In November 2022, Microsoft held its 3rd annual Global Showcase School Summit, an event that celebrates and empowers forward-thinking schools which leverage technology to create inclusive, learner-centered environments that prioritize student well-being and long-term success. Microsoft Showcase Schools are standout primary and secondary institutions that serve as an example of what is possible, inspiring schools around the world to begin similar journeys by joining the Showcase School Incubator Path.

Technological breakthroughs have always been the harbinger of change and innovation. And today is no different. In the past three years, we have seen the education sector reach a turning point as schools around the world embark upon a journey of digital transformation. And while many saw this solely to mediate the challenges of a global health crisis, other schools used it as an opportunity for improvement and to go beyond the limitations of traditional education.

The Global Showcase Summit focused on improving student learning outcomes. Sessions were presented by industry experts who spoke on important topics, such as promoting educator well-being and why it is essential to ensure student success, why building accessibility into learning environments is not only smart but necessary, and how technology enables both educators and students to achieve more.

Participants also listened to leaders of Showcase Schools in various countries, who were eager to share the best practices, tools, and services that allowed them to succeed. In an impressive display of creativity and goal-oriented thinking, the approaches ranged from highly innovative to profoundly inspiring. Educators used a variety of digital tools and services such as Microsoft Teams, OneNote and Minecraft: Education Edition to deliver engaging content that captivated students’ attention and made them want to learn more.

Seamlessly incorporating technology into the learning experience to improve outcomes

One such example was Southridge Tech Middle School, a public learning institution for middle schoolers in grade six to eight. The Fontana California based school inspires students to become innovative, independent, and excellent citizens who thrive in an ever-changing competitive world. Its digital transformation strategy prioritizes learners’ needs and prospects by incorporating technology in a seamless and intuitive way.

This can be as simple as using Microsoft Teams for collaboration, something that the teachers and students loved to do even before the pandemic when it became necessary. Another way the school enriched its digital offering is by enabling students to enroll in a digital arts class such as digital photography.

Those who take up music are encouraged by teachers to record themselves at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. Seeing how much progress they’ve made always gives learners a much-appreciated confidence boost. The school promotes the use of technology in ways that align with students’ existing interests. One creative solution involved starting a podcast for students looking to learn Spanish.

“We’ve been figuring out ways to incorporate technology that is natural and helps students develop skills that they can carry into future grade levels. And high schools love receiving our students because they are innovative and creative and they have skills that can help with learning in the classroom.” – Roy Rogers, Principal, Southridge Tech Middle School

At Southridge Tech there is also a significant interest in STEM subjects. Educators have been using Microsoft’s Hacking STEM lessons to enhance their mathematics classes. While students’ love for Minecraft: Education Edition led the school to create a dedicated space where they can play during lunch.

The school also hosts special technology showcase events where educators promote the best tech-based projects developed by students to demonstrate their learnings. The exhibits range from robots to E-Sports and there is even an all-girls event scheduled to take place in March in honor of International Women’s Month.

Using games to equip students with future-ready skills

Herenwegschool is a Christian primary school from the Netherlands for children four to twelve years old, that is committed to making learning fun. The school regularly uses Minecraft: Education Edition to teach students about a variety of subjects and help them develop key skills within the 6C model – critical thinking & problem solving, communication, creativity and imagination, character building, collaboration, and cognitive skills.

There are multiple game worlds that provide students with a wide range of challenges. During a lesson about climate change, students had to defend a small village against rising sea levels. Just like in real life, players needed to consult with the townspeople to decide between raising the sea barrier or building windmills.

On a different occasion, the children visited an in-game version of the Gallery of Honor, the real-life museum that holds the most famous Dutch paintings. Inspired by the film “A night at the museum,” the works of art “came to life” in the game and players had to catch the characters and bring them back to their corresponding paintings. Later, the children visited the actual gallery and were easily able to pick out the artworks.

Similarly, when students at Herenwegschool who had immigrated from Ukraine wanted to show their classmates the beauty of Kyiv, the teachers contacted someone who had built a detailed model of the capital city in Minecraft. Students were free to roam the open world and even add to it by building rainbow crosswalks and playgrounds.

One of the biggest challenges came when the children had to build The City of Our Future. Players had to use their imagination to design a sustainable city that employed current and future technologies. Students were given six ideas to focus on when developing their project: the air, the water, their neighborhood, healthy food, infrastructure and technology.

How project-based learning enables students to impact the world

Escola Bosque is a private school in Brazil with almost 300 students between the ages of two and fourteen years old. It has been a proud Showcase School for the last six years. Escola Bosque’s mission is to foster each student’s well-being as a foundation for academic and life success and provide experiences that enable them to be more empathetic, engaged, collaborative, and passion-driven learners.

Escola Bosque prioritizes project-based learning as a more dynamic classroom approach that allows students to actively explore real-world problems and acquire a deeper knowledge. They believe projects promote integrated learning opportunities by connecting many subjects at the same time.

“Innovation in education is a shift in mindset. Most schools are still content-based and teacher-centered. But to be innovative they must change their perspective on the teaching and learning processes and adopt a student-centered approach.” – Silvia Scuracchi, Principal and Head of Innovation, Escola Bosque, Brazil

Students at Escola Bosque recorded multiple podcasts on sustainability, nature conservation and other environmental challenges as part of the Blue Economy Project, which gave them the opportunity to contribute to real-life initiatives. The podcasts were published on Flip and were even broadcasted on the local radio station.

Showcase School Summit Biggest Impact Awards

Every year at the Showcase School Summit, we recognize schools that went above and beyond.  These schools led education transformation and achieved high levels of innovation and expertise in the optimal use of technology in teaching and learning. Their impact didn’t stop there, they expanded their reach to help other schools acquire new knowledge and abilities to implement and sustain transformation in their environments. Their passion to improve education for all students is an inspiration to every school around the world.  

This year’s winners of the Biggest Impact Award are: 

  • EMEA: Kherson Gymnasium # 1, Ukraine 
  • Asia: De La Salle University – Dasmarinas, Philippines 
  • Americas: GOAL Academy, USA

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