Powering a change towards a new school education system | Sunday Observer

Powering a change towards a new school education system

Bett Asia 2017
Bett Asia 2017

Bett Asia, the two-day Leadership Summit and Expo, where the latest trends, challenges and advancements in education and technology are addressed with a distinct focus on Asia Pacific was held at the Mandarin Oriental in Kuala Lumpur from November 15-16, 2017. The event brought together the region’s education community to discuss the transformation of education and to discover the innovation that will inspire change. Over 2,000 education policy-makers, leaders and experts from 40+ countries participated.

One Principal, one Vice Principal, seven teachers selected from the “Smart Classroom Showcase Schools” from the Ministry of Education and Dr. Harsha Alles, Chairman of Gateway College participated in this summit from Sri Lanka.

Speaking at the Summit, Don Carlson, Director, Education, Microsoft Asia Pacific said that Sri Lanka should definitely move fast in using the latest technology in classrooms. “We work closely with Sunil Hettiarachchi, the Secretary to the Minister of Education in Sri Lanka. We did transformation workshop in Sri Lanka and it was successful. As an outcome of this workshop, the IT curriculum was revamped in Sri Lanka. Our Microsoft partners were involved with them.

“The Smart Classroom project is also a key thing that we were working on with Sri Lanka but more important is enabling the vision Sri Lanka has for understanding where the students are going. We did the Microsoft Innovative Exerts program and launched five showcase schools as well.”

“We look for the engagement in future with the Sri Lankan government to discuss their issues and barriers in the path of achieving Digital Transformation. We need Sri Lanka to collaborate with our Microsoft partners. A classroom as in physical is not necessary to exist in the future. The learning will still continue and education is going to transform very soon. The physical classroom which exists now will change in the future. The learning and teaching process will change like it may continue in a Minecraft Education, online or in face to face in a café,” he said.

Carlson further said that Digital Infrastructure Ministry and the Ministry of Information and Technology together in Sri Lanka are equipped well to look into the future and make the students ready for smart classrooms.

Sunday Observer spoke to a few Sri Lankan delegates at Bett Asia to know about the support they get from Microsoft and how they benefitted by participating in this summit.

The Vice Principal of Ladies College Deepika Dassenaike said, “At Ladies College each classroom is being equipped with a Smart Board. It was launched very recently. Microsoft was involved in assisting us along with E-wis for this new project.

Microsoft guided my school a lot with the software that is used in Smart Boards and they gave me the opportunity to participate in Bett Asia 2017 to learn more about the new Education Technologies used in Smart Classrooms worldwide. Learning and experiencing in an educators world is fabulous. We gained a lot of new ideas and resources by meeting software programmers at the Microsoft booth.”

“It gives us access to how we can collaborate with our school. My head is with a lot of new ideas, which I am going to not only share with my school but with my country. Myself along with the other Sri Lankan delegates who participated in these sessions gained a lot together. I will enlighten my schoolteachers with what I have learnt here so that they can be equipped to make decisions for the different age group of children that they cater.

Smart classrooms do not replace the traditional way of teaching. As a language teacher I will take my students into the garden and explain them a poem with nature but back in my classroom I will show a video about the poet, which I feel is exciting. We must be equipped with the tools,” she said.

Dassenaike further added that the new technological way of teaching is not a replacement of the teacher teaching and lesson planning instead this is an enhancement and an easier way for the students to grasp things and for the teacher to plan out the lessons. “In Asian countries we live with a lot of interaction and bond with the families so we cannot allow it to replace by technology. We must be careful on the other side that we do not bombard our children with too much technology. Information Technology is important for the present generation to face the future so we must teach our children to balance technology and our culture,” she said.

Chairman of the Gateway College Dr. Harsha Alles, said that without any doubt Microsoft is the giant in technology. “Every human being in some way or the other is connected to Microsoft by using some of their product. Where skills are concerned technology plays a large role and it has to work both ways. Schools have to support Microsoft and Microsoft has to support schools.

“Where Gateway College is concerned, we have been embracing technology from a very early period. We have our own program that we design in-house for children from four to 16 years old on a structured computing curriculum. It has gone to overseas as well and now the focus is more on computer science than IT. That is how the world is moving as people believe in computational thinking.

“In our school from a young age we start programing through equipment such as B-Box. Now it has gone into advance stage such as coding and using microbat,” he said.

“We have given the Microsoft 365 license to all our children from seven years of age upwards. We have been training our teachers for a number of years. We have 30 Microsoft Innovation Experts (MIE) in our school and we are a Microsoft school. At the Bett Asia Summit, we can see a lot of new technologies coming up. We can use more of these technologies to make learning and teaching more better.

Having said that we do not believe in using technology for all things as there are many things that can be done without technology. It should not be used as a fashion. It should be used only where necessary and it is costly as well,” he said.

Dr. Alles further said that coming for places like Bett Asia summit gives him an opportunity to see the latest developments in technology. “We go back home with the motivation to do much better. I have been participating in this summit for the past 10 years and still each year we feel that we are way back in using the technology in Education. We tend to strive to do much better.

“There is also a downside of digital technology as children now feel that the teachers are boring due to the excitement from the technology that they get. As much as we invest in technology in our school, we are also thoughtful about the culture and balance. We have introduced a subject known as “Mindfulness” and soft skill training program and in that we have a module which consists of how children should be careful in using the social media.

Education has the biggest challenge as so much change is happening all around. Technology changes so fast so we have to prepare ourselves. Someone writes a software and it changes the whole world. We should introduce the STEM education in schools. I thank Microsoft for providing me this opportunity to participate in this summit,” he added.

According to W.H.A.B. Jayalath, ICT Teacher from Bandaranaike College, Gampaha, Bett Asia Summit has helped him get a lot of knowledge from the software programmers and Education leaders.

“It encourages and motivates us to do well in our schools. We use Office 365 package at our school for collaboration with students. We have Microsoft tools through which we can easily make presentations.

The Microsoft phones and Data Collection system is used to collect data for the Suraksha health insurance scheme. We use online quizzes to study ICT and Science.

“The Microsoft online platform was given to us for free and we developed the contents. We have launched a smart classroom project in our school where projectors will be installed in classrooms and laptops will be given to the students.

This project will be implemented from next year for the Grade nine students. Smart classrooms will be a success in Sri Lanka,” he said.

Principal A.Y.P. Perera from N.P.K. Moronthuduva Dammananda Vidyalaya said that Microsoft helps a lot for her school through the Smart Classroom project.

“They provided us with a lot of contents. For a rural school like ours, we do not have enough funds to get software so Microsoft did a great service through helping us.

The teachers are teaching through multimedia projects. Subjects such as Science and Geography are very interesting for my students now as they are able to zoom in and out the objects and look deep into them. I look forward to share what I gained from this summit to develop my school and make it a number one smart school in Sri Lanka.”