The prevalence of internet connectivity, the ubiquity of mobile computing, and the disruptive change brought by social and multimedia have transformed the way we live, learn, and work.
This is especially true when it comes to education, which has great potential to benefit from the advantages of today’s technology - both in transforming how students learn, and in preparing them to enter the workforce of the digital future.
Educators have been facing pressure to digitalize their entire curriculum in the last decade. It has given rise to a steep learning curve, especially for accomplished teachers accustomed to more traditional approaches.
“There are many teachers who would like to branch out more into digital learning. But they simply lack the technical experiences they need to feel confident and prepared to lead a classroom using technology. To make matters worse, it can be difficult for public schools to allocate funds to invest in technology,” says Microsoft Sri Lanka and Maldives Education Lead Yashinka Alles.
To help local schools transform in Sri Lanka, Microsoft has partnered with the Western Provincial Department of Education, Headstart, Commercial Bank, and Dialog to launch ‘Project Smart School’. Its mission is to transform the learning environment of a traditional secondary school into one that is smart and enabled by the latest technology.
Since the programme’s launch in 2016, a total of 65 public schools from the Western province have found ways to create a digital learning system. “The progress in technology adoption and change in instructional approach has been amazing,” says Alles.
For example, at one public school, Gothami Balika Vidyalaya Colombo, 87courses were created using the Learning Management System (LMS) provided by guru.lk, a software application integrated with Microsoft Office 365 that delivers educational courses and training programmes. As a result, the school now boasts approximately 55 courses that are taught using technology—daily. Further, at Bandaranayake College Gampaha, teachers in artistic subjects, such as drama and dancing, have also begun developing their own digital content and incorporating it into their curriculum.
Since the launch of ‘Project Smart School’, more than 1,000 teachers have been trained by the programme on the effective use of technology in teaching and learning. Of this group, those who went on to complete Microsoft’s Trainer Academy were further recognized as official Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Trainers.
In Sri Lanka alone, Microsoft has recognized 300 teachers and 10 schools through the Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIEE) and Microsoft Showcase Schools competitions, which were conducted alongside the ‘Smart School Project’. The recognized educators and schools will participate in the upcoming Bett Asia Leadership Summit from 15th to 16th November 2017, as well as at the Global Educator Exchange held by Microsoft in March2018, where they will have the opportunity to engage with other innovative educators and learn about projects that have successfully integrated technology in the classrooms across the globe.
The winning schools for the Microsoft Showcase Schools competitions 2017 are: Bandaranayake Central College, Veyangoda; Bandaranayake College, Gampaha; Dhammananda Maha Vidayalaya, Moronthuduwa; Gothami Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo; Mahinda Rajapaksa College, Homagama and; Taxila Central College, Horana.
The most innovative teachers for the Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIEE) 2017 are: Roshan Kumar from Bandaranayake Central College, Veyangoda; Anuradha Buddhika from Bandaranayake Central College, Veyangoda and; Surani Maithripala from Gateway College.
Today, Microsoft is announcing its plan to take ‘Project Smart School’ a step further with the aim of incorporating technology into more public schools by the end of the year.