Mary Anthony Sieras, teacher at Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan in Mindanao, Philippines, was in disbelief when selected as a country representative for the 2016 Microsoft E2 – Educator Exchange conference. She said, “I was an MIEE (Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert) for just a year, and did not think I had high chances of getting chosen.” The Instructional Technology Specialist was not only qualified for the symposium but had much to contribute.
Microsoft holds E2 annually to recognise and celebrate the achievements of educators in combining content, pedagogy, and technology in innovative ways. This year, about 250 teachers from around the globe convened from 8 to 10 March in Budapest, Hungary, to discuss how they use Microsoft technologies in the classroom, attend product workshops, and undergo certification.
We spoke to Mary after her trip to get an insider’s view of the conference.
What were the key highlights of the conference?
Three things from it stuck with me.
I was meeting all these highly motivated and knowledgeable teachers who were so impressive. I started feeling self-conscious about my own knowledge and achievements, especially when I went for the Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) examination and the ‘Hack the Classroom’ challenge. I decided to look past this, and just do what I had to. I passed the exam, and completed the task without giving myself too much pressure.
This was my first time meeting such a highly diverse group in one place. Being in Budapest, and exchanging ideas with educators from around the world reminded me of Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten, where he said, “Share everything” and “Be aware of wonder”. Because of these highly focused, practical and meaningful interactions, I learnt a lot about how the role of teachers varies with cultural context.
Lastly, E2 was an eye-opening experience on the immense potential of Microsoft within the classroom. There is no doubt that Microsoft is a household name and many people use it on a regular basis. But during E2, I realised that there remain many functions in the Microsoft software suite which I have not explored yet. I am thrilled at having learnt them, and look forward to sharing them with my co-ambassadors and colleagues in Mindanao, and most importantly, with my students.
How have you used technology to enhance your students’ learning experiences?
I use technology to support students in appreciating and understanding difficult concepts and those that they do not feel deeply engaged by. For instance, I have my students roleplay characters from literature texts, and create Twitter tweets and Facebook profiles for their character. I may get them to think about, ‘What would your character have to tweet about this particular current issue?’
How do you plan to continue enriching your lessons moving forward?
As I’m now a Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE), I have a new teaching load where I will lead Grade 7 and Grade 8 classes in computer lessons. Besides sticking to the curriculum of Office Productivity and Video Production content, I plan to incorporate Minecraft, Kinect and Skype into the lesson plans.