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Microsoft NZ launches Marvinator Awards


News Release

Microsoft New Zealand launches inaugural Marvinator Awards

Switched-on students compete in digital storytelling using MARVIN software

Auckland, New Zealand –Monday, August 11, 2008 – When Hamilton City Council looked for organisations promoting Hamilton to the world, they found students from Peachgrove Intermediate were already blogging across the globe and using innovative software to record their experiences of Hamilton.

And today 16 Peachgrove and Melville Intermediate finalists went head to head in the inaugural MARVINATOR Awards. The students were asked to develop animated digital stories about Hamilton using innovative MARVIN software and the titles ‘Promoting our City’ or ‘Enhancing our City’.

After deep deliberation by the judging panel, which included Hamilton Mayor Bob Simcock, Waikato Museum Director Kate Vusoniwailala, Waikato University Professor Dan Fleming and Hamilton City Libraries Director Faye Clark, Emily Weiss from Peachgrove Intermediate School was chosen as the inaugural MARVINATOR for her project on enhancing Hamilton. She received a digital camera and a certificate from Mayor Bob Simcock who was extremely impressed by the calibre of entries.

“This is exactly the type of involvement we wish from all children (and citizens) in Hamilton – this is amazing,” he says.

Waikato Museum director Kate Vusoniwailala is so impressed she wants to include the students’ digital storytelling as an inaugural digital collection in the museum.

The MARVIN software is an interactive learning tool developed by Australian company NTICED and animation guru J. Easterby-Wood. Through Microsoft New Zealand’s Partners in Learning programme, the software licences are available to schools at no cost.

Microsoft teamed up with Easterby-Wood to make the MARVIN software accessible to students and schools globally as part of its Partners in Learning education initiative which focuses on making technology a meaningful part of the classroom.

Nils Beehre, Microsoft New Zealand Education Manager, says the software puts children in the driving seat. Guided by their teachers, students use the software to create personalised characters and animation to tell stories in a way that taps into and fosters their love of technology.

“These are children who grow up in a world of blogging and instant messaging. Using animation and digital storytelling techniques is almost as natural for them as using a pencil and programmes like MARVIN engage them and help them develop their skills for this digital era,” he says.

International and national studies have shown that the use of avatars in training, education and information services leads to better uptake of information and increased levels of participation by those groups interacting with technology. Avatar animation systems help users to interact with technology and information on a more human level.

Microsoft New Zealand believes the MARVIN software will enhance education which is why the company has made it available to New Zealand schools. Sharee Richardson, ICT Facilitator at Peachgrove Intermediate School, says she is thrilled with the programme and believes it has already proven a great asset to support children’s learning.

“It’s not always easy for teachers to step out of their comfort zone and use new methods of teaching, but in this case I think it is well worth it and a move towards new technology is certainly in line with where our future generation is headed,” she says. “We are extremely grateful to Microsoft for their generous donation and involvement with this programme and I look forward to seeing more kids here and, hopefully, around the country engage with it as the software continues to be developed.”

Some of the students that entered the MARVIN competition will place their clips on YouTube.

ENDS

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