Perhaps it was starting her teaching career at just 22 years old that made Marija Petreska the expert she is today. Inaugurated by 8th graders, who saw how much younger she was than their other teachers and expected “something different,” Marija now insists that classrooms should (and can) be fun. It’s a theme that comes up often in her musings about teaching.
“They saw a friend in me from the beginning, so I dedicated all my free time to finding things that would be fun for them to do in class,” Marija says. “That’s how I taught myself to teach.”
After spending 13 years as a teacher in her homeland of Macedonia – not to mention most of her life in school, in some way or another – she’s had a long view of how education has changed and grown. She believes Microsoft technology will be instrumental in the years to come and hasn’t lost sight of the fun that comes with it.
Now an MIE Expert, Marija says her students are most excited by PowerPoint in the classroom. She’s created an extra-curricular PowerPoint Club, which meets after lessons at school and over Skype when Macedonia’s winter weather prevents the commute.
“What makes it most fun is the fact that they start with a blank PowerPoint slide and turn it into art,” Marija explains. “They explore, learn and find new things along the way. More than one student usually works on one infographic so it’s a team job, but also a competition of who will do it faster and more authentically, or find an easier way to group objects and so on.”
Her other go-to Microsoft tools are the Office Lens app, which students can use to capture work displayed on their screens. It then turns into an immersive reader, allowing them to learn at their own pace. (Long gone are the days where teachers would tell students to put their phones away in class.) Then there’s OneNote, which Marija says changes a seemingly overlooked part of her day-to-day life as a teacher.
“The most challenging thing as an English teacher used to simply be getting to the classroom. We had to carry with us a dictionary and books and a cassette player, but now all I need is OneNote and it has everything in it.”
Beyond just making her load lighter and her life easier, Marija sees OneNote as shaping a change in higher education of the future. Just as people apply for jobs with portfolios rather than tests today, she believes university applications will soon be submitted via portfolios containing an entire school life’s work.
“Imagine if I have materials from the students that I teach now, who are six and seven,” Marija says, “and in 10 years’ time, when they apply for university, those people can explore their entire learning history and see how they developed through the years with all these pieces of evidence in one place.”
For Marija, who grew up in a time before computers were an integral part of life, the future of education is here. It’s now up to the teachers to make the most of it, and, most importantly, to make it fun.
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