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The Innovative Teachers are back from Vietnam and ready to broaden their horizons

Innovative Teachers back from Vietnam


Mr. T. Nimalan, from the Nilaweli Maha Vidyalaya, Trincomalee receiving the Country Prize for the ‘Most Innovative Teacher’ at the Regional Conference held in Vietnam

The ‘Fourth Regional Innovative Teachers Conference’ held at the Sheraton Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam from the 8th-10th of April, 2008, recognized the creative and innovative work of more than 150 teachers and 100 senior Government and education officials, from at least 22 countries around the world. This time too, three of our very own teachers Mr. T. Nimalan, Mr. S.D. Tennakoon and Ms. Vajirani Samarakoon who won three different categories at the National Competition held in February this year, got the opportunity to attend and share in this experience of a lifetime. All the teachers in attendance at the conference were winners at their respective national competitions, where selections were based on their work and efforts in the pursuit of raising the bar on education standards through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

Organised by Microsoft in partnership with UNESCO, this global conference acknowledges the often challenging work conducted by teachers who strive towards taking education to a higher level, via the use of ICT, and to inspire other educators to follow suit. The conference, in keeping with this year’s theme, ‘ICT for ESD (Education for Sustainable Development): Seeing farther, thinking deeper’, created a platform for the advancement of best practices and adoption of innovation.

The ‘Innovative Teachers Program’ has two primary offerings for educators – the ‘Innovative Teachers Forums’ and the ‘Innovative Teachers Network.’ The Forums are Annual events that recognize and reward innovative teachers who practice the elements of 21st century learning in their classrooms and then incorporate these skills into the student learning environment. Whereas, the Network is a worldwide network of portals, local in their implementation, but global in their reach and scope that allow educators to share successful methodology and protocols from their own learning and practice.

Each teacher had to prepare a poster presentation showcasing their winning projects and present them to a panel of judges essentially comprising Senior Government Officials from across the globe. Mr. Anura Dissanayake, Project Director, Secondary Education Modernization Project II (SEMP II) of the Ministry of Education in Sri Lanka, was also on the panel of judges. A country winner too was adjudged through this process and Mr. T. Nimalan, from the Nilaweli Maha Vidyalaya, Trincomalee was presented with the Sri Lanka Country Prize for the ‘Most Innovative Teacher’ at the event.

All the teachers in attendance were also expected to participate in a cross group, multi-country collaboration project, which involved a few specific site visits followed by project work based on this years’ assigned theme. Throughout the conference the teachers were exposed to teaching methods and material from other countries and had ample opportunity to interact with their peers. In addition there was a one day field trip, poster sessions where the teachers shared their innovative teaching practices whilst competing for recognition as the “Innovative Teacher of the Year” award. There was also special collaboration projects where teachers from different countries joined together to develop specific teaching/learning material based on their field trips. The event came to a close on a high note, with a gala dinner and the awards ceremony.

Ms. Vajirani Samarakoon, from the Wattegama Central College, Wattegama, who was the winner of the National Competition this year said, “This conference encouraged me to further develop and fine tune my innovative skills, as it gave me the opportunity to engage in a range of varied teaching related activities and I was able to interact with teachers from different countries and share their experiences. This programme was truly an eye opener as it made me realize just how effectively we could utilize ‘E-Learning’ in our teaching. I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to Microsoft Sri Lanka and the Secondary Education Modernization Project (SEMP) of the Ministry of Education, Sri Lanka, for giving me this opportunity, which will better equip me to benefit my poor students.”

Mr. T. Nimalan from the Nilaweli Maha Vidyalaya Central College, Trincomalee said “Having won second place at the national competition and the Country Prize for the ‘Most Innovative Teacher’ at the Regional Conference held in Vietnam last month, I was able to share my experiences with more than 150 teachers from across 22 countries. Furthermore, I was able to gain much knowledge on more diverse and innovative teaching techniques using ICT tools and build a network with other teachers from the region, so that we can continue to share our knowledge and experiences in future as well. For all this, I am most grateful to Microsoft and the Ministry of Education.”

“Being adjudged Second runner-up at the national competition, I gained both a wealth of knowledge and experience via this programme, for instance, exposure to different teaching methods, how best to create attractive and effective lesson plans, numerous teaching aids, and knowledge sharing. I would like to show appreciation to Microsoft and the Ministry of Education in Sri Lanka, for creating such an opportunity for teachers like us," was what Mr. S.D. Tennakoon from Siri Mihindu MV, Radawadunna had to say.

“The Innovative Teachers competition has been a magnificent success in Sri Lanka – it has enabled us to discover how truly talented and creative the teachers here can be – and has provided an opportunity for us to recognize teachers, especially from the outstations who have gone that extra mile to make their student’s learning experience more fascinating. Participation at an event such as the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Summit is a boost for the teaching community and an encouragement for more teachers to come forward and display their creativity in the classroom.” said Public Lead - Microsoft Sri Lanka, Mr. Premil De Silva. “IT literacy is of utmost importance in modern education and we recognize that the challenge before teachers - to prepare students to succeed in an unknown future - is a daunting one. We see ICT as a vital tool in the sustainable development of education in countries such as Sri Lanka – by bringing IT into the classroom, teachers can ensure greater quality and efficiency of teaching while also making huge gains in bridging the digital divide. We are indeed happy to be able to provide these opportunities to the teachers of the country as part of our efforts to promote ICT in Sri Lanka. The Innovative Teachers competition has shown us that Sri Lanka’s teachers are ready for that challenge – all they need is opportunities such as events like this to learn and share success stories with their peers worldwide. It is through programmes such as these that teachers can challenge themselves to take their use of technology to the next level.”

Mr. Anura Dissanayake, Project Director, Secondary Education Modernization Project II (SEMP II) of the Ministry of Education in Sri Lanka stated that “Education provides teachers and students with frameworks and methods that help them integrate new information, new skills and new approaches to navigate complex relationships within information. As technology and software use evolves into a capability for expressions rather than a set of skills, educators can devote more time to cultivating the aptitudes young people will need in a more globally interconnected and information intensive world. I truly believe that Innovative Teachers Competition is actively help building those skills which Sri Lankan teachers require in achieving above.”

The Innovative Teachers Competition is designed to encourage teachers to optimize the software and ICT facilities given to their schools by utilizing ICT in the classroom as a tool of teaching. The objective of the competition is to jumpstart the use of ICT in schools, so that children become aware of the potential of IT from a very young age. The long term goals of projects such as these is to put in place the infrastructure and mindset required to propel countries like Sri Lanka into the digital age, by creating an ICT-ready population. The project would effectively contribute towards the Education Ministry’s goal to improve the present Sri Lankan information communication literacy rate of 10% to 50% within the next two years, but also enables Microsoft to touch more lives in a positive and proactive manner, thus striving towards their goal to touch 1 million lives by the year 2010.