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Three U.S. Schools Recognized for Instructional Innovations

Three innovative education programs in the United States were honored by Microsoft during its annual Global Forum Educator Awards held in Prague, Czech Republic this past weekend. The top spot for collaboration was claimed by a couple of instructors in Bloomfield, MI who sent their students into their local community to educate business owners about sustainability. Second place in cutting edge use of technology for learning was claimed by the Washington State School for the Blind, which uses videoconferencing and Microsoft Lync to allow its remote math teacher to instruct her students while they sat in class.

The competition announced 21 winners in total from around the world, culled from 200,000 participants in 115 countries.

"Doing Business in Birmingham," put together by Birmingham Covington School teachers Pauline Roberts and Rick Joseph, aims to promote science and scientific processes in personal decision-making to promote sustainable practices. Students used Microsoft Office, Photosynth, Publisher, and MovieMaker to complete the project.

"LYNCing Distance Learning Math Classes to Blind and Visually Impaired Students," recognizing work done by Robin Lowell and Sherry Hahn, used a collaboration and communication platform to allow a teacher living a hundred miles from her students to continue teaching math classes.

Third place for "educator's choice" recognized Todd LaVogue, a teacher at Roosevelt Community Middle School in West Palm Beach, FL for his project, "What's Up Egypt?." LaVogue's students created a TV show about ancient Egypt to gain a better understanding of life during that time. The Today-style news program included news, weather, sports, cooking, lifestyle, history, and music segments.

Judging was done by an international panel of education professionals through a scoring process that included virtual classroom tours and onsite interviews. Finalists were invited to the Prague ceremony, where 500 educators and others gathered to meet and share ideas.

"Having the opportunity to be here at the Microsoft Global Forum has been one of most meaningful experiences for both Pauline [Roberts] and me as teachers principally because we have the opportunity to interact with other practitioners from around the globe," said Birmingham Covington's Joseph. "We as teachers believe our children learn in a global environment. When we can get together with teachers from around the world and see what they're doing and see the ways in which they engage their students, it's very energizing to us because it really enables us to be the best that we can be."

Added Lowell, "We have connected with teachers and schools from around the world that are amazingly innovative and so passionate. This is just the beginning of what we can do. There is so much more innovation and new ways of teaching, new ways of learning, that this is the tip of the iceberg. We've gathered ideas to take home with us, which is going to improve us as teachers and improve our students' education and life."

"We can't educate tomorrow's leaders with tools and practices from the past. We must continue to invest in the development of enhanced learning environments that lead to better outcomes," said Anthony Salcito, a Microsoft vice president for worldwide education. "We are honored to recognize these amazing professionals for the work they do every day to enrich the educational experiences of children around the world."

The event opened with an announcement by Microsoft that the company would dedicate an additional $250 million over the next five years in its Partners in Learning program, on top of previous investments of $500 million. Partners in Learning is focused on improving the quality of education worldwide and preparing students for careers requiring a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.