“The best trend at the moment is definitely the work in student-to-student learning. Teachers play the role of facilitator and guide students, which gives extra energy to students. And teachers should encourage collaborative learning.” – Chandra Wijerathne, Sri Lanka
Many of the education programs Microsoft has developed, or participates in, rely heavily on teachers’ grass-roots efforts to share knowledge with other teachers. It’s a fundamental principle of the Partners in Learning network, and frankly, a necessary approach if we’re to transform education in our lifetimes. But nowhere is this more important than in developing countries, where resources are limited and obstacles can be daunting.
In today’s Daily Edventure, we meet Chandra Wijerathne, whose work in sharing technology tools with other teachers has made a significant difference in her native Sri Lanka. Wijerathne, a past participant in the Partners in Learning Global Forum, understands the power that one educator can have, not only to change the lives of students, but also to help shape the future of her countrymen.
“Although we are a developing country, our literacy rate is higher than other developing countries,” Wijerathne says. “The government plays a major role in giving education to children, free of charge. At the same time, they launch many programs to uplift the level of students.”
Wijerathne has used a relatively simple tool – Microsoft Mouse Mischief — to help other teachers drive technology literacy throughout Sri Lanka. And she achieved an important milestone in her own school, reaching 100 percent computer literacy. Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure, where Wijerathne shares her philosophy on teaching, and on achieving technology literacy by sharing what she’s learned with her fellow educators.
Can you describe how to your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?
Since 2005, I have been working as a teacher of Information Technology. While teaching computer science to the students, I helped other teachers to use the technology to enhance their teaching and learning process. I gave opportunities to almost all the students of the school to participate in a software competition held by Microsoft Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Education (EKSP, or Education of Knowledge Society Project). Students were able to achieve many victories.
I have also organized many programs to develop computer literacy of the students and teachers of the Central Province in Sri Lanka. I made use of the computer-assisted learning laboratory available in our school in this process. As a result I reached the goal of 100 percent computer literacy among students.
How have you applied technology in innovation ways to your work?
Microsoft Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Education together introduced a pilot program about multipoint technology (Mouse Mischief application software) to three schools in Sri Lanka, including mine. I introduced that application to teachers throughout the province and country through exhibitions and workshops.
During the “ICT KANDY” exhibition, I introduced Mouse Mischief to the Information Associations in this area, and during the “Madarata Navodaya” exhibition, I introduced it to the students and teachers of the Central Province. “Dayata Kirula” is a massive exhibition held annually in Sri Lanka. Both government and private organizations participate. I participated in this exhibition representing the Ministry of Education of the Central Province, and I got the opportunity to promote Mouse Mischief to both sectors.
As a result of these efforts, I was able to demonstrate Mouse Mischief software all over the country. Microsoft donated the technology to Sri Lankan schools. I was also fortunate enough to visit Thailand to see how this application was used in that country.
There are number of milestones in any career, and I had the golden opportunity to participate in Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Global Forum in 2011. They selected 30 educators (from my region) and I became one of them. Being an educator, I guided teachers of different countries.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
My students are all different and therefore, the biggest challenge for me is to ensure that everyone is given an equal opportunity to work in class. I had to prepare a lot. These students did not have any exposure or access to the technology. But because of that, they have no fear towards technology.
What is your country doing well current to support education?
As an example, the Ministry of Education has introduced the EKSP project to develop students’ technical know-how. They have also taken steps to establish computer laboratories in schools.
Teachers in my country are provided with knowledge through seminars and workshops to use computer and Internet facilities in their teaching/learning process. With the contribution of the Ministry of Education, Sri Lankan schools are interconnected and you can visit www.schoolnet.lk.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
In order to better support education, the education sector must be more efficient. Teachers must be updated. At the same time, we must make the parents and students aware of the importance of knowledge and technical know-how. And all the educational courses must be able to produce an individual to suit the modern world with professional qualifications.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
I believe that to have innovation in education children must be provided with plenty of opportunities to use their knowledge and skills. Then, they will discover their own abilities and build up confidence in themselves. In addition, they must be given challenges beyond their level not to discourage them but to encourage them. So, the teacher must be patient and tactful in teaching those students.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
First of all, you must be positive minded. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; take challenges and try to achieve them. You may not always be successful, but you will have experience and you can learn from your mistakes. Always appreciate children, encourage them, make them feel they are doing well. Do not teach them, let them discover, give them plenty of opportunities.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
The best trend at the moment is definitely the work in student-to-student learning. Teachers play the role of facilitator and guide students, which gives extra energy to students. And teachers should encourage collaborative learning.
If you could give educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why.
I suggest they would be given a device with Internet connection which they can browse and discover what they want.
About Chandra Wijerathne
- Birth Place: Polonnaruwa North Central Province, Sri Lanka
- Current Residence: Kandy Central Province, Sri Lanka
- Education: BSc Degree (Computer Science), Bsc Degree (Statistics) and Post Graduate Information technology and Master of Computer science (Pending). Mathematics Training.
- Website I check everyday: Partners in Learning network.
- Person who inspires me most: My parents.
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): I hope to participate next Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum.
- When was the last time you laughed? I laugh constantly.
- Favorite book: I read constantly. Some of my favorite books are Damma Padaya, Les Miserables and Gurugeethaya.
- Favorite music: Srilanakan classic and world classic.
- Your favorite quote or motto: The Buddha shows us the way to success in life, thus: “If a person is energetic, mindful, pure in thought, word and deed, if he does everything with care and consideration, restrains his senses; earns his living according to the Dhamma and is not unheedful, then, the fame and fortune of that mindful person increase.”
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