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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 128 | July 19 , 2009|


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5th APMRIT Conference
Becoming agents of change

Khan Md. Anwarus Salam

MICROSOFT Corporation sponsored the 5th Asia-Pacific Microsoft Regional Innovative Teachers' Conference, with support from the Ministry of Education Malaysia, UNESCO and TIG. The participants in the event were from Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia to name a few. The main objective of the event was to bring together teachers from Asia-Pacific to showcase innovative approaches to teaching that involve technology. The teacher attendees were chosen within their own countries through various competitions. This year the Student Voices was present at this region’s forum for the first time.

15 students were chosen to attend a ‘Student Forum’ that occurred alongside and at the same venue (Le Meridien) as the Teachers' Forum, immersing the students in 4 days of intense development program. I was ecstatic to find out that I had been selected to join the Innovative Teachers conference, as a member of the innovative student forum. I was the only person representing Bangladesh from BRAC University. It was my second visit to Malaysia. The first one was when I participated in GK3 conference as one of the winners of 100 Young Global Social Entrepreneurs for my works through vubon.com foundation.

Upon reaching the destination we were assisted by three brilliant and funny mentors: Shaun, Bernise and Cherrie. They were great at assisting us on our projects and are just really great people personally. Microsoft and Rhapsody concept's staffs were very helpful to take care of every single issue that we had to face.

We were given time and mentorship to brainstorm and present their ideas for improving an aspect of education through the use of technology. The aim was to submit these projects for a chance to receive funding provided by Microsoft. These Grants are intended to give the students a taste of what it takes to develop, plan and execute projects on a small scale and more importantly, provides an opportunity for their models to be tested before application for further funding and expansion. On top of this prize pool, there was also an opportunity to win free enrolment into TIG's e-course 'Sprout' for youth professional development. These projects were the most enjoyable part of the forum as we felt like we were contributing something. A formal session for students to address teachers was provided, as well as informal gatherings during poster presentations and breaks.

During the conference I was one of four students selected to present the student statement in front of over 150 government officials and teachers. After a lot of hard work we managed to be one of three teams selected by Microsoft to be funded a Grant to help turn our project into reality.

We named our project weLearn. Students want project based learning but as of yet we do not have a collaborative system for sharing and working on our ideas. We are developing a system so that students can have a formal platform to share the project based learning experience. Students will develop more creative ideas to enhance their learning. In this platform everyone will answer the question “How do you learn?” After the group presentation we had to face the maximum number of questions, as many teachers were excited about our idea.

On the first day we had a brainstorming workshop by Bernise Ang and Shaun Koh of Syinc.org. It helped the students to think more deeply about issues surrounding education and what they can do to help inspire change. Then we witnessed a presentation by Joel Neoh on entrepreneurship. He shared his experiences and thoughts after winning Malaysia's version of The Apprentice, 'The Firm', and co-founding YouthSays.com, Malaysia's largest for-profit network of youth opinion. We also had a presentation by Brian Lariche on project management. Brian shared his experiences as a teacher working with NGOs. He generously gave up his time to come back and give priceless one-on-one advice and support to the students' projects. 57 students from a local KL school met with the student delegates and answered questions about education in groups for about 2 hours.

As for the forum itself, it was an eye opening experience. To know that so much is being done to change the face of education is like a breath of fresh air. I was really surprised to see what the innovative teachers of Asia Pacific had done; it gives me hope that one day our education system would be different. Personally to me it was like visiting more than just one country. Having a mix of people with different backgrounds who came from different countries and cultures working together was something new. It was amazing to see our similarities and differences in black and white.

(Graduated from BRAC University in Computer Science)

Training of Trainers Workshop on Technology in Language Teaching

BANGLADESH English Language Teachers Association (BELTA), in collaboration with the Department of English, Presidency University, organized a one-day workshop on “Teaching with Emerging Technologies” on July 03, 2009. The facilitator for this workshop was Professor Nasreen Rahim, Technology and Distance Education faculty and Staff Development Chair at Evergreen Valley College, San Jose, California. The objectives of the workshop were to:

* Acquaint participants with various emerging technology tools.
* Give them hands-on experience using these tools to enhance teaching and learning.

This was the third in the series of workshops conducted by Professor Rahim on technology for BELTA. The teachers who participated in the workshop were from Dhaka University, Daffodil, East West and Presidency Universities. In addition, teachers from BAF Shaheen School and College, Adamjee Cantonment College, Boston International School and College, Holy Child school and College and Campion School took part in the training. Lead trainers are expected to cascade this training on technology to their colleagues.

This particular workshop gave participants hands on training in using blogs. Used worldwide, blogs were presented as learning tools which allow participants to create new opportunities for interaction with peers, provide discussion forums beyond coursework where students often learn as much from each other as from instructors or textbooks.

Professor Rahim introduced the participants to various web 2.0 tools on the Internet. She encouraged teachers to utilize the free open sources available on the web to empower their own and their students' learning. The tools she introduced included Wiki, Twitter, Facebook, Ning, Social Bookmark, Flickr, Youtube, Podcast, and Second Life. Facebook was presented as the most popular mode of social networking to be used as a springboard for interaction, a basic premise in language learning and usage. Wiki offers a flexible collaborative communication tool where students can access and participate from any location with Internet access. Youtube offers experience of viewing videos and engaging with the content via language comments by users. Social Bookmarking allow users to share information and learning resources. Twitter is another micro-blogging tool that promotes active learning. Podcast allows education to become more portable. Flickr offers a visual media to facilitate a sense of connection. In accordance with the promise of developing a Digital Bangladesh, BELTA has taken a positive step towards raising awareness among English language teachers about the benefits of technology and how they can harness the potential of the worldwide web to cater to varied learning styles and develop the English language skills of their learners.


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