Paul Rellis- Microsoft Ireland GM on Teacher Professional Development

Yesterday Paul Rellis , General Manager of Microsoft Ireland delivered a talk on how best to meet the challenge of Teacher Professional Development in meeting the requirements of students in an innovative economy. Below is taken from the News from Microsoft Ireland Blogsite:

Dublin: 16th September 2008 – Ireland needs to ensure that its education and training provision meets the needs of a 21st century innovative economy, according to Paul Rellis, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland. PaulRellisFeb212008.JPGHe called for a debate on how best to deliver teacher professional development to meet future economic in his address to the IBEC Teaching and Learning for the 21st Century: Professional Development of Teachers Conference in Dublin today.

“Today we are calling for a debate on how to deliver a new model of teacher professional development and a dynamic assessment system which places digital technologies at its epicentre,” said Mr Rellis. “This, we believe, will prepare our students to meet the challenges of the 21st Century in whatever form they present.

“Our vision is simple. It is the development of students, teachers, parents and educators to be lifelong learners, who realise their potential any time, any place, on any device, through the power of technology. In real terms this vision translates to providing increased levels of access to students and teachers to technical devices that they can use in the classroom and in their homes.”

Mr Rellis went on to outline how the requirements of the workplace are changing.

“The skill set required to work successfully in the 21st Century economy is very different to that which was required ten years ago,” he said. “Ireland has competed successfully on the global stage and we are recognised today as a country with a highly educated and creative workforce. Things are changing so quickly, as is apparent from developments in the global economic environment, we need to continually innovate so that we can continue to compete. Equipping our students with relevant IT skills is an essential part of ensuring that Ireland is in a position to compete in the medium and long term. ”

In his address Mr. Rellis referenced The National Skills Strategy Report (2005) which identifies the changed skills needs of the Irish economy for 2020. The Report outlines that there will be a requirement for all employees to acquire a ‘range of generic and transferable skills including people-related and conceptual/thinking skills. In addition it states that work will be less routine, with a requirement for flexibility, continuous learning, and individual initiative and judgement. It also highlights the importance of R&D, innovation and marketing skills stating that all occupations will become “knowledge-intensive” resulting in the need for higher qualifications and technical knowledge.

“The National Skills Strategy Report has clearly identified the kinds of skills that the economy will need in just over a decade’s time. In order to be able to meet these needs, there is a requirement to bring new thinking to the professional development of teachers so that the curriculum is delivered in a manner that will ensure that the right skills will be in place,” he said.

Mr. Rellis continued: “We have some models of excellence in Ireland, including Dunshaughlin Community School, which is one of only twelve Microsoft Schools of the Future in the World. An Irish teacher recently beat the whole of Europe at Microsoft’s Innovative Teacher’s Forum. The challenge is to replicate these models and drive innovative thinking across all parts of the education system.”

Microsoft has a number of programmes in place which focus specifically on the professional development of teachers including Innovative Teachers and Innovative Schools. Innovative Schools and School of the Future is part of Microsoft’s wider Partners in Learning Programme (PiL), which aims to empower schools to significantly raise the level of ICT literacy among their staff and to support schools in developing an internal culture of innovation and lifelong learning.  In 2007 Microsoft Chairman, Bill Gates, named Dunshaughlin Community College as one of 12 schools world-wide (3 in Western Europe) to take part in the Innovative Schools Programme.

The aim of the Innovative Teachers programme is to assist teachers to advance the process of teaching and learning via ICT. Microsoft provide a Resources Web Page offering teachers free tools, templates and downloads for use in class and in the preparation of learning resources.

“Microsoft believes that to ensure students are learning appropriate skills, teachers’ training needs should be assessed and used to improve and tailor existing training programmes at all stages of teacher professional development,” said Mr Rellis. “Consideration should also be given to building technology into the delivery of the curriculum at primary level. At the very least, an ICT literacy module should be introduced into the primary curriculum to introduce children to technology. In this way, we believe there’s an opportunity to begin to engage the teaching profession with the concept of digital learning and delivering the skills required for the 21st Century.”

Seamus Ryan, former principal of Dunshaughlin Community Schools (now Education Office, County Meath VEC) also addressed the conference. “Through the Microsoft School of the Future initiative Dunshaughlin teaching staff have been exposed to best practice, innovation and experience from schools across the globe,” he said. “The experience to date has been fascinating and has allowed the school to share ideas and put some new processes and infrastructure in place which have changed the way in which teachers are delivering the curriculum, with attendant benefits to the students. This Microsoft model is one that can be replicated right across the system for the benefit of students and teachers alike.”

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