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Microsoft/KCI Awards Applaud Innovative Instruction
Silicon Valley Teachers Win $9,000
March 07, 2014
Archive Story

From left Judy C. Miner, Martha Kanter, and Bill and Gay Krause

The Krause Center for Innovation (KCI) honors the outstanding achievements of K–12 teachers and their students who are using technology to improve the quality of education in Silicon Valley. New this year, the KCI has partnered with Microsoft to recognize the achievements of forward-thinking teachers at the annual Microsoft/KCI Innovation Award reception, which was held at the Microsoft Corporation campus in Mountain View Feb. 27. The reception also featured remarks from former U.S. Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter, Ed.D., who is currently the distinguished visiting professor of higher education at New York University.

Educators from across the Bay Area were invited to submit an innovative teacher-student collaborative project that fully integrates technology. Awards were based on the number of students and educators that each project served, the project’s potential significance to Silicon Valley, and the project’s creativity and ease of use. For 2014, the first-place entry received a $5,000 cash award; second-place finalist, $3,000; and third-place finalist, $1,000.

"The projects submitted this year were truly innovative, and we appreciate that Microsoft recognizes and supports the valuable work teachers are doing to make education more relevant to capture the interest and the creativity of students,” said KCI Executive Director Gay Krause.

The grand prize was awarded to third-grade teacher Adam Randall of Vintage Hills Elementary School (Pleasanton School District) in Pleasanton for Make Your Mark. “This project is all about my students making a positive mark on the world. After being told that they could do great things even though they are so young, they were inspired to take action. The class started small, taking part in International Dot Day and pledging to add kindness into the world. When they realized that their efforts could have an impact, my students set their sights on something bigger,” Randall said.

Through research and thoughtful collaborative assignments, the goal of the project was to help the students understand that even as third graders, they can have a huge impact on important global issues and the world around them. The youngsters used computers and iPads to make videos to spread awareness about the atrocities happening in the world’s rain forests and oceans. In addition to participating in a read-a-thon that raised nearly $2,800 to save the rainforest, the students used iPads with Haiku Deck to make promises of what they would do for International Dot Day. They also used iPads to film and edit their rainforest and ocean conservation newscasts and spread awareness. Their original films were then edited and shared with the world via the Web. That’s when a very special viewer noticed the class’s innovative work.

“One of the amazing connections we made through Twitter was with award-winning author of children’s books Peter H. Reynolds, who wrote The Dot (Candlewick Press), the very book that inspired our class to take on these challenges,” Randall said. “Mr. Reynolds was impressed with the digital projects that the students had created and reached out to us. He congratulated my students on their hard work and encouraged them to keep doing what they were doing. This monumental moment showed my students that they really were making their mark on the world and taking part in something pretty special.”

Second-place honors were awarded to grades 4–8 teacher Gabriela Rios of Crittenden Middle School (Mountain-View Whisman School District) in Mountain View for the Understanding Your School Project. The overall goal of the project was to give students an opportunity to practice Spanish and expand their knowledge of the language while engaging in a meaningful activity. To achieve this goal, students identified an issue that affects Spanish-speaking parents’ ability to navigate Crittenden’s system and created a video to address that issue. If the students found that the problem was a lack of information available to native Spanish speakers on the school’s website, they then created a video that made that information available in Spanish. For example, students created videos to help parents navigate teachers’ websites, find Internet access around the school and contact teachers.

To accomplish their goals, students managed their own time, practiced and extended their knowledge of Spanish, and expanded their reasoning and technology skills. The students successfully created awareness of the school community’s needs, specifically in relation to the Spanish-speaking population, and inspired the students to act and be active members of the community. “The project uses a real-life situation that is meaningful to their own families. It has the students solve or collaborate to solve a real problem, which makes a big difference in their motivation, creativity and effort, since they know what they are creating is actually going to be used,” Rios said.

The third-place award was presented to grades 7–8 teachers Catherine Kennedy and Jennifer Austin of Dartmouth Middle School (Union School District) in San Jose for the Invention Proposal Project. Their students brainstormed, created and presented ideas for inventions that could improve their lives or the lives of others. Over the span of four months, students worked collaboratively and online, practiced grade-level language arts content, and honed skills in technology and collaboration. A key goal of the project was to develop students’ understanding of the connection between language arts and real-world solutions. Students were required to research their invention ideas to check originality and ideas, as well as determine the audience for their inventions by researching demographics and conducting market research surveys.

Projects were judged by a panel of technology educators and KCI support staff. Finalists were selected by a panel of leaders from Microsoft, including Sid Espinosa, director of civic engagement; Jessica Weare, manager of philanthropy and citizenship; Kenny Spade, technical evangelist; and Thea Nilsson, community outreach manager.

The annual award was initiated as part of a teacher education technology-based program. This year, the KCI and Microsoft teamed up to sponsor the award. Previously, Rambus was the award sponsor from 2004–2013. An American multinational software corporation headquartered in Redmond, Wash., the Microsoft Corporation develops, manufactures, licenses and supports a wide range of computer products and services. The world’s largest software maker measured by revenues, Microsoft now partners with the KCI to support educational innovation in the Silicon Valley.

The Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College is California’s leading professional development center for teaching and learning with innovative education technology. Its objective is to prepare educators to improve student-learning outcomes through successful integration of educational technologies into the classroom and school system.

The call for submissions for the 2015 Microsoft/KCI Innovation Award will be announced in August 2014. Learn more about the Microsoft/KCI Innovation Award at

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