Last week saw the announcement by Professor Stephen Hawking of the top 10 finalists in the Global Teacher prize for 2016. It's interesting how the teaching methods vary in sophistication and the reason is predominantly down to the environment in which these finalists teach. Some of their stories are truly inspiring but for the purposes of this article, we concentrate on the guys who are using technology to inspire, educate and enlighten.
First up is Colin Hegarty from the UK. Writing on the Global Teacher Prize's website, Colin (who last year was voted UK teacher of the year 2015) has also been recognised as one of the top 50 most influential bloggers. Not to be scoffed at when you consider the sheer number of competitors he was up against!
Through the power of video, Colin has taught nearly 5 million children worldwide. His old website, mathswebsite.com gives access to 2,000 videos, in over 200 territories and has had on average, 5,000 students using it every day. Teaching maths, Colin is obviously incredibly self-motivated but is passionate about making the subject accessible to children and is a firm believer that 'they (children) can do maths, like anything in life, with self-belief, hard work and support.'
Colin's new website, hegartymaths.com aims to help maths students everywhere. Using £15,000 of funding from the charity SHINE, the online platform doesn't just teach, it offers so much more in terms of tracking and assessment functionality so teachers can focus on areas of learning weakness.
Joe Fatheree teaches at Effingham High School, Illinois and like Colin has used technology to aid learning amongst his pupils. He teaches media production and innovation and throughout his 25 years of teaching, has been an advocate of experimental teaching techniques. He strongly believes that it is possible to raise the level of student engagement by changing lesson structure. He reports of success when he started incorporating music, pop, science and business into his daily curriculum.
It would seem that his students agree. As the superintendent of the School, Mark Doan reports, 'He challenges them, they respond, and when that happens students achieve more than they ever thought they could.' Joe uses 3D printing, drone technology and has used Minecraft to build educational games.
What is so special about these two teachers is that they have the insight to see how technology can mould young and eager minds. Where many are quick to criticise the downside of the digital age, it is refreshing to hear of its application in terms of real, measurable success.