Posted by L. Michael Golden 
Corporate Vice President, Education

Michael Golden (left) and Michel Levy, general manager, Microsoft Brazil (right), present Bahia Governor Jaques Wagner with a copy of Windows 7 at the fifth annual WIEF.

The TV hero MacGyver could learn a thing or two from the real heroes I met earlier this month in Salvador, Brazil. Sure, MacGyver could build a working airplane engine out of a rubber band and a toothpick, but the educators who gathered in Salvador for Microsoft’s Worldwide Innovative Education Forum are doing some truly amazing things.

Some teach in schools that lack clean water, reliable electricity or other basic resources, yet as they explained at the Forum, they’ve found ingenious ways to engage students and equip them with 21st-century skills, often by using technology.

For example, Nubia Solano from the rural town of Sahagun in Cordoba, Colombia, raised money for school computers by working with parents to make and sell pencil holders. Now, as her students gain computer skills, they’re developing them further, and developing communication skills, by teaching their other teachers about computers.

 

Frequent power outages limit computer use at Moliehi Sekesi’s school in Lesotho, but her students are developing communication and collaboration skills by using their cell phones to take photos of local indigenous plants for a community newsletter published by the class.

In the experiences shared by educators who’ve been able to make more extensive use of technology, the central role of education in creating the workforce of the future was brought dramatically to life.

Schools led by Julio Fontan in Colombia have adopted a successful project-based learning model that replaces age-based instruction with personalized curricula for each student. The Fontan schools use Microsoft Dynamics, SharePoint and Microsoft Live@edu to track individual student performance.

Working with students who are dyslexic and have other special needs, Canadian teacher Genevieve Doucet persuaded her school’s IT administrator to create a special student section on their historically teacher-only SharePoint site so that students could use Microsoft OneNote to collaborate and keep their notes better organized in one place.

In Singapore, Alvin Tan took advantage of his students’ extensive use of social media by having them use Windows Live Instant Messenger, Groups and Spaces to collaborate on and direct their own learning.

The Forum was truly inspiring, a convincing demonstration of the vital role that technology can play in preparing young people for the future and helping them realize their potential. You can read more hereabout the innovative teaching that was celebrated at the Forum.