When I talk about transformative learning, I often highlight the individuals who make it happen — from the kindergarten teacher using Surface tablets and innovative Windows 8 apps to reinvigorate his classroom, to the visionary school leader who ensures her students are ready for their next step, whether that’s deeper learning, higher education or the workforce.
Ultimately, though, truly transformative change must be scalable, and whole schools must adapt to 21st century realities. When this happens, school leaders, teachers, students and the broader community are aligned, and everybody benefits.
Through Microsoft’s Innovative Schools World Tour, which officially kicked off last year, we’ve seen this kind of wholesale change in action. Starting with our visit to Kent, England’s Cornwallis Academy last January, we’ve seen schools around the globe that are not only transforming education, but also inspiring other schools to do the same.
Many of the World Tour schools are seeing extraordinary results, driven by technology and a thoughtful approach to change. At Julio Verne Bilingual School in Monte Vedat, Spain, Microsoft technology is embedded at every level, from systems management to infrastructure to the classroom, where students use Surface tablets, along with Kinect and Windows 8 laptops, to collaborate and master 21st century skills. Several of the school’s teachers are Microsoft Certified trainers, and five of the teachers have achieved Master Level in Microsoft IT Academy.
At St. Cyprian’s School in Cape Town, South Africa, students have their own online learning portal to access documents, teachers’ calendars and discussion forums. They use project-based learning and Microsoft devices and software to learn collaboration, real-world problem solving and how to use technology to create and communicate. The school has also established an Innovation Team, encouraging teachers to mentor their peers and scale up innovation.
And it’s especially encouraging when large schools, like Moscow High School #548 with over 2,000 students, are able to achieve broad-based change. At this school, also known as “Tsaritsyno,” a 1:1 approach gives students the opportunities and skills to control how and what they learn. Technology is working hand-in-hand with assessment and instruction, enabling a personalized curriculum for every student. And faced with community resistance stemming from Russia’s more traditional approach to education, Tsaritsyno has involved the wider community in its education process, through innovative partnerships with parents and technology-enabled distance learning for children with special needs.
What do these school have in common? A big-picture view of education transformation, and an understanding that technology can play a significant role in achieving better outcomes in all aspects of the schools’ operation – from classroom learning to teacher development and operations.
Today, about 250 educators from around the world will tour Twickenham Academy, a new Microsoft Mentor School just beginning to incorporate some of the technology and pedagogy we’ve seen work so well at other Mentor Schools. Twickenham Academy has recently distributed over 500 Microsoft Surface devices and will have access to an increased range of Apps designed to support learning in a variety of subject areas. The school is recognized as a mentor school because of their approach to enable young people to work more independently and to provide a personalized education.
No matter where a school is on its journey toward transformation, it takes a thoughtful plan and a committed community of school leaders, administrators, teachers, students and parents to effect meaningful change. As partners in learning, Microsoft supports schools in all of these efforts, and we’re encouraged by the holistic approach to transformation we’re witnessing in schools around the world.
Anthony Salcito, VP Worldwide Education for Microsoft