Teacher who inspires pupils with rock 'n' roll wins top award

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A TEACHER in Scotland has won a European education award for his pioneering work using computer games to help primary pupils make the transition to secondary school.

Ollie Bray's use of gaming technology landed him first prize among 150 teachers and policy-makers from 40 European countries.

The depute headteacher at Musselburgh Grammar School, who was the only Scottish entry for the sixth Microsoft European Innovative Teachers Forum Awards in Vienna, admitted he had never used computer games until two years ago.

Now he regularly uses them to find new and innovative ways of teaching.

His work with the music game Guitar Hero will be rolled out across East Lothian schools within weeks and other schools, from Shetland to London, and from Hong Kong to Australia, are interested in the project.

Mr Bray devised a three-step process of "learning, social interaction and reflection and moving on" as children change schools.

About 900 primary seven pupils will start the first part after Easter, completing a number of music-inspired tasks. Children are then taken into secondary schools where they meet and work with pupils there.

Once in secondary school, they will be encouraged to reflect on what they achieved and write back to their former primary schools.

His success in Europe has secured him a place at the Worldwide Innovative Teachers Awards, which will be held in Brazil in November 2009.

The 30-year-old said: "This is an investment in children, not in computer games. I was pleased the judges realised the idea was not about learning guitar. It's not expensive to run and children are already experienced in technology.

"Most teachers would use play in schools. This just gets teachers using good tools – computer games are very engaging.

"I grew up not playing computer games at all. I own just about everything now, but I only play games that have some educational benefit to them. I was surprised but absolutely delighted to get this award."

Raymond O'Hare, regional director of Microsoft Scotland, said: "These awards celebrate the achievements of some of Europe's most innovative teachers, and their passion and dedication in finding new ways of using technology to engage and inspire their students.

"Ollie Bray submitted a fascinating Xbox project using game-based learning within six cluster primary schools, concluding with an innovative event using Guitar Hero.

"This project demonstrated best practice in addressing the changes and challenges with teaching today," he added.