Let's hear your best ideas
"Innovative teachers! Don't they sound like geeks and whiz kids?"
Not a bit of it. How about this: "One innovation was to put a mirror on the wall behind the computer screen. When the teacher walks up and stands behind the student, the student can look up at the mirror and talk face to face with the teacher without turning round."
Jim Wynn (right) is one of the thinkers behind Innovative Teachers, a collaborative project for teachers run by Microsoft. He says: "We are not looking for leading-edge innovation but practical stuff. What we want is to capture good and innovative practice and generate a system that will tell other teachers about it."
Jim Wynn has had one of the most varied careers in education: head of a school in Canterbury; a stint with educational ICT company RM; back to a headship with a technology college in Bristol; and now he has the grand title of schools' developments and strategy manager Microsoft EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).
Earlier this year Charlton Athletic Football Club in London was the venue for Microsoft's two-day Forum for Innovative Teachers. Forty-five teachers, three from each European country selected by Microsoft, came together to share their practice and achievements.
One was a project that builds classrooms for the future, from Frederik Gustavsson and Johan Lindwert from Kinnarps School, Falkopings, west Sweden. One of their techniques was to use a projector and show images of First World War trenches. Johan Lindwert darkened the classroom, played sounds of artillery fire and told the children they had 10 minutes before they went over the top. He then asked them to write a letter home.
Johan is intent on bringing the world into the classroom. "If we are talking about Yasser Arafat, then I can have a picture of him via the internet." He believes the conventional classroom is 60 per cent for the teacher and 40 per cent for students. He wants to see it as 80 per cent for students and 20 per cent for the teacher.
From the UK, Kate Norman, an advisory teacher in Torfaen, Wales, decided to do animation with some of the schools she is responsible for. She wanted to ensure that animation was economical so teachers would not be deterred by the cost. She used MovieMaker and an inexpensive webcam from Logitech.
The technique she has devised is simple: "We do cartoon storyboards although the film never ends up looking like the storyboard.
"The students think through the process and design the models. They can make the models or use something like Action Man or Cindy and take about 150 pictures with the webcam then store them in My Pictures. That makes about a minute's worth of film. They can put the pictures into MovieMaker and add titles, credits and any music or narration.
"It is jerky but you can alter the speed at which it plays. Teachers usually look at it and say, 'I couldn't do that'. But they always do. They get an instant result."
Jim Wynn draws a comparison with medicine. "In the medical profession if you learn to do some technique well, there is a peer review mechanism that is built in. Within weeks of a good new technique being developed, it will have been adopted across the world. In teaching, advances take years."
With more than 3,000 teachers signed up in the UK to the Innovative Teacher scheme, David Burrows, Microsoft UK's director of education, points out that Innovative Teachers started slowly but has grown quickly.