Teachers from across South Africa are increasingly tapping into the power of technology to improve teaching and learning in local classrooms – and 20 of the most innovative projects will be competing in the finals of the Innovative Teachers Forum Awards in Johannesburg at the end of June.

The finalists, who are drawn from a spread of schools across practically every province in the country, will compete in five categories at the Microsoft-sponsored awards on 29-30 June. The winners will represent the country at the Pan African Innovative Teachers Forum, which will be held in Mauritius in September.
"South African teachers are increasingly embracing technology as a tool to enliven and enrich their teaching environments, and overcome historical and socio-economic disadvantages to give their students the best possible education," says Reza Bardien, Microsoft South Africa's education lead.
Bardien says the Innovative Teacher Forums were introduced five years ago to recognise those teachers who use technology in uplifting ways. The Forums create communities of teachers who share ideas and best practices in integrating technology in the learning process.
In the run-up to the Awards, teachers have attended nine Innovative Teacher Forum (ITF) workshops across the country during March and April, giving them the chance to network, share ideas and refine their entries into the national Awards.
The Awards review projects in four key areas of innovation – community, content, collaboration and challenging contexts, as well as a special peer review prize, where the finalists vote for their favourite project.
The 20 finalists in the 2009 Microsoft Innovative Teacher Forum Awards are:
* Deb Avery of St Nicholas Diocesan School in Pietermaritzburg, KZN for her project "Let's FACE it – we can change the world!"
* Fiona Beal of Fish Hoek Primary School in the Western Cape for her project "Bonding through blogging"
* Annie Behari of Umzinto Secondary School in Durban, KZN for her project "A Healthy Environment"
* Claire Dean of Stirling Primary School in East London, Eastern Cape for her project "Can I be a good tour guide?"
* Cheryl Douglas of Bishops in Cape Town, Western Cape for her project "Teaching for the future"
* Bridget Fleming of St. David's Marist Inanda in Johannesburg, Gauteng for her project "Assessing Global warming with iMovie"
* Rae Gagiano of Eunice High School in Bloemfontein, Free State for her project "Anywhere Art – bringing art wherever you are"
* Nicci Hayes of Victoria Girls' High School in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape for her project "Lights, Camera, Action!"
* Frans Kalp of Ligbron Academy of Technology in Ermelo, Mpumalanga for his project "Teaching and Learning from a distance"
* Errol Keet of  Nederburg Primary School in Paarl, Western Cape for his project "Yesterday's Pupil, Today's Virtual Interactive Geek"
* John-Paul Lubbe of St Johns' College in Johannesburg, Gauteng for his project "A Study of Evidence – its reliability and its usability"
* Klaas Mailula of Fedile High School in Polokwane, Limpopo for his project "Investigating the possibility of erecting a tuck shop"
* Kongko Louis Makau of Mabogopedi Secondary School in Thabazimbi, Limpopo for his project "The storm before the wind! Slavery and human rights"
* Hlengiwe Mfeka of Mconjwana High School in Pietermaritzburg, KZN for her project "My Community, My Place, My Pride – Can I make a difference?"
* Tony Mottian of Crossmead Primary School in Durban, KZN for his project "Basic Electricity DVD for Primary Schools"
* Zwelihle Ndovela of Somashi High School in Greytown, KZN for his project "Save our biodiversity"
* Maryna Nezar of Elkanah House Primary in Cape Town, Western Cape for her project "Seize the moment"
* Yolande Peter of Byletts Combined School in East London, Eastern Cape for her project "The Destiny of the Beauty of our Indigenous Herbs"
* Dawn Schmitz of Montrose Primary School in Sandton, Gauteng for her project "Pirates – Joining the Past with the Present"
* Charli Wiggill of Eden College in Durban, KZN for his project "Tweenzite: Tween-Friendly Network for 2010 Soccer World Cup"
Winners of the 2009 Microsoft Innovative Teacher Forum Awards stand to win prizes that include laptops, mobile phones and an interactive whiteboard, as well as the opportunity to represent South Africa at the Pan-African and Worldwide Innovative Teachers Awards.
"Computers are not only a dynamic way to deliver interactive educational resources, but also the first line in teaching children fundamental information and communication technology skills that will help them develop and become more competitive when they enter the work force," says Bardien.