When Richard Appiah Akoto appeared onstage at the 2018 Microsoft Educator Exchange (E2), a gathering of innovative educators discussing the latest tech trends in the sector, he received a long and standing ovation from fellow educators. They recognized him as the dedicated educator who resorted to using a chalkboard in his computer studies class because his school, the Betenase Municipal Assembly Junior High School, located in an impoverished farming village in Ghana, had no working PCs.
The photos of Richard painstakingly sketching out a mock-up of a Microsoft Word screen in colored chalk on his classroom blackboard so his students could learn digital skills even without devices, were shared thousands of times on social media. But it wasn’t the first time he’d used this technique – by the time his story went viral, he’d also drawn monitors, system units, keyboards, a mouse, formatting toolbars etc. on the chalkboard in effort to show his students what a computer screen looks like.
His story caught the attention of individuals and organisations everywhere. Microsoft, a company committed to helping every person on the planet achieve more, was particularly inspired by Richard’s determination in helping his students learn digital skills and invited him to attend the 2018 Microsoft Educator Exchange (E2) in Singapore.
A melting pot of skills transfer
E2 is an annual event that sees hundreds of the world’s most innovative educators gather in one place to celebrate incredible work done in the classroom.
During the event, educators share ideas and best practices, collaborate on projects and work together to make progress on some of the most challenging areas of education. Attendees are also energized by meeting like-minded educators and often form sustaining friendships that continue to blossom many months and years after the event has concluded.
This was exactly the case for Richard. “I’d never traveled outside of Ghana, so the opportunity to interact with educators just like me from other parts of the world was incredibly inspiring,” he says.
The seminars and workshops also gave Richard a first-hand glimpse at what the teaching process will look like in the digital future, and best practice tips on how to start preparing for that reality, today. “It was great to see how educators are using technology to teach their students beyond just the curriculum of their country. I was also inspired to learn how educators who experienced the same issues I did in terms of not having direct access to technology, overcame those challenges.”
Overall, Richard says the experience improved his ability to teach Information and Communication Technology (ICT). “Since returning from the event, I feel confident knowing what the future holds, for my profession as well as for my students who are preparing to enter the digital age. I teach with even more enthusiasm today because I know what the digital world of tomorrow looks like.”
Bringing the transformation home
Today, Richard can teach on a computer. With the assistance of organisations like Microsoft, the Sekyedomase village now has two fully-fledged computer centres. “After I returned from E2, we received donations in the form of laptops, textbooks and software from corporates and NGOs in Ghana. It was a great blessing for our community,” he says.
Richard also gained access to the Microsoft Certified Educator Programme (MCE) for professional development, so he can nurture his passion for teaching, and build rich, custom learning experiences.
Every day, Richard is inspired by the children he teaches. “It gives me joy to watch them learning to create the types of skills they will use in the future. From PowerPoint presentations to website codes, these kids are becoming future-ready and I am helping them as best I can using the knowledge I gained at E2 and the Microsoft Certified Educator Programme.”
This year’s E2 will be held in Paris, France from 3-4 April 2019. Microsoft will be bringing more educators like Richard together, not only to celebrate and acknowledge their efforts face-to-face but also to provide them with the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from each other.
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