An exciting new partnership is revolutionising access to innovative teacher training methods

Friday, August 28th, 2015 | training | Comments Off

Online education company, GetSmarter and University of the Witwatersrand School of Education (WSoE) have announced that they have partnered to offer a new online short course in the educational sphere: Strategic Implementation of ICT Integration in Education. This course is part of an initiative to develop the technology skills of teachers in classrooms across South Africa.

Broadening access to top quality education

The new partnership between GetSmarter and WSoE aims to increase access to top-tier university programs in the educational faculty, a sector of Africa that, in comparison to countries across the world, is behind in practical skills training for teachers. GetSmarter’s core purpose of Improving Lives Through Better Education is now not only brought to life by their current business portfolio of industry relevant short courses aimed to provide career advancement to working professionals, but now also by enabling the teachers of South Africa to possess the technical skills they need to be better teachers and therefore improve the lives of the young minds they teach.

This exciting new offering by WSoE is in line with their industry leading short courses offered via their Wits Plus programs, an initiative focussing on part-time, evening classes. Now Wits is able to not only offer contact based learning, but also courses that are 100% online and accessible to anyone with access to an internet connection and computer. The partnership formed out of the mutual belief that the educational achievement of South Africa’s youth is a key determinant of South Africa’s future economic growth, and therefore improving educational attainment should be seen as an urgent priority for South Africa.

Rob Paddock, chief academic officer at GetSmarter explains:

“We believe that South Africa’s future economic prosperity hinges directly on improving the quality of the teachers already working in our schools. In order to do this, we need to revisit the ongoing education models for our educators, and reimagine a system that can help teachers develop their practice in ways that will benefit students. To this end, the Wits School of Education (WSoE) and GetSmarter have forged a partnership to offer cutting edge online teacher development programmes for in-service teachers throughout Southern Africa.”

Education is the single most important tool we have to effect change in our country. By empowering teachers with critical new skills in technology, we can radically improve teachers’ skills and therefore provide students with a better chance of success in the future” Says Reuben Dlamini, the Course Convener from Wits School of Education.

Improve current teaching practice throughout South Africa

The Strategic Implementation of ICT Integration in Education short course is designed for teachers currently practicing in the primary, secondary, tertiary and higher education sectors. In addition, this course is particularly suited to teachers in the formal sector and trainers in the informal sector, learning and teaching professionals (education developers, instructional designers, etc.), people new to online or blended teaching, or those who want to improve their current teaching practice, as well as anyone interested in educational technology or online instruction. To apply for the course, students need to be current teachers in practice.

Teachers will complete an online short course which will focus on the development of effective teaching methods, using technology. GetSmarter’s Virtual Learning Environment brings teachers on the course together and enables them to swop ideas and debate various teaching methods with the support and guidance of their Head Tutor, Kobus van Wyk. Students will have to complete various assignments and tasks to achieve a minimum of 50% to successfully pass the course, and upon successful completion, will receive a certificate of competence from WSoE.

Diversifying the reach of WSoE’s current offering

Wits understands distance learning and the competencies needed to successfully execute online courses, and recognises GetSmarter as the leaders in online education. These 2 power houses aim to eradicate barriers to teacher training in South Africa, which will hopefully open doors to many more opportunities in the educational sphere.

Rob Paddock explains:

“Our vision is that the partnership will allow WSoE to extend and diversify the reach of their current offerings through GetSmarter’s industry leading online education competencies. By leveraging the unique competencies of these two respected institutions, it is our hope that this partnership we will prove a new model for effective, accessible and research-driven teacher education in Southern Africa.”

In an African and South African context, there is an opportunity for this form of distance learning to transform education, and it can be claimed that GetSmarter and WSoE are leading the way for a brighter future for South African teachers and students alike.

With over 8 years experience in the field, GetSmarter brings a practised and proven learning model founded in pedagogical expertise, and a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) that promises to replicate, and even enhance, the very best features of the traditional face-to-face classroom.

Visit for more information.

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The conference scam

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 | education, training | Comments Off

Have you noticed how many e-learning conferences are held these days?  And each one is touted by the organizers as a can’t afford to be missed event.  Some of them are even called summits … adding a touch of grandiosity to the occasion.

How valuable are these conferences?

Having attended a good number of them over the last few years – and presented papers at many – I’ve developed some resistance to attending them; not all, but most of them.

Some e-learning conferences are simply a rehash of the same stuff: same themes, same topics, same speakers. Of course, some themes and topics remain relevant for a while.  And some speakers (like Maggie Verster) are evergreens who stay on top of their subjects and always have something new to share (and even if you hear the same presentation more than once, you are inspired and enthused every time).  But in general, why should we want to listen to repeats of known information?

Then there is the exorbitant price you have to pay to attend, often in Pounds, Dollars or Euros.  It may sound less than when the price is quoted in Rands, but it’s a con – with the current exchange rate you’ll be paying a fortune.

The ultimate rip-off is when companies buy speaking slots to plug their products. This is done in different ways.  Sign up as a platinum or gold sponsor, and you’re assured of keynote speaking slots … and you’re guaranteed a captive audience that will not leave their seats because they paid through their necks for them.

Earlier this year I had an experience with organizers of an e-learning conference that really jolted me.  I submitted a proposal to deliver a paper at this conference.  A few weeks later I received an email request for a company sponsorship.  I passed it on to the marketing division of the company for which I am working.  After consideration it was decided not to sponsor the event, and the organizers were informed.  A few days later I received a call from the organizers and the conversation when something like this:

“We were wondering if you could talk to your company about a sponsorship,” the man said after we exchanged customary pleasantries.

“I’ve passed your request on to our marketing division, and I believe that they have communicated their decision to you,” I replied.

“Yes, the marketing folks decided that they will not give us a sponsorship.  Is it possible that you can help us to change their minds about this?”

“I would not want to do that,” I said.  “Our marketing guys know best what the company can afford and how the marketing budget should be spent.”

“It’s a pity,” the man said, and paused a few moments.  “I notice that you have sent a proposal to deliver a paper.”

“Yes, I did, but I have not received any confirmation yet.”

“You see, that’s just the point.  We’re currently going through the proposals and your chances to be accepted are increased considerably if your company gives us a sponsorship.”

I was speechless.

If my proposal was turned down because my topic was not appropriate to the theme of the conference, or the abstract was weak, or the organizers thought that I am not a good enough speaker, I would have accepted it without any argument; not all proposals fit and not all are accepted.

What is the implication?  Those presentations that you and I pay to see are often selected, not on the basis of the merit of the material to be presented, but because the slot has been bought.

Does this mean all conferences are suspect?  Not at all!  Conferences remain a valuable way to gain and share knowledge and experience.  But before you sign up for the next conference, check who the sponsors are, who the speakers are, what their topics are, how much you have to pay to attend … also who the event organizer is … and then decide whether attending this event will be a good investment.

Beware of the conference scam!

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Classroom technology: how long does it take a teacher to come to grips with it?

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 | training | Comments Off

This question is the same as asking: “How long is a piece of string?”

And the answer is the same: “It depends …” Yes, different factors determine the length of time it will take a teacher to come to grips with classroom technology.  For example, a teacher who is already digitally literate should find it easier to make the transition from traditional classroom teaching to one where technology is harnessed.

Not easy to measure the knots and the curves ...

Not easy to measure when there are knots and curves …

When technology training programmes are developed for teachers, bear the following in mind:

Training teachers in the use of classroom technology takes place in stages; it is not a once off event.  Short training sessions over a period of time is better than one intensive course.

The more time teachers spend trying out newly acquired technology skills, the sooner they’ll become proficient.  Allow enough time after a training session for the teacher to practice new skills.

Just in time (JIT) training works better than training a teacher now with a view to applying the knowledge much later.  When teachers are trained, but technology only becomes available in their classrooms months later, some of the skills would have faded.

Each teacher – like learners – will acquire skills at a different speed; the important thing is to practise each new skill often.

Teachers should not despair when they battle to acquire classroom technology skills; from experience they know that fast learners are not necessarily the best learners.

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How much effort should go into teacher ICT training?

Monday, November 12th, 2012 | training | Comments Off

The short answer to this question is: a lot of training.

At least the same amount of money that schools spend on hardware and software should be devoted to ICT training of teachers.

Most ICT tools were not specifically designed for educational purposes; teachers must be helped to discover their classroom potential.

Being computer literate is only the first step for teachers who want to use ICT as a teaching tool.

For teachers to succeed with ICT they need a paradigm shift – this means thinking differently about teaching and learning.  This process can only happen if training takes place over an extended period.

ICT training of teachers is labour intensive but, without it, technology in education has no chance of success.

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ICT skills make a teachers’s life easier

Thursday, March 1st, 2012 | training | Comments Off

Basic computer skills are of great use to teachers.  The more of these skills you develop, the more productive you’ll become.

Touch typing is an example of such a useful skill.  Once you’ve acquired the ability to type without looking at the keyboard you’ll type faster and more accurately.  If you are using a computer to type things, such as test papers end memorandums, or if you have to enter lots of data, your life will be so much easier if you can touchtype.


Touch typing is a valuable skill for teachers


Knowing all the features of a word processor will likewise make working with text easier.  Word processors have so many features specially designed to help you when you are creating any type of document.  The more familiar you are with these features, the easier your life will become.

The use of a spreadsheet can save you many hours of calculating and recalculating learner test marks.  It can work out averages for you and the possibilities of producing statistics and other valuable information are endless.

Invest some time in developing ICT skills.  It will relieve you of many admin burdens and allow you to focus on what you’re good at and what you are really there for: teaching.

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I am not so young anymore – won’t it be difficult for me to become skilled in the use of classroom technology?

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 | technology, training | Comments Off

If you are a senior teacher you may be concerned that your ability to acquire new skills – particularly technology skills – is not what it used to be.  “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks – I am too old to learn modern technology,” you may say.  Don’t allow clichés to control your destiny!

Do you really believe that you are too old to learn – or is it just an excuse? 

How did you feel a few years ago when cell phones were introduced? 

Some said that they would never use them … but eventually they capitulated and agreed to carry a mobile phone.  “But only to receive calls,” they said.  Soon they were making calls too, and it did not take long before they started sending text messages – now they can’t imagine how they managed before without an SMS.  Over time these older folks discovered other functions of the phone – taking pictures of their grandchildren, browsing the internet and even becoming active on social networks.

Does this sound familiar to you?  If you conquered a cell phone, you can conquer classroom technology.  The technology available to you for teaching is not much different from a cell phone – you will be surprised how many functions are the same.  In fact, you will discover that cell phones are powerful teaching and learning tools!  It all depends on how willing and eager you are to learn.

Many teachers in their fifties, sixties and seventies have already mastered the use of different classroom technologies and now proclaim that they can’t imagine life without them.  If you are a life long learner, this is what you will do – continue to learn new things as they come your way.  Your age is not the limiting factor when it comes to becoming skilled in new technologies, but rather the extent of your willingness to move outside of your comfort zone.

While you are still able to teach, you are not yet over the hill.  The education system needs your experience, passion and commitment – and above all, your example.  When you master the use of technology, you are setting an example to the new generation of teachers.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Avoid jargon …

Monday, December 13th, 2010 | Cartoons, training | 1 Comment

Created by Kobus van wyk, using - use this program to create your own comic strip.

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Teachers and learners swap roles

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 | training | 4 Comments

“[Learners] want more technology in the classrooms. That’s how they learn. They don’t learn like we did when we were growing up…getting lectures. We did it and that was fine, but the kids today want the technology, the visual support, the kinesthetic learning.”

When a school reaches this conclusion, but the teachers don’t feel comfortable using technology in the classroom, what do they do?  The solution is simple: let the learners teach teachers how to use technology!  This suggestion was made in a recent posting on this blog, but can it work?

It worked in a school in Hereford in Texas, where teachers and learners swapped roles for a day.  Are you willing to give it a try in your school?

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How much will interactive whiteboard training cost me?

Friday, January 22nd, 2010 | IWBs, training | 3 Comments

When technology is introduced into a school, school management must budget for adequate training.  As a rule of thumb, the amount earmarked for training must not be less than the amount spent on the technology.  This principle also applies to interactive whiteboards.

“But then interactive whiteboards will cost us an arm and a leg!” a school manager may lament.  And this is not an understatement.
Fanciful stories are told about the origin of the expression “an arm and a leg”.  One of them is that, in times past, artists based their charges for portraits on the number of arms and legs that appeared in the picture.  This is a fallacy. The idiom was coined during the last century – it is used to stress how outrageously expensive something is.  A similar saying is “to give one’s right arm”, indicating that you are willing to sacrifice your dominant limb – something very valuable – to reach an objective.  It follows that paying an arm and a leg for training means that you are making a considerable sacrifice to gain the required skills.

Your school, or education department, should be prepared to make a financial sacrifice to empower you to use your interactive whiteboard.  During the planning phase of an interactive classroom, training costs must be factored into the total cost of ownership.

But what about you – the teacher?  Is it expected that you also sacrifice an arm and a leg?

It may not be required of you to pay for training courses, but when training is available it is expected that you should sacrifice time to benefit from the opportunity.  Often training is offered after work hours, over the week-end, or during vacation periods.  You will also need time to practise.  This is where you need to make a sacrifice.  Time and effort are the two things you should be willing to sacrifice for the sake of your professional development.

It is difficult to put an exact price tag on interactive whiteboard training – circumstances differ.  But don’t hesitate to make a personal sacrifice when you have to learn new technology to become a better teacher.

Click here for more information about interactive whiteboards.

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Do we value our facilitators?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 | training | 6 Comments

In the Western Cape we call them facilitators – elsewhere they are known by other names, such as instructional technology integrators. They are the people visiting schools, helping teachers to make sense of the technology that is available to them.

The value of these facilitators is not always appreciated.  Training sessions are frequently cancelled and at times appointments to meet on a personal basis are not honoured.

The article Technology graveyards: Why schools need instructional technology integrators should make facilitators feel good about themselves and the service they render.  And it should make teachers and principals think twice before they dodge their facilitators.

Viva, facilitators!

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