Tech-savvy teachers shine in Durban at the 2012 SA Partners in Learning Forum Awards

This is a news release from Microsoft about the winners of the 2012 Partners in Learning Forum in South Africa. 20 finalists were chosen and they attended the finals in Durban. Microsoft sponsored the finalists to attend the South African Basic Education  Conference and the winners were announced at a ceremony at the conference. Photos have been added by the editor. 

Durban – 3 April 2012

Projects that encourage learners to tell stories digitally; find solutions to rehabilitate a local polluted area; collect data on how trees grow; and create educational toys and games for the blind have won four tech-savvy teachers top honours at Microsoft’s annual Partners in Learning Awards, announced here last night. 

The teachers, Caroline Adelaar from St Mary’s School in Johannesburg, Maxwell Funo from Mkhanyiseli Primary in Cape Town, Gaye Pieterse from Durban Girls’ High and Charli Wiggill from Eden College, also from Durban were among 19 finalists at the awards. The awards aim to stimulate the use of technology in schools, enhance teaching and learning and give teachers an opportunity to share their ideas and projects with their peers both locally and across the world.



The four overall winners

Each of the four innovative teachers has secured a spot to represent South Africa at the regional finals in Morocco in July. Two of the projects, Trees4Africa and the Braille Memory Game/Toys for the Blind, collaborated with other schools to widen the reach of their project results. 

Caroline Adelaar from St Marys in Joburg

Charli Wiggil from Eden College in Durban

In a third, learners were taught how to effectively use social media as a platform for distributing movies while fostering emotional intelligence by teaching them how to use emoticons to comment on their peers’ work. 


Mkanyiseli Primary School teacher Maxwell Funo is delighted with the results his pollution impact project is delivering. “It all began when we noticed an alarming number of learners had been developing infected wounds from playing in polluted areas,” he says. “The children are now able to make a real difference to the safety of their community as we are escalating our suggested solutions to the local municipality and the City of Cape Town.” 

Maxwell Funo
Maxwell Funo from Mkanyiseli Primary School

Speaking at the awards, Microsoft South Africa managing director Mteto Nyati said a Microsoft-commissioned Innovative Teaching and Learning Research (ITL) study in 2011 showed that innovative teaching practices will flourish when supportive conditions are in place such as peer support, the sharing of ideas and a common vision among teachers to offer relevant, innovative and learner-centric teaching methods.“The quality of the entries demonstrated that even the slightest change in how teachers use the technology tools they already have – like a cell phone or laptop – can impact the way teachers teach and learners learn,” said Nyati. 


The finalists and their projects


The finalists

The following projects were on display at the South African Finals. Unfortunately one of the finalists, Clair Dean from Stirling Primary, was unable to attend the finals this year and her project is not listed here.

Caroline Adelaar

St Mary’s School




Grade two girls initiated a Smithsonian tree growth data collection project and collaborated with other African schools to create a Trees4Africa Wikispace. The wiki will be used to generate collaborative presentations integrating ICT skills, movement and music. These will be filmed and used a community outreach project to encourage sapling planting.

Nkosilathi Dlodlo

Batswana Secondary School


North West

Serving water to save

Learners investigated a range of possible causes of water shortages and proposed several solutions. Interviews were conducted with the community and a local mining industry next to the school; models were constructed; research took place in the lab and a song was produced. Findings were presented to the MEC of Education for further consideration.

Riathe Engels

Harmonie Primary School


Free State

Innovative ways to recycle -TRASH ART

The intention of this project was to give learners not participating in other extra-curricular activities an opportunity to experience technology and learn new skills. Learners collected bags and cans; they researched pollution and the fusing of plastic using the internet and they created art from recyclable materials. At the final event designs were revealed at a fashion show.

Maxwell Funo

Mkhanyiseli Primary

Cape Town

Western Cape

Our community our pride

This project began when the teacher noticed that learners were developing infected wounds from playing in polluted areas as there were no playgrounds or parks in the area. The grade seven learners photographed the affected learners and interviewed people living near the polluted areas. They are now investigating solutions and raising the issue with the municipality and City of Cape Town.

Lisa Gair

The Rock Academy

Fish Hoek

Western Cape

Cultural Exchange

The aim of this project is to connect grade four classes in South Africa and the United Arab Emirates to share information about their environments, cultures and faiths. A variety of tools are being used including a blog, wiki, screencasts and skype to commmunicate and keep a classmate who is spending the year at sea involved.

Gilmour Gordon

Elkanah House School


Western Cape

Fun with Class Music

Groups of grade sevens wrote stories and selected songs to enhance their plots. They performed the songs, recorded them with their cell-phones and imported the songs into their stories using Moviemaker. Grade eights and nines become familiar with Audacity and manipulating music using this application. They viewed a soundless video clip and added in the sound based on their interpretation of the clip.

Siobhan Louw

Somerset House

Somerset West

Western Cape

ICT’d! Innovative and creative travel document

In this project Grade six learners take a virtual international holiday. The “vacation” includes creating an itinerary, booking airline tickets and creating a travel journal. Learners sourced screenshots from online maps and their street views and manipulated these. They also edited photos to put themselves in a variety of destinations. Collaboration with the drama and English teachers allowed for extended learning opportunities.

Mabore Dorothy Lekalakala

Toronto Primary School


Limpopo Project

Lazily learning

The activities in this project draw on the learners’ love of television. Firstly learners watch their favorite television programme and compare and contrast their conclusions with learners from the United States. Secondly they draw up time management tables and share these. Thirdly they create posters and act out puppet shows, dramas, poems and songs on different learning content as alternative entertainment.

Hafeeza Ebrahim Mayet

Marlboro Gardens Secondary School



Mathe City

The focus of this project was to build a model of ‘MATHECITY’ that integrates grade five Geometry content. Learners investigated tessellations and created an AutoCollage of these. Learners folded nets of 3D shapes to form buildings and decorated these in the Arts and Culture lessons using MS Paint. Learners then used the model to find out more about cardinal points, measurements and even and odd numbers.

Nombuso Mnguni

Asithuthuke Combined School



Designing and building a model of bridge

This Grade nine Technology project involved learners identifying contemporary problems in the community and exploring them using various technological tools. Learners were then challenged to design and build a model of a bridge that can be used to address a problem that they identified. This will be presented to the community.

Neith Moore

Durban Girls’ High



The Mobile Digital Classroom – ’Flipping’ a studio

This teacher designed and built a mobile digital classroom and is training teachers and learners to use it. The flipped classroom has led to teachers starting their own blogs; a local gallery and artists working with the learners; the local environment being interrogated through a ‘shoot-n-share’ task; and the Glenwood Forum being involved as a showcase.

Gaye Pieterse

Durban Girls’ College



Inside Outside

In this digital storytelling project, girls created their own screenplays that showed how emotions are experienced inside and external factors which impact on them. The movies were posted to a closed social networking site and feedback was given. In addition to the technical skills of creating a movie, learners learnt how to comment on peers’ work and how to use digital storytelling to foster emotional intelligence.

Anita van Vuuren

Primêre Skool Universitas


Free State


In this project, The grade 3 learners chose an individual project to work on with their own plan and goals. They were paired with grade four learners who supported their younger colleagues. The projects involved taking photos, making videos and producing PowerPoint presentations. In addition to doing worthwhile activities such as making cards to sell to support the CANSA foundation, this project taught time and self-management skills and the importance of completing something that you start.

Charli Wiggill

Eden College Durban



Braille Memory Game and Toys for the Blind

In this project pupils identified with the blind and manufactured memory game cards in Braille. As an extension project, they adapted existing educational games and designed and created new educational games and toys for the blind. As a Pass it Forward-type exercise, they communicated with and collaborated with other pupils in their class and around the world.

Lerato Mazimba

St. Bernard’s High School


Free State

From Trash to Couture

Learners sketched designs of fashionable clothing and shoes; runways and props for a fashion show. They gathered waste material and learnt how to turn this into fashionable items. They began designing clothes or shoes from plastic and waste material and then graduated to designing couture clothes using cloth from old clothes. Invitations, score sheets, photos and film were all produced as part of the fashion show.

Michelle Dreyer

Courtrai Primary School

Paarl – Boland

Western Cape

Bread Tags

This school’s enrichment team has implemented a number of initiatives to collect plastic bread bag tags and to use these across learning areas. Activities include competitions to guess how many tags are in a jar; using bread tags to create three dimensional objects in Technology; and finding out about the stages of production in Economic and Management Sciences. The school hopes to collect enough bread tags to purchase a wheel chair.

Sarah Hanton

Boudina McConnachie

Anna Wertlen

Victoria Girls High School


Eastern Cape

Good Vibrations through Social Networking

Using internet research, interviews and awareNet (an online school social network) learners engaged in cross-curricular research projects focusing on science and music. They created on-line teaching and learning resources and they collaborated with one another and with community members to research and publish information. This project involved working with a disadvantaged school, sharing presentations at SciFest and using discussion forums, messaging and chat to develop and share resources.

Jenny Martin

Somerset House

Somerset West

Western Cape

T-ICT 7.0

Grade seven learners were challenged to research randomly assigned ICT tools, work out how to use them and then record videos of themselves discussing the merits of their tools. The project included a WebQuest and a wiki maintained by learners who wished to build a tool to support their peers in this challenge. Learners identified community members who could benefit from their tools and then demonstrated the tools to them.

Joan Martin

Gaye Pieterse

Durban Girls’ College



Project Runway

The objective of this project is to integrate technology with art. Learners were required to research an artist and to then present their findings in an innovative way by transforming the artist’s concepts into fashion design. Learners were required to research their artist and find inspiration, “buy” their fabric online and create a PowerPoint with suitable music showcasing their designs.

The prize-winners

Categories for Awards

Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom

  • 1st place: Charli Wiggill, Eden College Durban, KZN – Braille Memory Game and Toys for the Blind
  • 2nd place: Caroline Adelaar, St Mary’s School, Gauteng – Trees4Africa


  • 1st place: Maxwell Funo, Mkhanyiseli Primary School, WC – Our Community Our Pride
  • 2nd place: Lerato Mazimba, St Bernard’s High School, FS – From Trash to Couture
Lerato Mazimba

Knowledge Building and Critical Thinking

  • 1st place: Gaye Pieterse, Durban Girls‘ College, KZN – Inside Outside
  • 2nd place: Jenny Martin and Siobhan Louw, Somerset House, WC – T-ICT 7.0

Siobhan Lowe and Jenny Martin

Cutting Edge Use of Microsoft Technology for Learning

  • 1st place: Caroline Adelaar, St Mary’s School, Gauteng – Trees4Africa
  • 2nd place: Anita van Vuuren,Primêre Skool Universitas, FS – TjokvolLEER


Innovation in Challenging Context

  • 1st place: Maxwell Funo, Mkhanyiseli Primary School, WC – Our Community Our Pride

  • 2nd place: Nkosilathi Dlodlo, Batswana Secondary School, NW – Serving Water to Serve


Educators’ Choice

  • Riathe Engels, Harmonie Primary School, FS – Innovative Ways to Recycle – TRASH ART


Judges‘ Awards:

  • Use of Social Networking -Sarah Hanton, Boudina McConnachie, Anna Wertlen, Victoria Girls High School, EC – Good Vibrations through Social Networking

  •  Use of Technology – Neith Moore, Durban Girls‘ High, KZN – The Mobile Digital Classroom – ’Flipping’ a Studio

Neith Moore

Neith Moore

  •  Innovation and Change Agent – Anita van Vuuren,Primêre Skool Universitas, FS – TjokvolLEER

Anita van Vuuren

Top Four Overall winners who will be participating in the Middle East Africa Partners in Learning Forum (in alphabetical order):

Caroline Adelaar, St Mary’s School, Gauteng – Trees4Africa

Maxwell Funo, Mkhanyiseli Primary School, WC – Our Community Our Pride

Gaye Pieterse, Durban Girls‘ College, KZN – Inside Outside

Charli Wiggill, Eden College Durban, KZN – Braille Memory Game and Toys for the Blind

Top four overall winners


*Each of 1st place Winners will receive a Dell Laptop

*Each of the 2nd Place Winners will receive a Slate Device donated by Vodacom Foundation

*The Educator Choice winner receives a SMART SB680iV interactive whiteboard system including SMART Notebook, installation and Basic User Training.

*All Finalists will receive a subscription to Encyclopaedia Britannica and Interactive Curriculum Content from Learnthings

*The Judges‘ Award Winners

  • Use of Social Networking –EInstruction Mobipad and portable Interactive Whiteboard from Sangari
  • Use of Technology -EasyView Visualizer from Sangari
  • Innovation and Change Agent – Mouse Mischief Set

More photos are on view at: 

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