Monday, December 2nd, 2013 | Blogging | Comments Off
Last year you helped e4Africa to receive the award for being the Best Educational Blog of 2012. The badge was (and still is) proudly displayed on this blog.
The time has arrived to find the Best Education Blog for 2013. If you still like what I post on this blog, please consider voting again.
Voting is simple. Do you see the round, red VOTE button on the right of this screen? Simply click on it, you will be taken to the voting site, where you will be asked to enter your email address.
An email will be sent to your address, requiring you to confirm your vote. Please note that this is important … if you do not confirm your vote, it won’t be counted.
Thanks for your support … not only for this blog, but also for your role in establishing a strong technology presence in education.
Sunday, December 1st, 2013 | Computer Usage | Comments Off
With the growing trend towards mobility and the popularity of tablets in the field of education, is there still a role for a dedicated computer laboratory (lab)?
There is most definitely a place for both. The whole idea of using tablets (or other mobile devices) is for learners to have continuous access to technology as a learning tool. A computer lab has the disadvantage of being physically separated from the classroom, hence making it more difficult for the teacher to integrate classroom teaching with what technology can offer. However, until such a time that every child in a school has a mobile device, the computer lab will continue to fulfil an important role: it may be the only way in which to bring every learner in touch with technology.
It therefore makes sense to keep the computer room in good repair, while phasing in mobile devices – in big schools this may take a few years, owing to the high cost of technology. The need for a computer lab can be re-evaluated once a one-to-one state has been achieved, but until then, resist the temptation to dismantle the computer room in favour of mobile devices.
My advice to learning institutions is to continue using whatever technology is available, making sure that it is used optimally, and then adding more and new technologies.
[This is an extract from a recently published interview … click here to read the full article.]
“What a bold statement,” you may say, “particularly in view of the current proliferation of tablets and other mobile devices.”
Well, consider history.
In 1922 Thomas Edison reportedly said:
I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize [transform] our education system and that in a few years it will supplant the use of textbooks … The education of the future, as I see it, will be conducted through the medium of the motion picture where it should be possible to obtain 100 percent efficiency.
Did this expectation come true? In spite of the fact that some teachers used motion pictures with great success in their schools, we know that this medium did not manage to transform the education system. What went wrong?
Edison based his prediction on a number of assumptions about this potentially powerful tool:
Content: He assumed that sufficient relevant content will be available in film format to cover all learning areas for all grades.
Affordable and available equipment: He assumed that motion picture equipment will be affordable and will be made available to every classroom.
Technology stability: He assumed that the motion picture will not be replaced by other technologies in the short to medium term, and will continue to be the first choice technology for entertainment and education of the masses.
Classroom integration: He assumed that all teachers will become skilled in using motion pictures as a substitute for textbooks and will change their teaching practices accordingly.
We now know that none of these assumptions proved to be true. Yet, in later years, the same assumptions were made with regards to radio, TV, PCs, laptops, interactive whiteboards … and are now being made about tablets. Let’s look at these assumptions again:
Content: In contrast with the erroneous assumption about content availability when the 1922 motion picture prediction was made, we can safely assume today that sufficient digital content is available as ebooks, educational software and even open education resources. But now we are making another assumption: learners (and their teachers) will know how to find their way through the plethora of available content; the current under-utilization of such resources proves that this assumption is wrong. This is clearly a case where more is not better, and the mere availability of content in no way guarantees that it will be used.
Affordable and available equipment: This is a more risky assumption; tablets are less costly than its PC and laptop predecessors, but how much will it cost – and how long will it take – to provide every child in the country with a tablet? For education to be transformed, more than a sporadic presence of technology is required; every teacher and child needs access to technology for it to have a significant effect.
Technology stability: Technologies have replaced each other rather rapidly over the years and the rate of change is accelerating; we can’t assume that the tablet as we know it today will be the device of choice in a year or two from now. In fact, based on the history of technology, we can safely assume that it won’t!
Classroom integration: This is the most dangerous assumption of them all; it can almost be stated as a fact that it will take years – many, many years – to train and educate all our teachers to become comfortable in using technology for teaching and learning.
The flawed assumptions made in 1922 about a particular manifestation of technology are still being made today. And we’ve only discussed four of them.
Until these suppositions become realities we can’t expect the tablet, or any other technology device, to revolutionize education. A mere change in tools does not bring about transformation.
The full potential of technology can only be achieved if it is part of a complete rethink of education structures and practices.
Tablets will not transform education … unless we empower our teachers to become skilful users of technology!
Monday, November 4th, 2013 | Blogging, technology | Comments Off
Most readers of this blog have the same thoughts about the use of technology in education. Don’t you feel that it should be made a reality in our schools?
To give expression to our thoughts we may individually blog or tweet – we may even retweet a message when it resonates with us. But our individual voices are soft and it frustrates us when we feel that we are not heard.
If a crowd of us speaks in unison, perhaps this will make a difference.
This is where “crowd speaking” becomes a possibility. How can the crowd of us like-minded people speak together? Social media provide the platform, and a tool like Thunderclap can concentrate our individual voices into one massive thunderclap.
It works like this: one person posts a message and others are then invited to allow Thunderclap to share that message on their behalf at a specific time. The impact can be great. For example, if 100 people agree with my message and give consent that it be sent to all their Twitter followers or Facebook friends, and each one of them has 100 connections, the message will go out to 10 000 people simultaneously! What a powerful amplification of my small voice!
As an experiment, I have posted a message on Thunderclap. Please participate, and ask your contacts to do the same. Click here, and follow the instructions. If this trial works, it may prove to be a valuable tool to get our message broadcasted … and hopefully heard!
Since the launch of the Beta version of Qurio at the annual African Education Week conference in June 2013, EDGE Campus has been hard at work in simplifying this tool even further. More features have been added, making Qurio applicable to a wider audience.
The new Qurio will be launched towards the end of October 2013.
What is Qurio? It’s a web based tool that simplifies audience interaction and data collection by allowing anyone to create and distribute digital tests, quizzes, opinion polls and surveys with ease. EDGE Campus claims that, compared to the tools currently used for these purposes, the new Qurio is simpler to use and works across a wider range of devices.
Qurio has been made freely available to all school teachers; in addition it’s making steady headway into the lecture environment where it is being trialled on a number of campuses as a virtual clicker/audience response system.
Lectures, events, conferences, workshops: none of these have to be one dimensional any longer. Owing to Qurio’s low data consumption and ease of access via any internet connected device, speakers can easily interact with their audiences and receive instantaneous feedback.
A unique Qurio Code distribution system links each respondent to a particular Qurio through either a URL, or a short code. This makes Qurio well suited for digital and non-digital communication environments, such as print, radio and television. It’s just a matter of sharing the code with the audience, either by writing it on a blackboard, putting it up on a screen or sending it out via email or social media.
EDGE Campus has created additional resources to assist users in understanding how it works. “We realized that eyes light up when folks see how simple it is to use Qurio. Because we haven’t completed our demo-mode yet, we decided to create some explainer videos and a few documents to show people how awesome it is without having to sign up and trying it for themselves,” says the developer.
While their passion lies in education, EDGE Campus realizes the value that Qurio can add to a host of other fields and they encourage anyone who may be interested to give it a try.
If you want to find out more about Qurio go to their Keep It Simple website, where you will also be able to sign up to be notified of the October launch.
You can connect with EDGE Campus on Twitter (@edge_campus) or on Facebook (EDGECampusHQ) or send an email if you require further information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
[This is a guest post, written by Gareth Heuer of EDGE Campus.]
Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 | education, technology | Comments Off
Clickers – also called voting devices – allow learners in a classroom to respond simultaneously to questions posed by their teacher. Some teachers use cell phones (already in the pockets of learners) for the same purpose. It is claimed that harnessing technology in this way results in an interactive classroom.
How does it work? The teacher asks a question – typically a multiple choice one – and allows learners to use a clicker or cell phone to select the correct answer. The results are collated and if a data projector is available, a graph can be displayed immediately, showing how many selected the correct answer.
Clickers can be a useful continuous assessment tool in classrooms. But does the use of this technology transform the classroom into an interactive one? Not necessarily.
The mere fact that children interact with a piece of technology does not guarantee that they are interacting with the learning material. When the teacher displays the results graph and learners see whether they were right or wrong, and how many in the class were right or wrong, this also does not guarantee interaction; it is the same as handing a marked test paper back to learners.
But when the teacher uses the information gained from the voting exercise to reason with the learners, interactivity can happen. For example, she may ask those learners who chose the wrong answer for the reasons for their choice. Likewise, she can ask the learners who chose the correct answer to defend their choice. In this way a lively discussion between learners will be triggered, with the teacher guiding the discussion so that the learners can draw correct conclusions. Now we have an interactive classroom!
The value of technology in this case is that of a catalyst for interactivity. In the same way as certain chemicals act as catalysts to let other chemicals react with one another, voting devices can spark off interactivity. Interactivity happens between learners and learners, between learners and the teacher, and between learners and the learning material. The technology is only the catalyst, but all depends on how the teacher uses it!
Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 | Gadgets, technology | Comments Off
Teachers, do you want to make your classrooms more interactive? A visualizer may be just the piece of equipment that you require.
A visualizer – also called a visual presenter, digital visualizer or a document camera – is a digital camera which, connected to your computer, allows you to display images through a data projector. It functions in the same way as the old overhead projector, but with all the additional benefits that modern technology offers.
You can use a visualizer to display a page of a textbook, allowing you to zoom in, highlight text and make annotations. Whatever is done, can be saved; it is no longer necessary for learners to spend valuable time to take down notes. A good visualizer will allow you to record the work you are displaying, as well as your voice, so that the entire lesson can be made available for revision, or for those learners who could not attend class.
At times you may want learners to see a real item – not a picture. This can be a challenge if the item is very small, particularly if you’re teaching natural science or biology and you want learners to observe details that can’t be detected with the naked eye. Some visualizers have a microscopic function … just imagine how useful that would be in a class. Learners can remain at their seats while you zoom in on detail; it is no longer necessary for them to queue up to get a turn looking through a microscope.
Have you ever done a science experiment while forty learners are crowding around you to see what’s happening? Doing the experiment on the display surface of a visualizer allows learners to view the experiment in real time from their individual desks. Snapshots at certain stages of the experiment can be taken and then incorporated in later discussions, future lessons or revision sessions.
Whereas a scanner limits you to displaying two dimensional images, a visualizer allows you to display two or three dimensional items. When you rotate or move objects, learners can see the details of the object from different angles.
With a document camera in the class, any object can be viewed as the opportunity presents itself – in this way spontaneity is added to your classroom … and isn’t this what interactivity is all about.
Thursday, August 1st, 2013 | Tablet, technology | Comments Off
Tablets are taking the world by storm. You see them wherever you go: on airplanes and trains even elderly people use them to read novels and magazines; in coffee shops men in suits are glued to the small screens while sipping their latés; house wives watch movies on them; and children use them to play games.
Tablet hype is gripping the world. Some claim that this technology innovation will be the one that will revolutionize education. Others are less enthusiastic about the possibility that tablets will enhance education and point to previous technologies, such as laptops and interactive whiteboards, which have failed to bring about radical changes in teaching and learning.
Regardless of how we may view tablets, we can’t deny the fact that they are here. And that is what the fuss is about … tablets are here by popular demand.
Production and sales of tablets are outstripping that of PCs and laptops. Tablets are becoming more affordable, while their capacity and functionality are increasing with each new model appearing on the market. The number of tablet owners and users is growing at a staggering speed.
It is impossible to ignore a ubiquitous device. We may not like what car emissions are doing to the environment, but we can’t ignore cars when we want to cross a road; likewise, we can’t ignore the ever-growing presence of tablets on the planet.
Technology fascinates people, particularly younger ones. Since tablets will fall into their hands at one or other time, we may just as well explore how to use them for educational purposes. Cell phones and computers have already been found useful as teaching and learning tools; a tablet lies somewhere in between and should therefore be useful too.
Look past the hype factor and see tablets as potential education tools. Discover the ways in which they can help to transform dull school rooms into exciting learning centres.
For more information about tablets click here.
Thursday, July 18th, 2013 | Tablet | Comments Off
Tablet size does matter – but only to you. There is no universal right size for a tablet; the right size depends on your requirements and your personal preference.
Tablets come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from cell phone size to computer screen size. Some manufacturers try to merge cell phones with tablets, resulting in huge phones with tablet capabilities, or tablets with which you can make telephone calls: these devices are sometimes called phablets.
Tablet size is usually given in inches, as measured diagonally from corner to corner and the two most common sizes are 7 inch (7″) and 10 inch (10″) although in-between sizes are becoming popular.
Smaller tablets have the advantage of being lighter than the bigger ones. It is possible to put a small tablet in a lady’s handbag, or squeeze it into a pocket of some jackets. When used as a reader, many people prefer the smaller tablet – to them it feels more like a book than a bigger device would. The weight and size make it more comfortable to hold for a long period, particularly when reading in bed and holding it with one hand.
Of course, if you make the letters bigger for easier reading without your glasses, the smaller screen will require that you flip to the next page more frequently – some people find this rather annoying.
The clear advantage of a bigger tablet is its bigger screen. This is useful when browsing the web, eliminating a fair deal of zooming and scrolling.
In general, small tablets are cheaper than their larger counterparts – if size does not matter to you, it may matter to your pocket.
The jury is still out on which size tablet would be most suitable for students at school or college.
The size of the tablet remains a matter of preference that is determined by how you anticipate using the device. Find an opportunity to play around with different size tablets before you purchase one – there is no substitute for holding the tablet in your hands to experience how it feels.
For more information about tablets click here.
Friday, July 12th, 2013 | Mobile learning | Comments Off
It is true that mobile devices in a classroom are more beneficial for teaching and learning than the static computer room of yesterday. But if the school already has such a computer facility, should you get rid of it?
We can benefit from some ancient wisdom that comes to us in the form of one of Aesop’s fables, The Dog and the Shadow. It goes as follows:
It happened that a dog had got a piece of meat and was carrying it home in his mouth to eat it in peace. On his way home he had to cross a plank lying across a running river. As he crossed, he looked down and saw his own shadow reflected in the water beneath. Thinking it was another dog with another piece of meat, he made up his mind to have that also. So he made a snap at the shadow in the water, but as he opened his mouth the piece of meat fell out, dropped into the water and was never seen again.
The moral of the story: beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.
Don’t be in too much of a hurry to let go of the substance – in this case the computer room. The goal of using mobile devices on a one-to-one basis in the school remains a dream – a shadow – until every child indeed has such a device. This may take a while to accomplish. While working towards the realization of that dream, the computer room plays a beneficial role in giving digital access to all the learners in the school.
Getting rid of computer room too soon – or allowing it to fall into disrepair – could mean that your learners are deprived of the opportunity to engage with digital resources. Don’t let go of the substance before the shadow has been transformed into reality.
For more information about tablets click here.