“When you see students lighting up, being creative, and doing well academically — as well as having fun – that is rewarding.” – Stine Brynildsen, Norway
Østfold University College, Faculty of Education (Department of ICT and Learning)
In her 12 years of teaching, Stine Brynildsen has followed one mantra: Teachers are learners, too. This open-minded approach has served Brynildsen, now a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert and Trainer, well. It’s also given her plenty of good advice for fellow educators.
“The first years of teaching are more about figuring out plans, curriculums, and other formalities — worrying that your students will do poorly on some exam because you haven’t done your job properly,” Brynildsen shares. “But then you start seeing the possibilities and opportunities you have as a teacher to be creative and academic at the same time – as well as seeing that students enjoy working this way. And working with digital tools has been a big part of this.”
One of Brynildsen’s favorite technology-driven classroom activities lets students use their creativity and subject knowledge to collaborate in creating new digital texts. They may pick out scenes from a novel, interpret them and make film clips of them, or use texts to create podcasts or TV debates. Recently, her English students worked on the topic “American History.” They found links and information online and were asked to travel back in time and pretend to witness an event or become an historical person from that time.
“After writing, receiving feedback from me and their peers, re-writing and finalizing their texts, we published them in a historical blog,” she explains. “In this task, the students had to use many skills: Choosing their own event (student participation), finding online information (relevant, critical use of sources) and then re-using their knowledge into creating fictional, creative texts (using facts, but without the possibility to “copy-paste” information). The fact that the texts were published encouraged the students to work even harder, because they knew their texts would be read by more than just me, their teacher.”
In her day-to-day classroom, Brynildsen is a big fan of the OneNote Class Notebook.
“When used in a structured and well-organized way, this tool empowers students on all levels – especially if you work in an ‘Assessment for Learning’-based way,” she tells us. “Students find the subject aims and criteria, they get feedback on what they have done and how they can improve their work, and they also have the opportunity to collaborate and give peer reviews in the collaboration space. Students get to work with different text modalities as well: written text, sound, video, images etc. And at the end of a term or the school year, they can find everything in one place.”
Illustration showing one of my (ordinary) English Class Notebooks. W = weeks, which is the way we organize the content.
For Brynildsen, the rewards of teaching are obvious.
“When you see students lighting up, being creative, and doing well academically — as well as having fun – that is rewarding. It’s great to see how students who struggle with writing can create excellent oral texts, or how students who have never raised their voice in class find new ways of expressing themselves through new tools. Being a teacher has felt like having one of the most important jobs in the world, because you can impact so many young people, and thereby also the entire community.”
About Stine Brynildsen
- Educational background: I have a master’s degree in literature (Nordic literature). The degree also includes studies in English and pedagogy.
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: I obviously love the OneNote Class Notebook, which has been an essential part of my teaching for years. But, I also like other O365 tools like Sway and Forms, which together with OneNote give both students and teachers the opportunity to be creative, organize their material, and also check the learning outcome. And I also have to mention the immersive reader tools in OneNote/Word, and in “Read Aloud” in Edge and the Office Lens app. One of the newest tools in Win10 I’m excited about is Story Remix in the picture app. This will give students and teachers easy access to creating their own videos. And when it comes to devices, I must say that I am very fond of the Surface Book!
- Favorite book: Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet
- Website I check every day: My social media and some Norwegian newspapers.
- Favorite childhood memory: Lazy, uncomplicated summers spent in our family cabin by the sea.
- What is the best advice you have ever received? “Any teacher who could be replaced by a robot, should be.” Well, maybe this is not exactly advice, but more like a statement. Still, this sentence was hand written on an enormous whiteboard wall at a London BETT conference. I think this “advice” captures the essence of what teaching and learning is all about: We must embrace the opportunities digital tools give us and our kids when it comes to enhancing learning. But still: The teacher is, and will be, the essential part of the learning equation – providing the skills, both socially and pedagogically, that robots (or digital tools) cannot. Good teachers manage to combine the best of both worlds. And if they can’t? Well, then they might as well be replaced by robots.