This morning saw 52 teachers from various South African schools gather at Microsoft’s head offices to learn more about how they can use problem-based learning and tech resources to enable engaging and relevant learning in the classroom.

The teachers, all Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts, are part of the Africa Educator Exchange Forum, taking place from today until tomorrow, 30th May.

Among the programme’s activities are talks on how the current job market is shifting in terms of skills demands and how the future workforce can be groomed today to fill the demands, using tools such as the Minecraft Education Edition.

This change requires companies to implement tech advancements as well as cultural changes in order to be more innovative and agile, serve customers better and become more immune to industry disruption. The education sector is not invulnerable to these changes, and digital transformation in schools and universities begins with the way in which people learn.

“Within an educational setting, digital transformation does not equate the tools of learning such as PCs or digital whiteboards. Instead, this process requires educators and administrators to examine educational outcomes and then place long-term goals, curricula and technologies in their classrooms that will help facilitate those outcomes,” said Sonja Delafosse, Senior Manager, Microsoft Worldwide Education Educator Strategy.

Besides assisting in closing of the local skills gap, digital transformation in education can also help bridge the gap in women’s participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM).

“Through initiatives like these, we will be able to sensitise girls to various STEAM-related careers,” Delafosse, said. “Moreover, we have a platforms to provide the computational and problem-solving skills that are critical for them to find employment or become successful entrepreneurs.”

In addition to these platforms as well as the forum, Microsoft and Computers4Kids are launching a competition that encourages students to find solutions for local South African challenges such as unemployment, poverty, xenophobia, and water shortages. They can do this by conceptualising, designing and modelling solutions within a South African Minecraft map. Students will be encouraged to work in teams to develop their ideas. The winning project team will receive Windows devices as prizes.