Technology patches for education

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 | education, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Ample evidence exists that technology can make a huge difference in education. Many teachers in South Africa use technology right now to improve their own teaching and to help learners to learn better.

Some teachers use interactive classroom devices to keep learners interested and involved in learning material. Others have flipped their classrooms: learners access content at home on mobile devices and teachers then use class time for stimulating discussions and making practical application of the material. Older computer labs are still used with great benefit by teachers for reinforcement, drill-and-practice and research. In all these cases teachers report significant improvements in learning outcomes.

However, we have not seen that technology has improved the quality of education in general. Pockets of excellence exist, which proves the potential value of technology in education, but in the vast majority of schools in South Africa technology has had no impact on education outcomes (even in some schools flush with technology).

Technology is a wonderful patch to improve teaching and learning.

No point in sewing a patch onto this cloth!

No point in sewing a patch onto this cloth!

But why can’t the patches stick? It has been said that one can’t put a new patch on an old garment. Why? Because the fabric of the old garment may be too weak to hold the patch and so the patch is simply torn off.

Is this the problem in education? Is the education system so threadbare that it cannot hold onto, incorporate, and integrate technology into the system? If so, what can we do about the situation?

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The real e-learning barriers

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 | technology, Uncategorized | Comments Off


You can overcome any barrier to e-learning

You can overcome any barrier to e-learning

Teachers, do you feel that e-learning is not for you?

Do you believe that there are insurmountable barriers preventing you from using technology in your classrooms?

Most of the barriers you perceive are not real – they only exist in your mind.  And with a bit of effort you can overcome them.

Think about the following:

Barrier #1: My school does not have computer facilities for the learners and therefore e-learning is not possible.

So what?  Start building your own digital skills so that when technology devices become available for the learners, you will know how to use them to improve the classroom experience for them.  e-Learning starts with you, not with technology devices.

Barrier #2: The children in my class know more about technology than I do.

Use this situation to your advantage.  Children love to show off their skills.  Remember, a conductor of an orchestra is not a master of all musical instruments, but draws on the skill of each expert musician to produce beautiful music.  Even with a basic understanding of technology (but with your experience of teaching) you can transform your classroom into an interactive symphony.

Barrier #3: I am technically challenged.

Get over it!  Years ago many of us said that we will never be able to use a cell phone … and look at us today!  If you put your mind to it, also this barrier will dissolve.

The real barriers to e-learning are not a lack of money, or a lack of physical resources, or a lack of a background in technology, but rather an unwillingness to get out of a cosy, comfortable corner and taking the effort to learn to use new tools.

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Technology takes the pain out of assessment for teachers

Thursday, November 10th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Teachers appreciate the value of assessment but don’t always enjoy the task because it takes so much time and effort. 

Technology can make the assessment of learners much easier.  Consider the following:

A word processor is a great assessment tool – use it to type test papers and memoranda.  You can save these documents and next time you want to perform the same type of assessment, it will only take you a few seconds to call the documents up. 

Special software programs allow teachers to assess students electronically; it marks electronically too!  Many educational software tools have their own assessment tools that are included in the package. 

An assessment authoring tool is invaluable for teachers – with it they can develop their own online assessment material.

A voting system (clickers) can be used in the classroom for continuous assessment.

When teachers use technology to help them with assessment tasks, the only tears they’ll shed will be tears of joy.


Where in a school does ICT have the greatest impact?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

Some say computer rooms in a school add little value – they argue that when technology is brought into your school for the first time, you must leap-frog the computer lab and go straight for technology in the classroom.  Others disagree and point out that computer rooms are valuable, particularly in schools that can’t afford technology in every classroom.

Here are a few of my tweets over the past month (under the hashtag #ictschooltip) on this topic:

The real value if ICT will materialize in a school when it becomes part and parcel of the teaching done in every classroom.

Regular access to ICT for teachers and learners are more important than the location where the technology is located.

Teachers should ideally have access to technology in a private place, away from learners, to do preparation and admin work.

Even if you have an IWB in your classroom, learners still need to go to the computer room to gain hands-on ICT experience.

What is your experience and/or view on this matter?

Be careful of technology overload

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 | e-Learning pioneers, Uncategorized | Comments Off

The e-pioneer is a discreet juggler.

Have you ever watched a juggler keeping a number of balls in the air – starting with two or three, adding one after another until you’re awestruck? 

Why are we so fascinated by jugglers?  Some claim that the appeal of the juggling act is not so much in the display of skill, but rather in the suspense of waiting for one of the balls to drop.  If you can’t juggle – and the juggler fails – you don’t feel so incompetent! 

E-pioneers are like jugglers.  It is expected of them to deal with a number of important tasks at the same time – training teachers, keeping hardware and software going and staying abreast with latest technology trends.  If the e-pioneer succeeds, others may be shown up – even some in more senior positions – who are secretly waiting for a dropped ball.  Stressful indeed! 

What is the key to a juggler’s success?   It is knowing when to stop.  Through experience jugglers know the limit of their abilities – and they dare not exceed this limit, particularly in front of an audience. 

E-pioneers must take this lesson to heart.  Determine how much you can handle; learn to do it well; and resist the temptation to tackle more.  Be particularly careful of the flood of new technologies coming your way at a rapid rate – hardware, application programs, games and whatever else is new. 

While you’ll want to keep up to date with new developments, you must accept your capacity limit – if you try to dabble in too many technologies you’re bound to drop a ball or two.

Click here for more food for thought for e-pioneers. 

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Do you fear change?

Saturday, December 18th, 2010 | Cartoons, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Is that how you feel about using technology in the classroom?

This cartoon was created by Kobus van Wyk, using ComixMakeBeliefs - use it to create your own cartoon.

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Congratulations Aletta!

Thursday, October 7th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Great news! At a gala event in Johannesburg tonight, Aletta was announced to be the winner of the Simba Lekkaflavour competition.  Her flavour, Walkie Talkie Chicken, topped the other flavours.



Thank you to all of you who have supported her over the past four months.

Look who’s tweeting!

Sunday, September 19th, 2010 | Personal Learning Networks, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Everyone has a voice on Twitter.  The challenge is … who to follow!

Posted on Twitter by my friend statsninja

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Don’t forget the additional costs …

Friday, August 20th, 2010 | technology, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Schools are encouraged to acquire technology to enhance learning.

Teachers are encouraged to acquire technology to enhance teaching.

But be realistic – don’t forget to count the costs beforehand – consider the total cost of ownership.

          (Created by Kobus van Wyk using MakeBeliefsComix.com)

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Will technology make teachers redundant?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010 | technology, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The prospect of losing your job can cause much anxiety.  When you see people around you being retrenched it is natural to be concerned about your own job security.

Teachers are not immune to layoffs.  When the government cuts budgets and there is talk about teachers being “in excess” and terms such as reorganization, downsizing and rationalization appear in the papers, panic sets in.

It is only natural that teachers wonder how the introduction of technology in schools could impact on their prospects of continued employment.  They may think back to the time of the industrial revolution – many mine workers and factory workers lost their jobs when machines were used for functions previously performed by the workers.

“Won’t computers take over my job?” some teachers may ask.

The answer to this question is an emphatic “no”.  Machines can take over manual repetitive tasks.  But they can not perform those tasks requiring higher order thinking – and teaching is possibly one of the most complex activities on earth.  Teachers are working with the minds of learners, shaping them, while trying to find the best teaching technique to match the learning style of each one of their learners.

You can use computers and related tools without any fear of redundancy.  When a carpenter replaces a manual saw with an electric one, does that make the human redundant?  Of course not – but it does make the carpenter more productive.  The same principle applies when technology becomes available in a school.

Don’t fear!  Digital tools in your classroom will never make you redundant.  A creative, intelligent teacher is needed to plan lessons – a piece of equipment can’t do this!  And what good will electronic tools do without a teacher when the power goes off?

Technology may bring unexpected advantages to you if you do face job insecurity.  If you become proficient in its use, you will be more marketable.  The high cost of training a teacher to become a skilled technology practitioner benefits you in two ways: when the school is firing, you are unlikely to be the one to go owing to the investment made in you, and when a school is hiring, it will be a bargain to employ you since you won’t need expensive training.

During economically uncertain times technology can be your best friend – treat it as such by learning to work with it.

While there are learners, teachers will never be redundant

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