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Microsoft motivates innovative teachers


Two Indiana high-school teachers will travel to Brazil to showcase their innovative teaching practices
Two Indiana high-school teachers will travel to Brazil to showcase their innovative teaching practices

A tic-tac-toe game based on the Industrial Revolution that uses the principles of universal design to give students multiple ways of learning will be the U.S. representative in a worldwide competition that showcases effective teaching with technology.

The project’s creators, teachers Harriet Armstrong and Autumne Streeval of Columbus East High School in Columbus, Ind., took top honors at Microsoft’s U.S. Innovative Teachers Forum, held Aug. 17. Armstrong and Streeval will travel to Brazil in November to compete in the software giant’s Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum.

“It is really an honor to have won the U.S. Forum,” said Streeval, who teaches social studies. “We are excited to go to Brazil to learn more about what is going on in education on a global scale. Teachers often struggle with similar challenges, even in very unique settings, but the Worldwide Forum will allow us to collaborate and tackle obstacles together.”

Armstrong, who teaches family and consumer science, added that she hopes to return from Brazil with more ideas and connections to other teachers.

“I see my students as needing a more global view of [the] world in which they live. It would be great to find ways to connect with students in other parts of the world,” she said.

Too often, teachers work in isolation, with few opportunities to show their projects to others and learn from their colleagues. That’s why it was especially beneficial for Armstrong, Streeval, and nearly 40 other educators to be able to demonstrate their projects before a panel of NASA scientists and educational technology experts earlier this month.

Microsoft’s Innovative Teachers program seeks to break through that isolation, while highlighting effective ed-tech teaching practices in the United States and abroad.

“We recognize that innovation is happening in classrooms every day and that teachers are equipping their students with the skills they need to be creative problem solvers and critical thinkers,” said Mary Cullinane director of U.S. Education for Microsoft. “We’re honored to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of these teachers, and we hope that they inspire others to take risks and raise the bar higher for what’s possible in classrooms across the nation.”

Nearly 40 teachers were honored by Microsoft at the U.S. forum, where they showcased their projects for a panel of judges from NASA, the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, and the Puget Sound Center for Teaching and Learning Technology.

Armstrong and Streeval explain their project at the U.S. Innovative Teachers Forum

The winning project, designed to cover the Industrial Revolution for a ninth-grade world civics class, uses a tic-tac-toe grid to allow students to select and complete three activities that fall in a row. Streeval said her school had begun an initiative to implement universal design for learning (UDL) into coursework.

“The projects were placed in such a way to force the student to have to use a variety of skills [such as] writing, math, or science,” Armstrong said. “Since the learning styles of students vary, the use of multiple means of learning better meets the needs of the learner. UDL is especially meant to help meet the needs of learners with special challenges, but what has been found is that UDL also encourages learning in all students.”

Students could choose from activities that included making a movie, creating a public service announcement, developing a brochure, writing a journal, compiling music for a CD, designing a poster, and diagramming a timeline. They were able to use the internet and online databases to complete their work.

(Editor’s note: For more information about the “tic-tac-toe” method of offering multiple paths to learning, see the feature: Technology empowers differentiated instruction.)

Armstrong and Streeval competed at the Innovative Teachers Forum in 2007 and went to Finland for the Worldwide Forum that year. It was because of that experience that they were encouraged to apply again this year.

“The experience at the forum was incredible. Teachers struggle to find time to collaborate with their peers, even in their department or building. To have the opportunity to collaborate with teachers from around the country is a tremendous learning experience,” Streeval said.

Armstrong added: “It was a great way to start off the new school year.”

Link:

U.S. Innovative Teachers Forum

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