Winners at the Microsoft Innovative Teachers 2008 Awards Ceremony with Hon. Susil Premjayanth, Minister of Education and other officials from the Ministry of Education
In recognition of all futuristic teachers dedicated to taking Sri Lankan classrooms into the 21st century, the ‘Innovative Teachers National Competition 2007’, awards ceremony was held for the third consecutive year, on February 29th, at the Ministry of Education Auditorium. The Minister of Education, Hon. A.D. Susil Premjayanth graced the occasion as Chief Guest, with other distinguished invitees including education officials, academics, regional Microsoft representatives and the media.
This annual competition is a joint initiative of Microsoft Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Education and is organized to increase teachers’ knowledge of Information Communication Technology (ICT) island-wide, as it’s very much the way forward in the present day context of a student oriented education system. This years’ awards presentation acknowledged the active contribution of 16 teachers (finalist awards) and three main awards to winner Ms. Vajirani Samarakoon, Wattegama C.C, Wattegama, 1st Runner Up Mr. T. Nimalan, Nilaweli MV, Trincomalee and Mr. S.D. Thennakoon, Siri Mihindu MV, Radawadunna as 2nd Runner Up. This years’ national competition winners will be flown to the ‘Regional Innovative Teachers Conference’ to be held in Hanoi, Vietnam, from April 8th – 10th this year. There, they will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to share their insights and experience with their co-colleagues from across the globe. These teachers will also be exposed to the lesson plans and education systems of various countries, which will in turn help them enhance their technological competence.
Sharing his thoughts on the ’Innovative Teachers’ project, the Minister of Education - Hon. Susil Premjayanth said, “Over the past few years, we have provided computer laboratory facilities to over 2000 schools across the country, via the Secondary Education Modernization Project (SEMP). Apart from that, more than 4000 teachers underwent the training programs organized by the Ministry and the Ministry also provided schools with all the necessary technological devices needed for this project.” Programmes such as ’Innovative Teachers’ could act as an ideal forum for teachers to discuss the feasibility of conducting such a programme, as the role of the teacher is crucial, especially in terms of information dissemination to the students, he added. “Going beyond the regular concept of training programmes and computer equipment donations, competitions of this nature will take technological education to the next level, and will bridge the resource gap between the urban and rural schools,” explained Mr. Premjayanth.
In the process, Microsoft too, played a significant role as a resource provider in conducting training as well as donating software and other computer equipment, he said. “I would also like to extend my gratitude to Microsoft Sri Lanka for joining hands with the Ministry of Education to make a technologically sound, future generation,” he elaborated.
Further expanding on Microsoft’s role in educating the next generation on technological advances of the modern world, the Public Sector Lead of Microsoft Sri Lanka - Premil De Silva said, “I’m delighted to announce that for this year’s competition, we have received a mammoth 15,400 entries from all parts of the country, thus showing their level of commitment towards the modernization of the education system.” Microsoft could play an active role in training teachers and empowering schools with information technological facilities, he added. “We could also recognize teachers’ hidden talents via this competition and encourage them to use more technology based teaching methods,” explained Mr. De Silva. “I would like to thank all those 15,000 teachers who underwent great pains to participate in the competition and construct and present their individual lesson plans for this competition. As a result of efforts like this, made by Microsoft in collaboration with the Education Ministry, thousands of students throughout the country are ultimately benefited. I would like very much to wish every success to the winners, as well as the rest of the participants in their future teaching endeavours,” he concluded.
Mrs. Vajirani Samarakoon of CP/K/Wattegama Central College, Wattegama, the Winner of this years competition stated, “I am delighted that I was able to become the winner of the Innovative Teachers Competition for the year 2007. I consider this event as an excellent platform for the teachers who want to show their talents using technology in the teaching process of education in Sri Lanka. In addition to offering us the opportunity to be active and technologically empowered persons in our profession, this competition provides a commendable experience for us to access the technology resources available in the teaching & learning process. The special feature I noticed in this competition was that not only did it evaluate the technology used but also the ability of planning a successful lesson relating to the modern method. The evaluation panel consisted of highly qualified evaluators, representing every part of sections of education in Sri Lanka and therefore I commend the initiative of the Secondary Education Modernization Project and Microsoft Sri Lanka in this regard. As an experienced teacher who uses technology in teaching I can say that a teacher can be a popular character among the students if he or she uses technology and new and innovative teaching methods instead of the traditional chalk and talk method in teaching. I hope that the distribution of the winners’ software’s amongst the schools would be an added encouragement to other teachers to join this competition in the future as well.”
Having attracted an unprecedented number of 15,360 entries (nearly 1500 of which coming from the North and East) for the preliminary Provincial Software Competition, this year’s entries have trebled in numbers since last year. The provincial level competition precedes the national level competition, with the provincial winners gaining automatic entry to the national final. 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% by the year 2010.
Mr. Anura Dissanayake - Project Director of SEMP II for the Ministry of Education, said that “by organizing a competition of this nature, we could make a significant change in the education system of our country. We are still in the process of introducing ICT into the teaching arena and we hope to improve computer literacy levels considerably among teachers and students. Until now, we were mostly engaged in activities such as teacher training and donating computers. But today, we see the real value of the investment made by the Ministry of Education - amounting to millions of rupees so as to uplift the technological capacity of the next generation.”
“To make this competition a reality, Microsoft as a giant in the field of information technology, made a solid contribution, by providing international quality training to the teachers and making certain financial and technological facilities available to them. Simultaneously, Microsoft trained over 10,000 teachers, the fruits of which will ultimately be borne by students all across the country,” he added.
All submissions are judged by an eminent panel of IT experts and academics, with representation from the Ministry of Education, National Institute of Education, university lecturers and Microsoft. The criteria for selection includes, exemplary and innovative use of technology in teaching, educational talent as evidenced by instructional practices in the classroom, demonstration of an engaging and inspiring presence to motivate and impact students, and the optimum use of technologies available in the school or community.
This competition is the first and only national level ‘exclusively for teachers’ competition to be held in Sri Lanka. Its primary design is to motivate and recognize teachers who actively use ICT in teaching and learning, to create a powerful learning experience in their classrooms. 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 project is part of Microsoft’s efforts to bridge the digital divide by making IT more accessible to students across the island. It is both Microsoft Sri Lanka’s and the Ministry of Education’s main aim, to cover all schools in the island via the competition.
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 competition is open to teachers of any subject from public and private schools as well as international schools operating in the country. Entries can be submitted in Sinhala, Tamil or English and take the format of a lesson plan of forty minutes, developed using software available to the schools and the internet where applicable.
The success of the campaign cannot only be measured in terms of the number of participants who entered, but in terms of the major impact it had in promoting IT as a whole in the country. By encouraging teachers to be innovative and bring IT into their classrooms as a teaching tool, Microsoft has succeeded in reaching over 1,350,000 children all over the island. This campaign supported not only the government’s objective to improve the country’s ICT literacy to 50% within the next two years, but also enabled 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.