School Pitch Helps Drive Innovative Ideas to Transform Learning

By Akhtar Badshah, senior director, Citizenship and Public Affairs

At the Microsoft in Education Global Forum last week, I had the honor to celebrate some of the best and brightest educators and school leaders from around the world. It was inspiring to be amongst them listening, sharing ideas, learning from one another and meeting some of their young students. These educators are taking action within their schools and communities to ensure our youth in countries from Tunisia to Mexico and Singapore to the United States have the skills they need to be ready for the workforce. They are using technology in innovative ways so they can develop better and more effective teaching models.

I saw this in action when I judged “The School Pitch,” a challenge that asked principals and headmasters to share their visions for how they would transform schools worldwide with extra funding and support.  Modeled after the television show Shark Tank , six finalists were chosen from dozens of great projects to bring their ideas to myself and fellow judges with the opportunity to allocate $50,000 across the projects that we thought had the most potential. Broadclyst Primary School, Gayaza High School and Schloss Neubeuern left with funding to pursue their ideas.

As another Microsoft YouthSpark investment in driving support for learning, and thanks to a partnership with the British Council, all of the finalists and winners will also have their projects listed on YouthSpark on GlobalGiving where they will have a chance to crowd source seed funding. We invite you to learn more about these innovative ideas and to join us in supporting all of the finalists’ projects on YouthSpark on GlobalGiving, also listed below.

I was very pleased to see the level of the competition and amount of hard work done by all of the faculty and their students. Appleby College from Canada is using Microsoft OneNote to create notebooks in the Cloud giving students and teachers increased opportunity to collaborate. By using Microsoft OneNote on Microsoft SharePoint they will be able to make their work available to other schools around the world to also improve their learning.

Saint John’s School from Chile is using the developer and coding talent of its students to engage them in developing games to help change the learning paradigm. Through this process, students are becoming more engaged in how they learn. They are also developing workshops to train other schools in their communities and around the world to similarly use their materials and games. 

Crescent Girls School from Singapore is taking on the difficult subject of cyber-bullying and online safety. They have already developed an app that allows students to learn about being safe and secure online, as well as how to recognize and prevent bullying. Through badges and other incentives students are encouraged to form support groups in their efforts to be safe and secure online.

Schloss Neubeuern from Germany is effectively utilizing its privileged position as a private school to also change the teaching paradigm by encouraging senior students to use gaming, robotics and other technology to develop entrepreneurial projects that will produce educational content for various subjects. They have already developed a robot called Professor Uno to help in the process of learning. What was most exciting for me was to see how deeply the students are engaged in this work. The students are also developing customized teaching modules for other schools and earning a revenue – teaching them an important entrepreneurial skill. The judges recommended that the school and students also ensure that they are sharing these materials with schools that may not be able to afford the materials.

The deputy principal of the Gayaza High School from Uganda gave a very strong presentation sharing how they will create an e-market library on OneDrive with links to self-created videos that show processes and best practices from their small businesses and local enterprises. They will share these to help teach their valuable lessons to local farmers and other small business owners. Along with the other judges, I was very excited about the potential of this project to help change the learning paradigm, getting the classroom into the community and increasing the learning experience for all.

Broadclyst Primary School from the United Kingdom had a very powerful presentation. Two young girls were Skyped in and they shared how they are learning by creating their own small business selling cookies and making covers for phones and tablets. The school is already connected to others in the Netherlands and they hope to expand their network to at least 1,000 children from across 20 countries. I will be one of many who can’t wait to receive their Microsoft Surface cover created by the young students’ business efforts.

As you can tell, the three days at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum was very exciting – from judging “The School Pitch” to coming across even more amazing students and teachers who are committed to teaching and learning. Young students from Saltash.net Community School in the UK, who call themselves the @OffPerts, shared with me how they created a fantastic set of tutorial videos on Microsoft Office 365 for Education where they are using OneDrive to share lessons plans and creating interactive learning environments. They won the second runner-up prize in the Cutting Edge Use of ICT for Learning.  Scott Wieprecht, the students’ headmaster, sums up their work well: “I think this just goes to show that when students and teachers work together towards the same aim, anything is possible in the classroom. Young people are incredible, and if you empower them they can achieve anything.” Check out this interview of the students (in picture below) by the BBC.

I also spent time with Paula Vorne, a teacher from Finland who won the “Entrepreneurship with Kodu Games” entry. Her project is a great example of using Kodu as the center of an entrepreneurship segment for elementary school kids.

From left to right: Jack W, George S, Amy D and Rowenna H.

I am returning from Barcelona with these stories top of mind and charged to continue to find ways to support these teachers, innovators and learners through our resources at Microsoft, our knowledge, products and financial resources to ensure we continue to encourage innovation in the classroom and take those innovation out into the community.

For more information on Global Education Forum, visit the Microsoft in Education blog.

As you can tell, the three days at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum was very exciting – from judging “The School Pitch”