Margaret Tracy from Hillcrest High School reflects on the recent Microsoft E2 Africa Forum #Makewhatsnext in Johannesburg

This is a guest post from Margaret Tracy, the Technology Integrator at Hillcrest High School (HHS) in Kwazulu-Natal. She believes implicitly in pedagogy before technology in the transformation of education. Margaret  was invited to attend the Microsoft E2 Africa Form in Johannesburg, and in this article she gives a reflection on the event. Margaret first wrote this as a post in Linkedin 

Introducing the E2 Africa Conference

The Microsoft E2 Africa #Makewhatsnext Conference held on 29-30 May was a constructive example of innovation and expertise in action. To launch the event, Sonya Delafosse, Senior Partners-in-Learning Manager of Microsoft’s worldwide Education team, stressed the importance of 21st century skills and the role technology can play in education to harness these skills. As the Technology Integrator at Hillcrest High School (HHS)in Durban, what struck me most, was the global need to travel this road together and pool our best resources so that we can learn from each other.

Microsoft’s Professional Development programs

A second confirmation was the focus given to the importance of pedagogy first, with technology being a powerful tool to transform education. Microsoft in the Classroom and the Microsoft Educator Community (MEC) provides a professional and directed framework to guide and measure each school in their journey to transforming education on a global scale. It is uncharted territory and all schools can be considered pioneers in their own right. I believe that all schools should seriously consider joining the Microsoft School’s Programme, if they haven’t already, to facilitate the implementation of what Microsoft has to offer both teachers and students. The free online educator courses and point system with Microsoft badges carries SACE endorsement. At HHS, our teacher IT Champions are embracing this internationally recognised opportunity and at a recent workshop, all teachers were motivated to become Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE). Online learning allows teachers to address professional development in their own time at their own pace. A growing number of HHS students have joined the Student IT Champion initiative and they are now working towards achieving their online Microsoft Digital Literacy Certificate. Clearly, students are becoming more aware of the importance of gaining a relevant and internationally recognised accreditation.

The enormous potential of Minecraft: Education Edition in Education

We were privileged to learn from the Minecraft Education Edition guru himself, Stephen Reid, CEO of Immersive Minds in Scotland. Game-based learning is not a new phenomenon but the extent to which Minecraft Education Edition informs on Problem-based Learning (PBL) is truly inspirational. The opportunities for the teacher in a variety of subject areas – including cross-curricular – was evident in the number and scale of virtual worlds that Stephen Reid and his students from different parts of the world had created. For a day and a half, Mr Reid guided the E2 delegates in groups in their innovative attempts to find a solution to an important South African problem using Minecraft. Collaboration, communication, creative thinking and critical analysis were necessary ingredients and the resulting project enabled each of us to understand not only what Minecraft could produce, but what an enormous learning experience game-based learning can be. The created world offered by Minecraft provides a very real and relevant experience that I believe is difficult to emulate in any other teaching and learning experience.

A ‘game-breaker’ conference

Thank you to the SA Microsoft team headed by Angela Schaerer from Microsoft and Megan Rademeyer from SchoolNet, for hosting a ‘game-breaker’ conference. Thank you to Sonja Delafosse and Stephen Reid for joining us on our journey.

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