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Microsoft South Africa is hosting the Africa Educator Exchange Forum between 29 and 30 May at its headquarters in Bryanston. Over the course of the two-day forum, 52 Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIEEs) will participate in problem-based learning activities, enabled by technology and games. MIEEs will be challenged to take these models back to their schools to enable engaging and relevant learning in the classroom.

This is essential because the winds of change are blowing through organisations of all sizes, around the globe, as a result of digital transformation. This process requires companies to implement tech advancements as well as cultural changes in order to be more innovative and agile, serve customers better and become more immune to industry disruption. The education sector is not invulnerable to these changes, and digital transformation in schools and universities begins with the way in which people learn.

“Within an educational setting, digital transformation does not equate the tools of learning such as PCs or digital whiteboards. Instead, this process requires educators and administrators to examine educational outcomes and then place long-term goals, curricula and technologies in their classrooms that will help facilitate those outcomes,” says Sonja Delafosse, Senior Manager, Microsoft Worldwide Education Educator Strategy.

Using technology to close disparity gaps

By tapping into the power of game-based learning as a vehicle for learning for instance, teachers can motivate and inspire every student to achieve more, and ignite their passion for learning, while teaching leaners invaluable 21st Century skills that go above and beyond what their curriculum offers.

Tools such as Minecraft: Education Edition are designed to enable students to work in teams to solve problems, or as a whole class to master challenges within the game. Engaging in collaborative work teams and learning environments that foster cooperation in the classroom, helps better prepare students for the tertiary educational environment and workplace.

“Educators who employ game-based learning in their classes, usually experience a few common benefits that include increased student engagement, enhanced levels of creative exploration by students, and the ability to provide tangible learning outcomes,” says Stephen Reid, Director at Immersive Minds, a Microsoft Education partner. “The latter is possible, because Minecraft: Education Edition is a flexible platform for learning that enables educators to map their projects and activities in Minecraft, directly to specific learning outcomes and curriculum standards,” he added.

Besides assisting in closing of the local skills gap, digital transformation in education can also help bridge the gap in women’s participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM). In South Africa for instance, only 18% of the ICT workforce consists of women.

“Through initiatives like these, we will be able to sensitise girls to various STEAM-related careers,” explains Delafosse.

“Moreover, we have a platforms to provide the computational and problem-solving skills that are critical for them to find employment or become successful entrepreneurs,” Delafosse added. For instance, the Microsoft Imagine Academy bridges the gap between the education and business sectors, by providing staff members and students with fundamental technology skills in the various Microsoft applications that are commonly used in today’s working environment.

Challenging the Classrooms of SA

In addition to these platforms as well as the forum, Microsoft and Computers4Kids are launching a competition that encourages students to find solutions for local South African challenges such as unemployment, poverty, xenophobia, and water shortages. They can do this by conceptualising, designing and modelling solutions within a South African Minecraft world. Students will be encouraged to work in teams to develop their ideas. The winning project team will receive Windows devices as prizes. For more information click here:http://computers4kids.co.za/minecraft_education.php

In related news, Microsoft also recently revealed plans to deliver the complete, intelligent Microsoft Cloud for the first time from datacentres located in Africa.

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