Microsoft concentrates on teacher training
Partners in Learning programme designed to support teachers, students, schools by creating a technology community
Microsoft has extended its Partners in Learning Programme, in the Middle East, to train more teachers and extend training and opportunities to students.
The programme, which launched in 2003, is designed to support innovative teachers, innovative students and innovative schools by building an educator community and helping educators connect, collaborate, create and share using the latest educational technologies.
Training teachers in the use of education technology is a very important component to Microsoft's Partners in Learning programme, according to Azza Shinnawy, Education lead for Microsoft Gulf.
"We believe that technology is not an end, it is of no value if no one knows how to use it, so the whole value about teacher training is that we collaborate with governments to train teachers how to best use the technologies and exploit them to the maximum to be able to deliver them in an exciting and innovative way that will impact positively on learning outcomes for students," said Shinnawy.
According to Microsoft, there is a need for teacher training in every country in the world and not just once-off training, but ongoing training.
"The technology today is different from tomorrow or the year after, so it is a dynamic engagement that all companies, which have vested interests to have the education community benefit from their technologies, have the mandate to train teachers, not just to give the product to educators and leave it to the entity to figure out how to use it, so on this front Microsoft is totally committed," she said.
Microsoft is currently working closely with governments across the Middle East, getting them to engage with the programme to further develop their education sectors.
Under the Partners in Learning programme, Microsoft has developed a number of initiatives in 2011 to benefit the education community.
"Under this umbrella [Partners in Learning Programme], this year we have done engagement on teacher training, on using information technology to innovate in how you communicate information to students, familiarising teachers with the latest technologies that can support them and present lessons in a more interesting and exciting way to the students," said Shinnawy.
Microsoft has also engaged students under the programme, introducing technology-based competitions for them.
"In the UAE and Oman we launched the Imagine Us competition in which students in the schools of both countries were competing on three fronts, preparing digital media - we trained them on our technology to enable them to be engaged in this competition - digital video, graphic design and constructing a website. Also under Partners in Learning we have been engaging with some of the private schools to train students on programming," said Shinnawy.
Shinnawy said the governments in the Middle East region are very keen to innovate and introduce new technologies and ways of learning that will benefit students.
"They [governments] are privileged in terms of ability to expose their students to the latest technology that can really support them in joining the labour market, so on this front, they are doing a very pro-active job in terms of ensuring students, whether they are in the K-12 or university and higher education, go into the labour market fully exposed to what is there," said Shinnawy.
She added that in many other parts of the world, governments struggle to provide children with the necessary exposure to technology.
"Children leave school completely unexposed to what they will eventually see in terms of engaging with devices in either higher education or the labour market, so on that front, governments here are really resourceful in making full use of what kind of resources they manage. These are not just rich government, they are very meticulous and very informed, they don't just go invest in anything unless they do a rigorous cost-benefit analysis of what they are investing in," said Shinnawy.
She said that labour markets are now developing so that just having a degree is not enough to ensure that university leavers can secure a job, so those in charge of education need to ensure that the education they are providing is good enough o make sure students have a good chance at being hired.
"The way the labour markets are now evolving is that it is no longer your university degree that will differentiate you, so you really need to go beyond this. When you enter the labour market, you need to have your BA or university degree and several other differentiators as well because it has become highly competitive and only the most well-trained and well-equipped will survive and find the jobs. The future is also for the private sector, the government can be employers, but only up to a certain extent and the private sector will only hire the best qualified," said Shinnawy.