Innovative educators and education leaders from 19 countries attended the 8th Microsoft Partners in Learning (Asia and Pacific) Forum, from 20 to 22 March. Held in Auckland, New Zealand, they were given the opportunity to learn, share and connect with their fellow peers from around the region.
Paul Muckleston, Managing Director, Microsoft New Zealand, opened the conference by speaking of how Microsoft’s initiatives are committed to improving the education levels among youths. It was followed by key sessions on utilizing technology to supplement today’s education. Despite facing tough but familiar challenges such as staff training and limited resources, many educators shared their experience on how they transformed the learning environment in their schools using information and communication technology (ICT) and other inventive practices.
Paul Muckleston spoke about Microsoft’s commitment to improve youth’s education levels.
During her presentation, Shirley Duthie, principal of The Hong Kong Institute of Education Jockey Club Primary School, mentioned the importance of using e-learning in her school, but faced a common challenge of limited resources while implementing the technology. She realized that demonstrating the success of using such technology internally first would improve its credibility and provide her with more resources eventually. The school is now employing Kinect™ and OneNote®-shared documents, and Duthie hopes to conduct textbook-free classes next year.
Similarly, the principal of Botony Downs Secondary College, Mike Leach, explained that the use of OneNote is very prevalent during teacher-and-student collaboration, teacher-to-teacher collaboration and executive-to-teacher collaboration. The school hopes to achieve a more effective “one-to-one” style of teaching in the future. Meanwhile, they utilize portable devices in classes, even allowing students to use their own on the school network. Placing great importance on ICT to improve student results and achievement, this is a regular agenda item at the weekly senior leadership meetings.
“It is very important to recognize our best educators, as they are the role models and the North Star that all other educators should follow. The Partners in Learning Forum provides the opportunity for the world’s best educators to come together to share ideas and best practices,” said Mark East, Worldwide General Manager of the Education Industry Group at Microsoft.
Partners in Learning is a global educational program by Microsoft, committed to transforming education systems worldwide. It provides members with access to educational experts, helps them to discover, share and scale best practices, create knowledge and collaborative communities, and understand how technology can progress their teaching and learning practices.
“The Partners in Learning Forum provides the opportunity for the world’s best educators to come together to share ideas and best practices.”- Mark East, Worldwide General Manager of the Education Industry Group, Microsoft
The day to day operations of NGOs can be challenging, especially when disasters strike. To help NGOs improve operations, Microsoft hosted a series of workshops under the Connecting Communities forum aimed at building their Information Technology (IT) capabilities. The most recent forum took place in Christchurch on 29 February and was co-organized by the Social Development Partners. Over 100 NGO representatives attended.
One by one, participants take the stage to share real life IT lessons.
At the forum, cloud technology was a key motif, and discussed as the way forward for NGOs. When the 2010 earthquake destabilized Christchurch’s telecommunications infrastructure, NGOs such as the Children Cancer Foundation (CCF) suffered. Luckily, the CCF was already operating on a cloud platform prior to the earthquake and had experience using Microsoft® SharePoint® Online, Microsoft® Exchange Online and Microsoft® Lync®. With access to the web, they were able to tap on these Microsoft technologies to add virtual offices to their network of 22 branches, and continue to assist families from remote locations.
Other NGOs like the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB), an organization that helps promote positive social change among citizens, also benefited from the cloud. The CAB had recently completed New Zealand’s largest Customer Relationship Management (CRM) deployment. However, it had two of its Christchurch bureaus red-stickered after the major earthquake –flagged as architecturally unsound buildings that needed to be checked by engineers first before staff could work there again. To remedy this, the CAB redirected calls from that location to other bureaus all within a matter of days. This would not have been possible without the use of cloud computing.
A similar story took place at the Christchurch Women’s Refuge. With just 10 full-time staff, all they had was an in-house server, hardware and various software versions of Microsoft® Office with no remote email access or shared calendars. Their building was red-stickered, and the only way to revive operations was to go back to the danger zone to retrieve the physical equipment and set up temporary offices. However, sporadic power shortages disrupted work productivity. And to Christine Wallace, the Office Manager at the Christchurch Women’s Refuge, this was a sign to switch to a more accessible IT infrastructure. She shared, “We are now considering other major projects such as moving our database to the cloud, collaborating and data-sharing with partners and moving to a paperless office scenario.”
With the help of cloud computing, these organizations were transformed from being offline to optimized. For the non-profit sector, the benefits cannot be more important as human lives are at stake.
“We are now considering other major projects such as moving our database to the cloud, collaborating and data-sharing with partners and moving to a paperless office scenario.”- Christine Wallace, Office Manager at the Christchurch Women’s Refuge
The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society took advantage of a software and services grant from Microsoft Corporation and deployed Microsoft® Office 365 in order to improve its work processes. A non-profit organization recognized by the New Zealand Charities Commission, Plunket offers wellness support, childcare information and car seat rentals to families with children under five years old.
In the past, Plunket had access to a video conference tool that was underutilized as its staff found it difficult to use. As a result, managers were required to travel to centralized meetings from one of Plunket’s offices collectively, spending many hours and thousands of dollars on air travel annually. Moreover, Plunket faced the challenge of communicating effectively with parents, small businesses, its 1,500 frontline staff and thousands of volunteers.
After looking into cloud computing, Plunket decided to try Microsoft Office 365, a set of cloud-based applications that includes online enterprise-class email and collaboration capabilities. By leveraging Microsoft Office 365, Plunket was able to deploy nearly 700 licenses cost-effectively.
“We need to keep costs at a minimum while maximizing the level of security. The aim is to ensure that our staff and volunteers have the technology that supports their ability to help New Zealand’s children and families,” said Craig Le Quesne, General Manager of Information and Communications Technology, The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society.
Microsoft Lync® Online, the Office 365 suite’s web-based conferencing tool, proved to be the most useful tool for Plunket as it enabled staff or volunteers to communicate more effectively via video from virtually anywhere, helping to save on travel expenses.
“Being able to meet virtually allows us to accomplish so much more, and helps to keep our overhead low at the same time. With more time and money, we can now further develop Plunket’s support and volunteer programs, and empower our community to drive positive change,” said Le Quesne.
Plunket is currently leveraging both Microsoft SharePoint® Server and Lync Online to provide frontline staff with a new application called PlunketPlus. This centralized system allows nurses to record and access client information more efficiently, which aligns with Plunket’s plan to eliminate multiple, paper-based records.
“Being able to meet virtually allows us to accomplish so much more, and helps to keep our overhead low at the same time. With more time and money, we can now further develop Plunket’s support and volunteer programs, and empower our community to drive positive change.” - Craig Le Quesne, General Manager of Information and Communications Technology, The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society
Representatives of the Building Employability through Technology and Entrepreneurship Resources (BETTER) program had the opportunity to host Ms Judith B Cefkin, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy Bangkok, on 19 March. At the Center of Skill Development (CSD), located in Singburi province, the representatives from Microsoft, Kenan Institute Asia (KIAsia) and the Thailand Department of Skill Development (DSD) gave her an overview of the project.
Ms Judith B Cefkin, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the United States with representatives from the BETTER program.
“The BETTER program is a perfect example of Thai – US creative collaboration that unites the private sector, government and an institute to develop Thailand’s creative industries and improve people’s lives through information and communication technology (ICT) tools,” said Richard Bernhard, Executive Director, Kenan Institute Asia.
The collaborative three-year project aims to increase employability through the improvement in ICT skills to better prepare entrepreneurs for their engagement in start-up activities. Launched in 2009, the project encourages businesses to focus on upgrading the skills of their workers in order to stay ahead of the competition.
After the 2009 global financial crisis that caused many workers to lose their jobs, the organizers of the BETTER program realized that the lack of basic ICT skills was a key factor of unemployment. Many potential entrepreneurs were also not well-equipped with necessary ICT training to grow their businesses. The situation faced by the workforce spurred the establishment of the BETTER program.
Volunteers from Microsoft have helped boost employment opportunities by providing ICT training. Along with the support from KIAsia, Microsoft has also developed an online Smart Entrepreneur course which allows entrepreneurs access to multimedia content, unit exercises and an evaluation test. This training enhances the knowledge of entrepreneurs, enabling them to improve various aspects of their businesses. Microsoft has also funded this project with the infusion of USD 370,000 to develop various programs for the workers.
“Microsoft Thailand believes that technology can transform lives and enhance living standards. With the BETTER program being warmly received by Thai workers, we will continue to ensure that it plays a crucial role in building workforce capabilities and job opportunities,” said Kasemsri Na Ayudhya, Managing Director, Microsoft Thailand.
“Microsoft Thailand believes that technology can transform lives and enhance living standards. With the BETTER program being warmly received by Thai workers, we will continue to ensure that it plays a crucial role in building workforce capabilities and job opportunities.”- Kasemsri Na Ayudhya, Managing Director, Microsoft Thailand.
“The BETTER program is a perfect example of Thai – US creative collaboration that unites the private sector, government and an institute to develop Thailand’s creative industries and improve people’s lives through information and communication technology (ICT) tools.”- Richard Bernhard, Executive Director, Kenan Institute Asia.
For the first time, a Thailand NGO Connection Day was held at Hat Yai, Songkhla, in Southern Thailand on 28 and 29 February. Sixty-nine participants from 31 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) registered with the Songkhla Provincial Social Development and Human Security Office attended the seminar at Asian HadYai Hotel. These participants consisted of management representatives, information technology (IT) specialists and operation staff.
During a seminar session, Mr Anusorn Koysataya, Social Development Expert, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, reiterated the vision of the government in supporting the NGOs and emphasized the significant role of technology in communication. Thereafter, various representatives from Microsoft illustrated the relevance and applications of technology to the participants.
The Microsoft representatives shared their insights on the importance of cloud computing and encouraged NGOs to tap on more advanced technology in order to improve their work performance and efficiency. An example of a useful technological tool is the public cloud, which includes Microsoft Live@edu, SkyDrive®, Windows Live® Group and Hotmail®.
Mrs Supahrat Juramongkol, Acting Community Affairs Manager of Microsoft Thailand, presenting cloud computing concepts and technologies to NGO representatives.
In addition, the Microsoft representatives provided participants with guidance on how Microsoft® Cloud Service can ease their work management, and shared advanced tips for Microsoft® Office 2010 software such as Microsoft® Word and Microsoft PowerPoint®. They also taught these participants how to install Windows® 7 applications and provided information resources for disabled people.
At the culmination of the seminar, Microsoft invited the participants to be part of its software donation program. Many of the participants showed interest in this program, with Microsoft receiving several enquiries regarding the criteria and procedures. Based on the survey regarding the seminar, the participants felt that it had allowed them to gain new technological insights and skills that will help in increasing work effectiveness.
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