Reflections on the MS Regional Innovative Teachers Conference

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 26th – 29th

Attendees:- Approximately 110 people from 15 countries in Asia/Pacifica and Canada. They represented many cultures, religions and creeds. The majority of attendees were teachers, some Microsoft staff, students and judges.

Sections:- There were two elements – the teacher and the inaugural student section.

Constraints: Language barriers. English was the conference language, but the majority of attendees used English as a second language or could speak little English.

Highlights

The posters and poster sessions.

All innovative teacher winners had to set up a poster on boards provided.   The posters featured the nature and application of the innovation. These posters were judged on the second full day by global judges. Both student  and Malay teachers were invited in, to talk to us and look at the posters after the judging. Conference participants mixed freely, discussed innovative themes and swapped contact details. As teachers, we were consistently pushed beyond our comfort zones.

The project based learning focus of the conference.

All teachers were placed in small groups – each of the members from different countries. My group consisted of representatives from Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Each group had  a theme – indigeneous shelters, the cityscape, environments and culture and religion. The first full day took us on a half day excursion to the museum for an overall understanding of the Malay people and then groups went in different directions according to their theme. Our group had “ indigeneous shelter” as its theme, so we visited an old Malay house, investigating how it had adapted near perfectly, to the somewhat harsh conditions of Malaysia – incessant heat, rainstorms, dangers of jungle animals etc  We had to work in our groups to produce a lesson plan that could be used as a potential global project. This was challenging as English was not strong amongst our group members. However, we worked on and within our strengths – technology, photography, educational expertise and English writing etc, with all group members contributing. These lesson plans had to be handed in for judging. The best 6 presented to the gathered audience and from these three were chosen for final online publication. As the presentations were made, those delivering the presentations were reminded of the need to keep cultural differences in mind.

The speakers

Although not many in number, were high in quality and calibre. Ms Janet Pillai who is heavily involved in The ‘Arts in Heritage Educationproject , where students are removed from school for a period of time in Penang to study culture. It is feared that with the onslaught of the internet, traditional culture and knowledge may be lost, as the world becomes globalised. This project attempts to ensure that students are immersed in their tradition.  The director of Microsoft for Malaysia, spoke proudly of her mother, a teacher, who ensured that she had biscuits in her bag to feed the hungry children before school, tissues to clean their dirty faces and a comb to make their hair look respectable. She spoke of the need to continue producing human capital and develop unique citizens. Exploiting opportunities of ICT helps us to perform this goal. We can experience the classroom of tomorrow,today.  Gwang-Jo KIM, Director, UNESCO Bangkok has published works in ICT and Education.  Eventually he feels that ICT makes teachers learner centred. Teachers will be able to free their tie so that they can auto-manage teaching content, student data, learning process and learning results. If teachers are innovative, engaging and big in high knowledge application and project based collaborative learning, powerful learning will occur. He also spoke of the work of UNESCO in Asia.

The student conference leader

The final speaker at the opening ceremony was Michael Gurdyk co-founder of Taking ITGLobal.org Social networking for social good for young people. Michael established a business at the age of 12, sold it at age 17 and became a multi-millionaire. He has since become a social entrepreneur working with young people across cultures.  Three of the students involved in the conference were questioned by the audience on educational related matters.

The students came from various Asian countries and also worked on a project that was passionate to their designated group. On the final day, they had to present their concepts to all participants and convince us that their idea, should be the winning project to win $1000US to take on the project.

Other highlights include the following:-

  • The accommodation, catering, evening dinners, conference venue were first class
  • The sharing of ideas, projects, contact details and friendships gained.
  • Connecting with many teachers, from both our own country and from across Asia of like-minded ideals which will continue into our classrooms, once back home.
  • Realising that teachers in any country are innovative and able to use ICT effectively, often despite much adversity. That despite language, religious, cultural barriers, we can work together and have common goals and ideals in teaching.

Impact on me as a teacher

  • Reinforced the value of project based learning
  • Attempt to use groupwork as much as possible, allowing students to use their individual skills and strengths to contribute to the final outcome.
  • Gave me valuable connections to work with collaboratively and interactively
  • Increased my awareness of working with other cultures

Potential impact  for my school

  • Chinese mandarin LOTE is our second language. Despite having a sister school relationship with a school in Beijing, there have been many firewall barriers to connecting with China in real time.  Internet speed is limitied etc  Until these are resolved, we could work with the Chinese students of Malaysia, eg  connect our  year 12 VCE student learning Chinese with a Chinese Malay who wishes to improve her English. They can work together at nighttime as our time zone difference is compatible for synchronous connections.
  • Established contacts of educationalists who may come in as experts virtually as speakers when classes study a specific country in Asia.

Potential impact for education

  • The need to consider a global curriculum
  • Connect the innovators in Asia to transform educational communities
  • Incorporate students more as leaders, experts, decision makers etc in conferences, planning and policy making.

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