The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

Children and technology: Microsoft device specialists visit Stella Maris College

Sunday, 26 October 2014, 07:30 Last update: about 6 years ago

As a group of Microsoft specialists walked into a classroom and introduced themselves, a 10-year-old promptly put up his hand and asked: "Is it true that Minecraft is now owned by Microsoft?"

With an incredulous and at the same time highly amused tone, the specialists replied in the affirmative.

In fact, it was only a few weeks ago that Microsoft announced it was buying the hugely popular game franchise Minecraft for $2.5 billion, giving Microsoft the rights to the game and ownership of its Stockholm-based development studio, Mojang.

"When it comes to children and technology, we often make the same mistake of underestimating their knowledge. Today was one such occasion. It is true that children in classrooms are there to learn. However, when it comes to developing platforms and technology for their use and their education, they are the best teachers," said Chris Brunio - Microsoft's Senior Director, Education Devices, WW OEM.

Mr Brunio was leading a delegation of 40 device specialists from Microsoft from around the world who convened in Malta this week for a site visit organised by Microsoft Malta to oversee the application of technology in classrooms and to understand better how future technology and devices will have to be shaped to meet the needs of students.

The 40 delegates visited Stella Maris College in Gżira to see how an ongoing pilot project initiated in 2011 by Smart Technologies in collaboration with Microsoft is being adopted in the classrooms. The delegates also had the opportunity to meet students in their classrooms and to speak to them personally about what they like in their devices and how Microsoft can improve its software.

"Teachers are a shifting population and they are at a point in time where a lot of important changes are taking place in education in terms of technology. We believe that devices and technology are opening us to a beautiful new world," said Bro. David Mizzi, Director of Stella Maris.

"Here at Stella Maris, we are also being supported by a fantastic team of technical people from Microsoft and Smart Technology, as well as by important educators and academic professionals. Through this project, our learning is going beyond technical education. We are learning how to cope, how to adapt to this new reality of technology in the classroom and learning from each other's experiences. Having said that, only 30 per cent of the timetable involves the use of one-to-one devices and 70 per cent is dedicated to the traditional learning and writing skills," added Bro. David.

Bro. David also highlighted that the success this pilot project is having would have never been possible without the support of the teachers and the parents who both understood that technology is now an important driver in educating children for tomorrow's jobs.

"Unless the teachers owned this project and really believed in it the way they actually did, we wouldn't have achieved what we achieved today with our pupils," concluded Bro David.

Valerian Muscat, Head of Computing and ICT at the Secretariat for Catholic Education said: "Choosing Microsoft has allowed teachers and students to work in a familiar environment, with programs they have grown up with. It has allowed administrators to set child safety parameters like web monitoring and netbook operating hours. Microsoft has also given members of the project a canvas against which to attach numerous resources thanks to an operating system that supports most applications. Another decisive factor has been support. From the very beginning, Microsoft has offered help and suggested various scenarios on how to implement its software. They have taken constant interest and offered alternatives."

In the recent past, Microsoft changed its business perspectives from a marketing-oriented to a more education-oriented perspective. This brought an advantageous change in pricing of its products. Case in point is the deployment of Office 365 offered to students of the whole island. This change in focus and fresh links with Microsoft's educational team will no doubt heighten local awareness in this new vision of making schools a cultural showpiece and centres of excellence.

"Education has always been one of Microsoft's major pillars of focus. Through its Partners in Learning programme, Microsoft operates an online community to support all teachers who need assistance about the use of Microsoft's educational tools and for all those who want to share their knowledge and experiences with fellow teachers. Microsoft Malta is also very active in education and over the past year 500 teachers have received training at our Microsoft Innovation Centre where we welcome anyone who needs our support," said Ewan Prezens, Academic Program Manager at Microsoft Malta.

 

Teachers interested in finding out more about Microsoft's products and supporting material can visit http://www.pil-network.com

 

 

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