

While many educators have adopted flipped classrooms, where students read materials at home ahead of practically applying these in class, Ramón has “back flipped the classroom” to make parents more involved in their child’s learning.

“It’s unfair to expect parents to help their kids with homework when they’re not actually involved in the entire process – especially after a long day’s work! So we changed the dynamic; parents now learn with their children instead of helping them learn – creating fun and precious bonding experiences.”

“For example, students tasked to learn about a mathematical concept before class, work together with their parents to record a video explaining both the concept and how it effects them. The videos are then shared on OneNote Class Notebooks via Stream where the whole class can then collaborate and learn from each other – from any device both inside and outside the classroom.”

“The motto of my classroom is that every student will have a better day than the last. In the same way we tell kids the most important thing about sport is having fun, students also need to be happy and have fun learning.”

A firm advocate of visual learning, Ramón believes students are better able to understand and retain ideas when ideas are linked with images such as graphs, mind-maps and presentations: “Visualization helps students see how concepts are connected and realize how certain information can be grouped and organized.”

“We still have blackboards and chalk in our classrooms, and while these are classic tools, we now capture images on OneNote so the time invested in drawing diagrams doesn’t go to waste while also providing students with a resource to refer back to. What’s more, students can then re-use, repurpose or expand upon these images in Sway and Office Mix in PowerPoint for future projects.”

Of all the technologies Ramón has implemented, Minecraft: Education Edition and game-based learning is what he regards as his secret weapon and ally in the classroom.

“In Minecraft, students are completely immersed in the learning experience. They have the freedom to experiment without fear of failure and explore without the fear of being lost. In one virtual setting, we are able to teach a range of subjects and skills across faculties,” says Ramón.

“Last year, we launched our Multiple Intelligences Project, which aims to stimulate eight key areas of learning: linguistic-verbal, spatial-visual, logical-mathematical, naturalist, interpersonal, intrapersonal, bodily-kinesthetic and musical. Each area takes the form of a separate Minecraft challenge that students must pass before they move onto the next one. Some of these are soft-skills, which are incredibly difficult and complex to teach, but game-based learning has proved to be the best method thus far.”

Satisfying the skills appetite
When asked for his view of what the future holds for education, Ramón responds without a moment’s hesitation: “Our country is in the middle of an education revolution, and this is being driven by my colleagues and teaching peers. There is a real hunger for learning and training amongst educators, and many are using free digital resources and courses to self-improve and understand how best to use technology in the classroom.”

“When I first started as a teacher there was one room with two computers. Now, our school has three rooms, each with 30 computers, and every student has a laptop. The world has evolved, and teachers across Spain are determined to ensure both they and their students have the digital skills required to adapt and move with this change.”

Inspired by Ramón Rodríguez Galán upskilling teachers with technology? 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.