Left to right Jeff Osinski and Jonathon Funk at the booth at the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Forum in Cape Town, South Africa


Two educators from Winkler's Garden Valley Collegiate have returned from a once in a lifetime trip to South Africa as part of the Microsoft Innovative Teachers program. Jonathon Funk and Jeff Osinski were selected to attend the event because of the work they did with their students on using a mobile multimedia player as a teaching tool by creating various math and reading programs for it. Earlier this year we told you about the work the group did on bringing Microsoft's Zune media player into a Grade One classroom taught by Kath Penner in Winkler.


Game action from a math game that teaches grade one students how to add and subtract. The game was developed by students at GVC with the help of Osinski and Funk


Funk and Osinki's project was one of five Canadian teacher projects selected to represent our country at the conference in Cape Town. There were only three projects involving the Zune, and two of them were from Canada including Funk and Osinski's. In total there were 125 teacher projects from more than 70 countries.


Jonathon Funk at the Cape of Good Hope


The conference was more than an opportunity to show off their work, participants were also judged on what they had brought. Funk tells us about how it worked, noting unfortunately, their project didn't make it to the semi-finals.

Osinski says they received some amazing feedback, noting there was a buzz in the hall about their project.


Jeff Osinski poses with a cheetah while in South Africa


Funk says they had a few teachers stop by indicating they would be interested in working on a collaborative project where they built some programs for them. Funk says it's an exciting opportunity, and hopefully they will be able to eventually work with a teacher or classroom from another country.

Osinski says there were a number of cool projects that stood out from the crowd.

With this type of experience, there is a tonne of information a person could bring back with them. Funk says one thing he brought back was the experience someone shared regarding starting a new high school in the United States called High Tech High .

Meanwhile Osinski says one thing he brought back was Microsoft's Shout program . It's a brand new program that deals with environmental issues that sees students receive problem scenarios and they are asked to solve them. The Shout program will make use of technology to help students explore, connect and act to address some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, while gaining important 21st-century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and social responsibility. Beginning in November  the Shout program will issue a new challenge every two months to educators around the world through a webcast with Smithsonian experts and Innovative Teachers. Osinski was impressed by the program, and plans on speaking with Garden Valley School Division officials about it.

Overall Funk says it was a life changing experience attending the conference, while Osinski says it was simply amazing.