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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What are the show-stoppers of technology in schools?

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 | e-Learning pioneers, technology | 4 Comments

A show-stopper in a theatre is an act so striking or impressive that the show must be delayed until the audience quiets down.  It is something positive, a WOW moment.  But some shows are also stopped by BOO moments, when something so terrible happens that the show simply can’t go on.

What can stop teachers from using technology in the classroom?  What are the BOOs that can bring down the curtain on teaching and learning through technology?

Don't let the curtain come down on the bright light of technology


Here are three potential show stoppers:

The technology does not work and nobody is around to fix it.

The teacher does not know how to use the technology.

Appropriate material for use in the classroom is not available.

What can YOU do to make sure that the e-learning show goes on?

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Is ICT in schools always successful?

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011 | education, technology, Tips | 4 Comments

When technology is installed in a school some believe that it will lead to immediate improvement in teaching and learning.  Wrong assumption!  It does not always work that way.

Consider the following conditions under which ICT will not  be succesful:

ICT is unlikely to succeed in a school that does not have good leadership. 

ICT is unlikely to succeed in a dysfunctional school – first sort out management issues before investing in expensive tools. 

ICT is unlikely to succeed in a school in the absence of adequate infrastructure – attend to this first. 

ICT is unlikely to succeed in a school where teachers are not motivated to become involved and try it out in the classroom. 

ICT is unlikely to succeed in a school where technical support is not freely available.

If ICT is not as succesful in your school as you would like it to be, it may be owing to one or more of these factors.  Identifying the barrier is the first step towards removing it.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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Why should you even think about bringing ICT into a school?

Friday, May 13th, 2011 | education, ICT in Africa, technology | 3 Comments

Technology is brought to schools at great cost.  Some question whether one should even consider doing this, particularly in view of the many other needs of schools.  Ponder the following statements before you conclude that ICT should not be a high priority in a twenty-first century school:

If technology is used with great benefit in most fields of human endeavour, surely it must be useful in education too.

The digital divide must be removed as soon as possible – it hampers efforts to narrow the gap between rich and poor. 

It’s impossible for teachers to help learners cross the digital divide in a classroom that dates back to a pre-digital age. 

The new ways in which we receive and respond to information demands visual, media and digital literacies from learners.

Digital literacy is the new literacy – without it, it’s impossible to call yourself literate in this digital world.

The classroom blackboard was invented in 1801 – how can we teach digital skills on such an ancient device?

In a world dominated by technology we dare not let learners leave school without a deep understanding of the use of ICT.

The world around us dictates that ICT must be a part of school curricula – it is no longer a question of “why” but “how”.

It’s as if children are naturally inclined towards technology – cash in on this and use ICT to incline them towards learning.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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Is there any justification for a computer room in a school?

Friday, April 22nd, 2011 | technology, Tips | 4 Comments

Some claim that computer rooms are of little value in schools.  Does a computer room have a place in a modern school?  Consider the following points:

When a school has limited funds, a computer room allows all learners in the school to move through it on at equitable basis. 

When technology enters a school the first time a computer room has the advantage of providing a training venue for teachers. 

Converting a classroom into a computer room doesn’t rob the school of a teaching venue if it’s used for teaching and learning. 

In a computer room, learners can acquire computer skills while working under the supervision and guidance of a teacher. 

Computer rooms and classroom ICTs both have a place in schools provided they are used optimally by teachers and learners.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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What is USB 3.0?

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011 | technology | 3 Comments

Do you know what USB 3.0 is?  Rashed Khan offered to do a guest blog posting on this topic for those of you who are interested in staying up to date with the latest technologies.  Rashed says:

I think it is safe to say that my dad knows literally nothing about computers (sorry dad) but even he has heard about and knows what USB is, in fact I believe it is quite rare to find someone who has not heard of USB (Universal Serial Bus) as it has quickly become the most commonly used peripheral bus used on computers and laptops today. Just about anything that connects to your computer or laptop connects via a USB port whether it is a digital camera, a Mobile Phone or even a digital photo frame.

The new USB 3.0 adds a number of additional benefits but before we look at this, let’s take a brief look at the history of USB to determine why it has done so well.

How did USB come about?

IBM started off the revolution of implementing removal media into their computers by creating the keyboard which (unlike the previous keyboards) was not attached to the computer itself but was to be connected to it via a port called the AT Keyboard port. The concept of being able to detach Computer hardware (keyboard, mouse etc.) became an instant hit and many computer manufacturers followed the trend by adding their own ports which could do the same job as IBM’s AT Keyboard port. However, during the mid-90’s a problem was arising in the fact that more or less every manufacturer had their own port so if you had a keyboard made by one manufacturer, you would not be able to use it on a computer made by another manufacturer

USB was created during the early 90’s but its success really began to escalate during 1996 when it was marketed as the single Peripheral which would be used universally by all the manufacturers. Many manufacturers jumped on the USB bandwagon by adding USB ports as well as their own ports on their computers and Apple completely dropped their old ADB ports in order to introduce USB ports on all their computers during 1998. By the year 2000, it became rare to find a computer which did not have a USB port. One of the key benefits with USB was that it was able to power small devices requiring up to half an amp at 5 Volts which has introduced a whole host of unusual devices to be powered by USB such as USB Record players, USB podcast studios and even USB rechargeable batteries!

USB 2.0

USB was re-designed in order to optimise its performance during 2006 and was called USB 2.0. The key benefit of USB 2.0 was that it had a much faster transfer rate than the old USB 1.0 as it was 40 times faster. A faster data transfer rate means that the user does not have to wait as long for data to be transferred from their removable device to the computer.

Arguably one of the key factors in the success of the USB 1.0 was that (unlike the other ports) it did not have any compatibility issues, which is why USB 2.0 was made backwards compatible. This meant that USB 1.0 products could be connected to a USB 2.0 port and would still work but would run at the speed of USB 1.0 rather than at the faster speed of USB 2.0.

Enter USB 3.0

The new USB 3.0 boasts a massive transfer rate of a maximum of a huge 5 Gbps! This makes it around 10 times faster than the old USB 2.0 which still has a respectable transfer rate speed of up to 480Mps.

A new feature of USB 3.0 is that it only transmits data to the port that needs the data which means that USB ports that are not currently being used can go into an energy saving state thus helping to reduce power consumption.

Support for USB 3.0 is quickly becoming widespread as a number of the new computer are now supporting it and if you want to get hold of a device with the new USB 3.0 hardware, look out for the SuperSpeed certified logo.

I thank Rashed for this explanation of USB 3.0.

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