Having won their categories at a regional education technology competition in Jordan, four tech-savvy South African teachers have booked their spots in the global final.

Louise Clarke and Kim Jackson of St Cyprian’s in Cape Town, and Lyneth Crighton of Brescia House in Johannesburg won their respective categories at Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Middle East and Africa Forum. They will now compete against more than 500 teachers from around the world at the Partners in Learning Global Forum in Washington DC in November.

Clarke and Jackson won the Collaboration category for a project that got Grade 4 learners creating their own stories using Windows Movie Maker. Crighton won the Cutting Edge Use of Technology award for a project that saw grade 10 learners using social media tools to discuss and analyse “Cry, The Beloved Country”.

Microsoft Partners in Learning runs a series of Innovative Teacher events across the region that recognises teachers who creatively and effectively use technology in their curriculum to help improve the way students learn. More than 200 teachers and educational professionals from 25 countries that had been chosen to participate following national forums attended the Middle East Africa Innovative Education Forum in Jordan, and the winners were decided by an international jury comprising 27 education experts.

Another local teacher, Natalie Meerholz of Holy Rosary in Edenvale, was placed fourth in the Extending Learning beyond the Classroom category for a project which encourages the school and surrounding community to address the issue of e-waste.

A Lesotho teacher, Malatela Monaheng from Mazenod Primary School, was named runner-up in the Innovation in Challenging Contexts category for creating a road safety educational programme in several media formats that was distributed to neighbouring schools.

“These amazing teachers are transforming education by using technology to engage their students and to enhance the effectiveness of their teaching,” says James Bernard, Microsoft’s worldwide director for Partners in Learning.

“In South Africa, there is a real need to prioritise education to create a skilled and well-trained workforce,” says Microsoft South Africa’s citizenship lead Vis Naidoo. “This is essential for economic growth in a countrywhere a huge percent of the population are under 25. Equipping young people with the right tools, opportunities, knowledge and infrastructure will enable them to create a more bright and hopeful future.”

Clarke and Jackson say they got their grade 4 learners to learn without realising it by using Windows Movie Maker. “Our project used Norton Juster’s ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ to predict what adventures the main character would have in ‘The Lands Beyond’. The learners then used Windows Movie Maker to produce movies using artwork they had drawn and narrate what they imagine would take place when these two stories would collide.”

They believe there is something to be said about personalised learning. “We found that technology makes it possible to give children who might not do well in a traditional classroom the opportunity to excel. This project enhanced the children’s creativity and helped them work as a team, as each girl had to play their part to create the movie story.”

Crighton’s grade 10 learners analysed the movie “Cry the beloved Country” by using Web 2.0 collaborative tools, including a wiki and online discussion forum to stimulate independent thinking and participation. “The girls loved creating a pod-cast to capture their views and also developed a word cloud with the help of staff experts across a range of learning areas,” she says.

“Quality education is a social imperative. It is the key to economic opportunity, not only for individuals, but for their communities,” says Naidoo. “Technology is the best way to equip students for success in a competitive world, and we believe that by sharing the experiences of teachers around the world, we will improve the way we educate and learn.”