Michael Wilson

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Michael’s innovative use of technology in learning has brought him many awards for excellence in education.

How long have you lived in Armidale?

I moved with my family to live in Armidale in 1993. I was appointed to Drummond Memorial Public School as Aboriginal Education Resource Teacher in 1995. Prior to living in Armidale I had lived and taught in the Moree district since 1982.

> Tell us about your family …

I am married to Marie. We have three children.

> What do you love the most about Drummond Memorial Public School?

There are many things to love about Drummond Memorial Public School. 

The history, the character, and the characters (reflected in the discipline register from the 1930s to early ‘80s, which features some well known local identities) the resilience, the happiness, the opportunities, the innovation, the inclusiveness, the students, the multi-generational family connections, and most of all, the spirit. 

DMPS caters for the families of the West end of Armidale. We are the local school for people in the Girraween area, Martin Street subdivision and the university precinct as well. We aim to be a vital part of this community and to provide excellent educational opportunities for all the boys and girls in our neighbourhood. 

Drummond Memorial Public School has a proud heritage of inclusiveness, excellence and a commitment to welcoming every family who walks in through the front gate. I love the way our school makes a difference in the lives of so many of the students who attend. 

I am proud of the ethos of technological and learning innovation that has long been part of the Drummond School experience, and also the readiness all staff have to work together with families in partnership to improve learning and social outcomes for our students. It is a good place to work and to learn. 

> When and where did your teaching career begin?

I began my teaching at Moree East Primary School in 1982. I also worked in Mungindi, Collarenebri, at Bullarah Hall PS and Pallamallawa in various other capacities before moving to Armidale.

> What is the Giyannha Dirrabuu Murri Award?

The Giyannha Dirrabuu Murri Award is a Regional Department of Education and Training award that recognises Excellence in Indigenous Education. The phrase is from the Gomeri Language of the North West and means, “For the young future stars of tomorrow”. I’m not sure if I quite fit the young future star category, but I certainly feel very privileged and very proud to be selected for this award. It is a highlight of my teaching life.

The particular award I received was for Contribution to Educational Achievement by a Non-Aboriginal Staff Member. Unbeknown to me, I was nominated for this award by an ex-student of the school who now works locally in the field of education. So, it was a very pleasant surprise. The Principal and executive of DMPS supported the nomination. 

> Describe your current teaching position.

My role at DMPS is that of Aboriginal Education Resource Teacher. This involves working particularly, but not exclusively, with Indigenous students and their families to improve literacy and numeracy skills, school attendance rates and levels of community involvement.

I also have the task of developing teaching and learning resources for all students and staff in the school to use. Over the years the resource development aspect of my job has evolved into a greater involvement in the use of information and communication technologies as learning tools for my students, the development of connected learning activities, and communities of learners.

> What did you do to be chosen as the Australian Microsoft Scholar for 2009?

I was nominated for the Microsoft Scholarship, and another award last year, by Tim Gorrod, a colleague from Bulahdelah Central School, who was working together with me as part of a Microsoft Partners in Learning Project. I accepted the nominations, thanked him very much, and didn’t really give it much more thought after that. 

When I was phoned last September to tell me of my success, I thought the judges must have had me confused with someone else. Perhaps they did, as there must be a few other Michael Wilsons floating around in the Department.

 The Scholarship recognises excellence in the innovative use of ICTs in teaching and learning. At the time, as well as running my regular teaching programs, I was involved in two separate but linked projects. The first was an extended connected learning activity, a Microsoft Partners in Learning project. This PiL project involved students from Drummond School and three rural schools: Niangala, Rocky River and Yarrowitch Public Schools. The activities in the project involved regular online contact between the students and teachers, social gatherings at excursions organised locally by the participating schools, and opportunities for the students to share their learning with each other and collaborate via an interactive website. The students developed a repertoire of Web 2.0 skills by using Wikis, blogs, podcasts, web streamed movies, surveys and discussion forums to express their learning. We thank teachers from New England TAFE for their expertise in showing our students the ins and outs of a TV studio.

Although I regard the Connected Learning Project a great success, I felt slightly fraudulent in receiving this scholarship individually, because the other members of the project team were not adequately recognised for their contributions. Jim White and Graeme Ross provided the initial leadership, vision and impetus. Phil Roberts, the current DMPS Principal, fully supported the existing activities and introduced another exciting element, eGATS. Sarah Carter from Yarrowitch, Deb Douglas and Steve Manser from Rocky River, Pam Miller from Niangala, and of course all the wonderful students involved ensured, through their enthusiasm and flexibility, that we would have an interesting, productive and successful partnership.

The eGATS initiative, which grew from the earlier project, has linked Gifted and Talented students from many regional schools in a similar way. GAT students are often isolated even in large urban schools, let alone when they attend one of the many isolated rural schools in our region. The students have had learning opportunities which have previously been denied them. This project, which has further developed the use of collaborative software and Web 2.0 applications, has been led by Jennifer Andrews, Assistant Principal at Drummond, along with the online mentors: Joe Bell, Howard Grant and Drew Beaton. They’ve got the brains, I’ve got the looks, and together we’ve created and delivered a successful, innovative connected learning model.

So, in June I will head into the wild blue yonder. I plan to use my scholarship funds visiting the UK to see Futurelab and Becta, and attending two conferences. Futurelab and Becta are organisations that are recognised as leaders in the innovative use of collaborative software and elearning, the nurturing of online learning communities, and the creation of opportunity for all school students.

> What award did Ms Verity Firth present to you?

 As well as the Microsoft Scholarship, Ms. Verity Firth, the Minister for Education also presented me with The Excellence in the Integration of Information and Communication Technologies Award. The ceremony took place at the spiritual home of NSW public education, the William Wilkins Gallery in Bridge Street, Sydney. 

> Tell us about your Kuala Lumpur Trip …

I will travel to Kuala Lumpur in the last week of May, along with participants from all the other Australian states and South East Asian countries, to participate in the Asian Microsoft Innovative Teachers Forum. I will be representing New South Wales.

 The forum is a gathering of teachers and others who are involved in educational research and practical innovation, particularly the integration of ICTs in teaching and learning. This forum also represents part of Microsoft’s commitment to the equitable delivery of educational opportunities (notably with reference to access to modern technology and online learning systems, which is often dictated by family economics) to students from all walks of life. 

I will be presenting a poster and digital show outlining the projects I have been involved in, and also presenting a talk to the judges. There will also be an impromptu task to be addressed. The forum will extend over four days, and I will meet people from all over Australia and the Asian region. Sounds good.

> Thank you Michael.

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