Thursday, February 5th, 2015 | education, technology | Comments Off
Many look at e-learning as an education solution. Some teachers achieve magnificent results when they capitalize on the power of technology. But why are these successes the exception, rather than the rule?
The problem with e-learning is that there is far too much emphasis on the “e” and far too little emphasis on “learning”. The focus in any classroom must be learning.
A good teacher who wants to make sure that learning happens will use any available tool to improve the classroom experience. Technology is one such a tool, but learning suffers when learning is overshadowed by the tool: when the latest device innovations are glorified; or the praises of the learning management system are sung; or the bells and whistles of the e-book are emphasized.
Often, more time is spent choosing between available tools than thinking about how the tools will be used. When technology is procured without thinking about the way in which it will support teaching and learning, and then dumped on a teacher who has not been given adequate opportunity to come to grips with it, it becomes a useless gadget.
There is nothing wrong with “e”, in fact, there is so much that is right about it – if we can only find a way of helping the education fraternity to harness it properly!
Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 | education, technology | 1 Comment
The toolbox of a writer contains words and grammar rules. Imagine how difficult it will be to express yourself if you have a vocabulary of only a hundred words and do not know how to write in the past tense.
A good writer strives to know how to manipulate all the rule of grammar and makes a point of learning new words. New words are constantly appearing. Think about new words that have been accepted recently: selfie, podcast, cyberbully and emoticon. The Oxford Dictionary word-of-the-year for 2014 is vape (meaning: to suck an electronic cigarette). A writer who wants to remain relevant must know these words and understand how and when to use them appropriately.
How do you learn new words? Few people sit with a dictionary trying to memorize words. Rather, as we read and encounter a new word we find the meaning and then try to use it when appropriate. The same applies to becoming proficient in the use grammar rules: practice makes perfect.
Now compare this with a teacher’s toolkit.
A teacher needs content knowledge, which must be updated regularly to remain relevant as the world around us changes. But the tools of the trade are also changing. A chalk board, books and pens are no longer sufficient. We live in a world dominated by technology and learners expect that technology tools be used for teaching and learning; the cell phones in their pockets are constant reminders that technology is a part of their life. Sadly, the skill to harness technology is often is not in the toolbox of the teacher.
How can a teacher remedy this situation? Get a device; play around with it; become familiar and comfortable with it; talk to other teachers who have already used technologies in their classrooms; then dive in and use it in your classroom. Remember: practice makes perfect.
Technology in education has a “vocabulary”: devices and content sources. It also has “grammar rules”: the rules of engagement and the skills to use it in support of teaching and learning.
Previous postings on this blog may give you some ideas of how you can become familiar with technology and how to use in your teaching. Click here to find an index to some of these postings.
Monday, May 5th, 2014 | education, technology | Comments Off
TPACK (Technology Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) … this is what I will focus on during the weeks to come!
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!
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.
Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 | technology, trends | Comments Off
Some time ago I posted an article on a phenomenon I called The conference scam. I received many messages through Twitter and LinkedIn of people who agreed with the sentiments I expressed about conferences dealing with technology in education. It should be noted, however, that not all conferences fall into this category.
Last week I went to a conference for teachers in Bloemfontein, organized by SchoolNet. What a delightful and worthwhile experience that was! It was attended by over five hundred teachers and the presentations were done mostly by teachers who shared their experience … this was clearly not a money-making event, but one that truly helped teachers to hone their skills.
Over the next few weeks, two more conferences will be held that may be worthwhile to attend.
The Education Technology Summit 2013 is scheduled for 23-24 July 2013 and takes place in Midrand, Johannesburg.
Blended Learning: Perfecting the Blend is the theme of the The e-Learning Update – 2013 conference that will take place 6-8 August 2013 at the Emperor’s Palace in Johannesburg.
Have a look at the programmes of these two conferences and decide if either one, or both, will be beneficial to you.
Monday, July 8th, 2013 | Tablet, technology | Comments Off
Having many choices is good, but too many options can be problematic. This is true in the case of a teacher who wants to purchase a tablet: the market is flooded by so many different types and models that it is a challenge to decide which tablet is the best one for you.
How will you go about choosing a tablet that’s right for you? Think about how you will select a car:
You’ll start off by considering what your needs are. Do you need a small car to take you to work, or a bigger one for your family, or a vehicle that you can use to transport goods for your job? You will consider the cost of vehicles and what you can afford. For some people additional features are important, such as a good sound system, air conditioning, park assist, and so on. Aesthetics may play a role, such as colour, shape and ergonomic features. Once you know what you want, the range of options is narrowed and the choice becomes easier. Your choice may be further restricted by models that are currently available through the vendors in your area.
You can follow the same approach when selecting a tablet. Think about your requirements. How do you plan to use it? What are your needs at present? How much can you afford? What is available?
Some of the things you would want to consider about your tablet include:
Size: do you want a small tablet to fit into your pocket or handbag, or do you need one with a larger screen size?
Platform: which operating system do you prefer?
Features: what are the special features that would make a tablet work for you?
Cost: can you afford it?
Brand: do you have a special brand preference?
Before rushing out to buy a tablet, have a look at the tablets of your colleagues and friends, talk to them, visit trade shows and ask a trusted vendor for advice.
For more information about tablets click here.
Sunday, June 30th, 2013 | internet, technology | Comments Off
The following media release may be of interest to you … it once again illustrates the value of harnessing technology.
How is My Drive.co.za strives to improve road safety and provides valuable feedback to drivers
Johannesburg, June 2013 — Every year approximately 14 000 people lose their lives in road traffic related accidents and thousands more are injured. How is My Drive.co.za has unveiled a new concept in South Africa which strives to improve these statistics. This new website provides road users with an easy-to-use online platform through which road incidents, such as bad driving, can be reported, stored and searched. This results in removing the anonymous nature of driving and provides valuable feedback to the public.
“The idea behind the website was developed after witnessing multiple incidents involving reckless driving and a disregard for the rules of the road, which is increasingly becoming the norm in South Africa,” said Igor Rodionov, the creator of the website. “After countless brain storming sessions it became clear that social responsibility and internet technology can be combined effectively to make a positive difference.”
Road users who are interested in improving road safety can create an account on the website and immediately become road spotters. This allows road users the ability to easily post road incident reports on any vehicle. Once the report is submitted, it gets verified and becomes available via the search feature.
The idea is that by allowing road spotters to submit various reports using their computer or mobile phone, the anonymous nature behind driving is removed and the public can receive valuable feedback regarding their driving style. Using this information, bad drivers can improve their driving behaviour and become more reluctant to break road rules. In return, road spotters can register their vehicle registration and receive email notifications when reports become available on their vehicle.
Additionally, the website provides businesses, a commercial solution which allows them to monitor their drivers by placing a How is My Drive.co.za decal at the back of their vehicles. Their system has multiple benefits to businesses including reductions in accident rates and costs. Since the system does not use expensive call centres, How is My Drive.co.za is able to offer businesses a cost-effective solution.
How is My Drive.co.za is a website which is committed to making a positive change in road behaviour and a good South African initiative. To obtain more information, please visit www.howismydrive.co.za.
[This is a guest post; the content was provided by Igor Rodionov.]
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