Thursday, 8 June 2017

MIEExpert Spotlight #27: Gizelle Simpson from Malmesbury in South Africa talks about her experiences at the recent Microsoft E2 Africa Forum in Johannesburg

Gizelle Simpson is a teacher and a Microsoft Innovative Educator  Expert from Malmsbury in the Western Cape. She teaches English as a Home Language as well as English as a First Additional Language at Wesbank Secondary School, and she is also a qualified Psychometrist. Gizelle was one of the 30 MIEExpert Educators selected to attend the Microsoft E2 Africa Form in Johannesburg, and in this article she gives a reflection on the event. 

"So there I was, boarding an aeroplane to Johannesburg, headed to the #MakeWhatsNext E2 Africa Summit. I couldn’t really decide whether the nerves were from the fact that I hadn’t flown in a while or because I was about to engage with my fellow MIEE colleagues from all around Africa. I recognised Charmaine Roynon from the flight itinerary and immediately said hello. Now here is where all the excitement and nerves really started! After listening to Charmaine I had a “moment” in which I jokingly uttered out loud, “Where is the nearest exit - I feel like I should not be on this plane!” Charmaine immediately broadened my horizons and opened up my technological (now coding) eyes. Here is where my excitement for coding started. Yes I had heard about it, and seen it on the Microsoft Educator Community, BUT to hear someone talk so passionately about how she inspires and helps her kids and teachers to code, made me so excited and I wanted to know more.

“We are about to descend into Johannesburg,” I heard the Captain say, and I could hardly wait for Charmaine to continue sharing once we had landed. Thankfully we shared a room at the hotel, and the next two days would prove to be absolutely invaluable for me.

More about the Microsoft E2 Africa Summit
The Microsoft E2 Teacher Exchange event for Africa was a 2 day summit held at the Microsoft Offices in Bryanston on 29th and 30th May. The theme for E2 Africa was #MakeWhatsNext and the program aimed to get selected, active MIE Experts up to date on the latest trends in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. The sessions at E2 Africa were similar those run at the Toronto Global E2 event, and included opportunities to try out Minecraft: Education Edition and Microbits, attend a networking dinner, and attend the Brescia House School “9 Classroom Hacks” TeachMeet.

Reflection on #Day 1
We were accommodated at the nearby Southern Sun Hotel in Bryanston. In the morning of the 29th we all clambered on to the shuttle taking us to Microsoft Headquarters in Johannesburg. The buzz in the shuttle as we headed to the Microsoft offices was electric, and we couldn't wait to start the day. The first keynote to welcome us was from Sonja Delafosse from Seattle. In April of 2015, Sonja joined Microsoft's Worldwide Education Team as Senior Partners-in-Learning Manager, responsible for the Educator audience. She works to develop, scale and run the educator-specific initiatives globally. We were so privileged to have her participating in the Microsoft E2 Africa Forum. Her opening keynote topic was ‘Empower your students to build the world of tomorrow.’ She encouraged us to have a growth mindset as educators, and she updated us on the latest trends in STEM education (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) and how these relate to us as educators. 

For the rest of the day we were immersed into a wonderful day of training, learning about how to use Minecraft: Education Edition in the classroom. This was conducted by Stephen Reid from Immersive Minds in Scotland. Stephen is a Minecraft: Education Edition guru! Now THERE is a facilitator and presenter who can keep you entertained as well as informed! I discovered that I am now a gamer! Minecraft is absolutely amazing.  

We had to create a project-based learning activity that could be expressed using Minecraft, in teams. Our team worked hard collaborating and sharing ideas. Each team  conducted a problem-based learning activity where we, as a group, had to come up with a problem we are experiencing in South Africa; and then we had to come up with a solution. We then had to model the solution using Minecraft. At this point, after trying to model our learning using Minecraft, I gained a greater respect for my learners. Watching examples of the stuff that kids had produced had me in awe.
I met so many interesting people at the E2 and we shared so many wonderful ideas with one another - from using fairy tales to incorporate STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics), to arranging game days at schools. Needless to say I was more than impressed.

Prior to attending the E2 we had to think of an innovative project we  wanted to do with our students or we were already doing with our students, and we sent in a slide of our ideas to the organisers.  We had a ‘Give one Get one’ session, which worked similarly to speed dating, where we shared our ideas. This was a session where I heard about so many great ideas.

Reflection on #Day 2
So here we are having to present what we modeled as solutions in Minecraft. This was my team hard at work: 

In between all of this we got quick yet informative training on all sorts of things.  The five Microsoft Teacher Ambassadors each presented on one of the newer Microsoft technologies for the classroom. We had a fantastic training on coding using Microbits from Scott Giles. And yes, we all walked away with our very own Microbit!

What can I say! What an absolutely fantastic Summit! I learnt so much about how I can be more effective in getting my learners involved in technology and also how Minecraft empowers us as educators to achieve that. Thank you Microsoft for an amazing experience!" 


  1. Well said Gizelle - agree a wonderful experience.

  2. It was a privileve to meet you and so many other MIEEs, Gizelle. Your reflection is so good that I felt I was reliving the experience! Absolutely agree with all you say.