technology

How do I go about choosing a tablet that’s right for me?

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.

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Technology is used to improve safety on South African roads

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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What is the uptake of ebooks in South African Schools?

Monday, February 4th, 2013 | Blogging, e-Learning pioneers, technology | Comments Off

Ask this question to different people and you will get different responses:

Vendors of tablets may point to some schools where ebooks are already in use and argue that they are a reality in many schools and that other schools are catching on at lightning speed.

Education departments, in general, have little to say about this topic.

Only a small percentage of teachers want to see ebooks in their classrooms … the majority will hang onto printed ones for as long as they can.

So, what is the real uptake of ebooks in South African schools?  The folks that know best are the book publishers.  They should be able to tell us how ebook distribution compares with that of printed textbooks.

The biggest supplier of textbooks to schools in South Africa reckons that “SA schools [are] still slow to catch on with ebooks”.

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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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5 Tips for teachers to get going with technology

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 | technology, Tips | Comments Off

Where do I start?

Where do I start?

Are you a teacher who would like to improve your teaching in the classroom?

Have you considered using technology as a tool to do so?  But you’re facing a dilemma – you’re not a technology boffin and you don’t know how to learn to use it?

Here are a few tips that may help you to get going:

A quick and easy way for you to learn to use technology is to buy it, switch it on, use it and ask for help when you’re stuck.

When you consider a technology training course, remember that Just-In-Time (JIT) training is recommended otherwise new skills can’t be reinforced and are soon forgotten.

You would likely respond best to face-to-face training; the comfort of the warm-body experience must not be under estimated.

A blended approach is possibly the best way of learning to use technology, using different available training options such as: enrolling for a training course; making use of e-learning material; trial and error discovery; and asking a friend for help when you’re stuck.

If you’re a technology novice, you may initially find entertainment available on a computer or a tablet (or even your smart phone) a painless introduction to technology.  Play a game, or download a few videos, or start reading an e-book, or sign up for one of the social networks.

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Technology encourages learner involvement

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 | education, technology | Comments Off

Recently I saw the following two quotations tweeted on Twitter:

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. (Oscar Wilde)

Tell me, I’ll forget; show me, I’ll remember; involve me, I’ll understand. (Chinese proverb)

From the re-tweets and re-re-tweets of these snippets of wisdom it seems as if the sentiments expressed in them find resonance with many who are serious about education.

Telling happens when a teacher teaches or a lecturer presents a lecture.  A good teacher will also show … using diagrams, real world models, doing experiments, even showing video clips to serve as memory aids.  Sadly, that is where teaching in the classroom often ends.

Involvement of learners is important … but how do you accomplish this?  More than teaching and showing is required.  Involvement means that the learners must jump in boots and all into the learning material and participate in the learning process.  The result is that learners will make worthwhile knowledge their own because they have been active partners in the learning process.

You may have guessed where this is going – yes, technology is a powerful tool for teachers to involve learners.  The following are just a few of the many ways in which technology can take the classroom beyond a mere lecture room:

As the name implies, an interactive whiteboard (IWB) makes it possible for the teacher to involve the learners in the learning process in many different ways.  The good news is that some data projectors now have interactive features, which obviates the need for an expensive IWB, yet allowing for interactive learning to take place.

Learners love their cell phones and innovative teachers are already using these devices to draw learners into the learning experience.  Tablets play a similar role (for those who can afford them).

Where learners have access to the internet, they can create their own knowledge by doing research.  No more spoon feeding … learners can be taught to find, evaluate and analyse information and then synthesize what they’ve gathered into knowledge which they make their own.

Mathematical skills are acquired through practise, practise and still more practise.  Drill-and-practice programs are available on technology devices and these can be used to help learners to hone and own mathematical skills.

The screens of cell phones, tablets or computers encourage reading and the keyboards encourage writing.  Active use of these devices develop reading and writing skills … much needed in our country where the education system has not succeeded in “teaching” and “showing” these skills.

Let’s not just marvel at the wisdom of Wilde and the Chinese … put it in practice by harnessing technology to make learners active and eager participants in the learning process.

What learners will learn, experience and understand through active involvement is much, much better than all our well-prepared and smoothly presented lessons.

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Why should teachers and principals bother about ICT?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 | ICT in Africa, technology | Comments Off

So, what is this thing called ICT that principals and teachers are encouraged to use?

In the field of technology many abbreviations and acronyms are used and they can be confusing particularly if you don’t know their origin.

ICT is the abbreviation of Information and Communication Technology.

In the past, information was available almost exclusively in printed form.  Teachers used books to teach and learners used books to learn.  Modern technology makes it possible for information to be stored and accessed in other ways.

All these tools are available to teachers

Information technologies refer to electronic tools on which information can be made available.  A computer or laptop used to be the most common form of information technology but tablets and other mobile devices are now used widely.

Communication technologies refer to electronic tools used for communication.  The telephone and cell phone are examples of such technologies.

A few decades ago different information and communication technologies were represented by separate tools.  For example, a computer and a telephone were distinctly different tools and they were used separately.  Today, many information and communication tools have converged on single devices: you can make Skype calls from your computer; you can also use your cell phone to perform operations that you would normally associate with a computer, such as sending an e-mail. It should therefore be clear why the term ICT is used to include all information and communication technologies that are available for communicating information in the modern world.

ICT includes any tool that can receive, retrieve, store, manipulate and transmit information electronically.  It enables you to use tools such as Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Mxit, Whatsapp, the internet and email to share and communicate information around the globe.

The potential of ICT in education is great – it is up to you, the educator (teacher or principal), to explore the many ways in which it can help you in your school.

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Could teachers soon be replaced by technology?

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 | education, technology | 2 Comments

The proponents of technology say, “YES.”  The education fraternity says, “NEVER.”

This question is discussed in an interesting blog posting on the blog Education Land, maintained by a teacher of English in Saudi Arabia. A few interesting comments, giving some food for thought, are found in this posting.  For example, the following observation is made:

Computers and technology already serve as teaching aides. Whether it’s teaching children their ABC’s or helping a college freshman memorize the periodic table, technology for educational purposes is already available.

Is this the future of education?

It is already possible for technology to take over some of the functions of teachers.

As technology tools become cheaper and more readily available, we can anticipate that it will take over more functions of teachers.

Will technology ever replace teachers?  Perhaps not completely, but it can go a long way towards filling the void where there is a shortage of teaching skills.

Picture credit

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Why does ICT in the hands of teachers sometimes fail?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011 | technology | 2 Comments

Technology can be a valuable tool in the hands of teachers.  Sadly, at times it does not result in improved teaching and learning, leading some to conclude that technology “does not work” and, to use a cliché, the baby is then thrown out with the bathwater.

Don’t be too quick to judge technology if it does not yield the expected results in a particular classroom or school.  Bear the following facts in mind:

ICT is not a magic wand – its presence alone in a classroom is no guarantee that a teacher will miraculously become a good one.

One of the biggest – and most serious – problems encountered with ICT in education is under-utilization by teachers.  This is not a technology failure, but a human (and often a systemic) failure.

Technology can empower teachers but it is only a tool; true empowerment depends on how this tool is used.  It may take time for teachers to become skillful users of technology.

Vast as the potential is, ICT can only transform education if teachers are willing to tap into it!  You may have a huge water reservoir, but if you are not prepared to tip your bucket into it to draw water you can’t expect to quench your thirst.

Metathesiophibia – a fear of change – leads to stagnation; teachers can’t afford this when it comes to using ICT in school.

When you see a classroom where avaialble technology has not yet brought about a change for the better, consider carefully where the problem lies: with the technololgy, the teacher or the system.  Then put appropriate processes in place to remedy the matter.

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Technology has changed the world … but not education

Monday, June 27th, 2011 | education, technology | 5 Comments

Young people may not realize how much the world has changed because they were not alive to see what it was like in the past. If they talk to their parents – or better even, their grandparents – they may be surprised to learn how many changes took place during only the last two generations.

Some of the changes older people will recall are:

The way in which we communicate is different. Fifty years ago people wrote letters by hand or with a type-writer and sent them by what the current generation calls “snail mail” – now we’re sending emails and text messages, reaching their destination instantly. A telephone call was a time consuming business, since calls were put through manually by operators – now we are directly in touch with people in all parts of the world though technologies such as cell phones and Skype.

Computers and the internet have changed the way in which we entertain ourselves. In the past international sports events were available to only a few – today the whole world can watch world cup events in real time. We had to go to the movies to see a movie – now we can watch the latest movies at home, even on our cell phones. And just think about computer games – they opened a whole new world of entertainment to us.

 The way we work has changed. Over the years we have moved from manual labour to the use of machines to help us do our work. In more recent times this has again changed to a situation where electronic devices are taking over the functions of both machines and people.

What has made all these changes possible? They all happened because of technology.

Can you think of any area of life where technology has not brought about changes?

The one area that stands out like a sore thumb is education. Technology has not yet succeeded in transforming education, even in countries where it is available in schools. On the African continent (including South Africa) we are even further behind.

Most jobs today require proficiency in the use of technology. Organizations may rightly expect that people working for them will have technology skills, but the basic education system does not equip learners with those skills. The general lack of the use of technology in schools therefore places a burden on tertiary education institutions and the economy.

We can ill afford this situation to continue.

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