Wing Kan Lai: Powering education in The Netherlands through PowerPoint

Imagine preparing for a career in today’s digital world, but your only resource is an out-of-date and decades old textbook.

Unfortunately for Wing Kan Lai, a secondary maths and science teacher in The Netherlands, this was exactly the kind of resources he was given when he first started his career. Not only were the textbooks out of date, but they were almost identical to the ones he read when he was in school. Shocked by this, Wing Kan made it his mission to ensure every student that entered his classroom left with the necessary skills and literacy to achieve their dreams – capturing their imagination with technology and nurturing their passion for STEM subjects.Part of Microsoft’s Innovative Educator Program, Wing Kan took the lead in modernizing his school’s traditional, textbook-centric approach to teaching. Having used OneNote since its first release in 2003, he recalls his colleagues’ amazement when he first introduced the technology and how they started to streamline classroom administration and encourage more collaborative learning.

“My philosophy is that if teachers are inspired, students will feel the same way. Every day I walk into school thinking about new ways to maintain their interest – both for their benefit and mine!”

Using this as a starting point, Wing Kan slowly started to show his colleagues how inspiring other software like Microsoft PowerPoint could be when teaching students more complicated topics like anatomy and algebra.

“I often saw people using PowerPoint to create slide shows, and I tried to show them that PowerPoint offers so much more than that – it can be used to transport students to new places and open their minds to new ways of learning.”

From inserting 3D models into presentations to integrating third-party applications like GeoGebra, Wing Kan saw an immediate change in engagement from his students once he started to use technology in his classroom. Noting he “found students volunteering to solve geometry problems as they grasped concepts they otherwise couldn’t understand from just staring at a textbook.”

Wing Kan encourages his students to use PowerPoint’s QuickStarter feature to help the get started with their presentations

Since joining Microsoft’s Innovative Educator Expert programme and hosting more workshops for teachers keen to integrate technology in their classrooms, the need for improved digital literacy in the existing workforce and for people entering news jobs became increasingly apparent to Wing Kan. “I’ve always loved to learn different teaching methods from my colleagues, but believe that digital literacy must underpin education as our world becomes more digital.”

With this insight, Wing Kan was compelled to make a huge career change – pivoting from secondary school STEM subjects to teaching digital literacy to over 400 students at the ROC Mondriaan vocational school in The Hague. He hadn’t anticipated just how impactful this would be for the young adults he taught, remembering the first time a student used his PowerPoint logo development skills to secure his dream job in a digital branding agency.

“My students ooze creativity, and technology helps them transform their visions into reality. With every new skill I introduce them to, I’m looking to provide them with the building blocks that inspire them to achieve more.”

In his new position, Wing Kan can stay true to his passion of enabling his students to thrive in their future endeavours, by preparing them for the modern workplace using Office 365, navigating the world of social media, and having an understanding of cybersecurity and privacy. But he continues to make PowerPoint a focus of his teaching plan – recognizing the opportunities it presents. Once students know how to create stop-motion animations in PowerPoint or design a logo from scratch – they immediately broaden their skill-set and are presented with endless opportunities. “PowerPoint isn’t complicated to use – anyone can learn how – and understanding its full potential automatically makes video creation and engaging presentations accessible.”

Want to find out more about the PowerPoint tools Wing Kan shares in his classroom? See below for his top five tips:

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