Implementation Issues

Do teachers need a Learning Management System (LMS)?

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 | Implementation Issues, trends | Comments Off

How necessary is a Learning Management System (LMS) for teachers?  Some claim that it is an essential foundational element of e-learning, whereas others believe that the concept of an LMS is oversold.

An LMS can do a lot for a teacher.  In addition to being a repository for learning content and materials, organized in a way that they can easily be retrieved, an LMS manages learner engagements and results, and provides teachers and school managers with useful learner and class management information.

The problem is that many teachers feel that an LMS is way too complicated and that it takes too long to master all its functionality.  So how do we solve this problem?

A stamp album meets a specific need.

A stamp album meets a specific need.

Let me use an analogy.  As a philatelist I started collecting stamps many years ago.  My first schoolboy collection consisted of about twenty stamps, which I kept in a cigarette box.  As the number of stamps increased the small box was no longer good enough and I needed a way in which the stamps could be displayed easily – that’s when I discovered a wonderful tool called a stamp album.  When the collection developed into country and theme sub-collections, one album was not enough.  Eventually my study had to be refurbished, installing rows of shelves for the albums and specially designed drawers to store duplicate stamps in catalogued envelopes.

The point of this is that I did not require an elaborate system at first; the need developed progressively, and so did the solution.

I would argue that the same is true of teachers and an LMS.  Initially, when starting to use technology at school, teachers may only need a simple digital folder to store lesson plans and perhaps a spreadsheet to keep record of learner scores.  As they continue using technology and come to realize they can do new things, they discover new needs and would be looking for better storing and reporting systems.  Then – one day – they realize: the solution is an LMS!  And once they get the hang of it, they will never do without it again.

NOTE TO e-EDUCATION IMPLEMENTERS: Don’t force an LMS down the throats of teachers … grant them the time, space, training and technology to grow into the adoption of a Learning Management System.

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What is the best type of chair for your school’s computer room?

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 | Implementation Issues, Tips | Comments Off

By the time a school has purchased hardware and software to kit out a computer room, there is usually not much funds left for other things, such as chairs.  Yet, learners need to be seated comfortably in order to obtain full value of the technology.

Many schools have found that simple, cheap chairs – such as bar stools – are the best.

After 8 years of constant use, this stool still serves its purpose

Some learners must computers share
It could be two or three
They can not all sit on one chair
Or on each other’s knee

Do not go just for fancy chairs
Look carefully at price
When learners have to work in pairs
Choose those that will suffice

Search for a chair that’s small enough
The learners must sit near
To look at screens for long is tough
Each word to them be clear

The best with chairs that one can do
Is buying small bar stools
At a good price they come to you
They’re just right for the schools

(Taken from Furnishings, a section of The Khanya Story)

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Why ICT implementation in schools requires serious consideration

Thursday, September 8th, 2011 | Implementation Issues | Comments Off

Implementing an ICT project in a scool is not a simple matter.  Just because you’re experienced in the use of computers won’t guarantee implementation success.  Much more is involved.

The following suggestions could help you to succeed when you attempt the next ICT project in your school:

Outsource ICT implementation to a competent service provider if a school or education authority does not have internal capacity to do so.

Take time to conceive an ICT implementation project; it is too complex to do in one meeting or session.

Don’t try to impose a standard ICT solution – schools differ too much and one size simply does not fit all.

Most schools were not built with ICT implementation in mind; be prepared for considerable infrastructure modifications.

Ensure the quality of the ICT facility’s infrastructure – technology will be refreshed periodically, infrastructure not.

If the school’s electricity supply is unstable, ensure an uninterruptible power supply (UPS); it is essential.

Involve the school’s community during the early infrastructure phase of an ICT project; it ensures buy-in and ongoing support.

Identify an ICT champion from the ranks of the school’s staff to support the implementation of ICT from within the school.

Did you notice that not one of these suggestions has nothing to do with technology?  Yes, technology itself will be the least of your worries when you set out to bring ICT into your classroom or into your school.

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

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The total cost of ownership (TCO) of implementing ICT in schools

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 | Implementation Issues | 1 Comment

Do not think for one moment that the cost of implementing ICT in schools is restricted to the cost of hardware.  When contemplating to bring technology into your school for the first time, or to expand its use, consider the following:

The total cost of ownership of ICT in a school is much more than the initial cost – it includes recurring and hidden costs.

Recurring costs of ICT are those that come back again and again, such as software licence fees and often exceed the initial cost.

Hidden costs are those expenses that you don’t foresee when you purchase ICT equipment, such as additional training.

The main cost of installing ICT in your school may not be the technology itself but rather that of creating an appropriate infrastructure.

Never underestimate the cost of training teachers to equip them with the necessary skills to use ICT optimally.

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

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Even windows are important in a school’s computer room

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 | Implementation Issues | Comments Off

Neglecting to pay sufficient attention to infrastructure issues is one of the most common mistakes made when implementing technology in a school. 

How much thought do you give to the windows in your computer room?

You may think that the windows in the room where the technology will be deployed do not warrant attention.  Wrong!  Consider the following suggestions that could make all the difference in your computer room, or even in your classroom if you are fortunate enough to have technology there:

Vinyl or plastic blinds are better than curtains in a school’s computer room – they’re easier to keep dust free.

Paint windows with enamel paint if you can’t afford curtains or blinds – this reduces glare from sunlight on computer screens. 

Brick up a computer room’s windows, or part of them – this decreases the likelihood of burglaries.

In dusty areas, seal the windows of the school’s computer room with silicon to prevent dust from seeping into the room.

When sealing the windows of a school’s computer room to combat dust make provision for adequate ventilation.

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

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Infrastructure preparation for ICT facilities in schools

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 | Implementation Issues | 3 Comments

Never underestimate the importance of creating a suitable environment and adequate infrastructure when planning to bring ICT into a school.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

When a school decides to establish a computer room, a venue of adequate size and structure must be made available.

Any venue in which ICT is installed in a school must be secured in all possible ways to keep criminals out.

Provide a stable electricity supply and a plug point for each piece of ICT equipment you bring into a school room.

An air conditioner is not a luxury item in a computer room where windows and doors are closed to prevent dust from coming in.

Computers in schools should not be put on rickety tables – provide a firm working surface, safe for learners and equipment.

Sufficient lighting is required when ICT is brought into a school room but it must be possible to dim it to reduce glare.

Even the floor of a computer room in a school forms part of infrastructure – it must be firm, level and easy to clean.

Humidity is an enemy of ICT equipment – waterproof the doors, windows and ceiling of the school rooms in which it is housed.

Don’t forget to install fire extinguishers, which meet safety requirements, in your school’s computer room.

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


Why should ICT implementation in a school not be attempted without project management?

Sunday, June 12th, 2011 | Implementation Issues | 2 Comments

Implementation of ICT in schools is labour intensive.  An aspect often over-looked is that of project management.  Here are a few thoughts to ponder when you consider bringing ICT into your school for the first time, or when you plan to expand your current technology facilities:

ICT implementation projects require extensive project management – these projects will not succeed by themselves.

Prepare an individualized project plan for every new ICT implementation in the school – each roll-out is unique.

If project management capacity to implement an ICT project is not available in a school, obtain it from outside.

ICT projects involve infrastructure, hardware, software and training – a project manager is required to pull them all together.

An ICT project plan sets out who must do what, in what sequence it should be done, and how much it will cost.

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

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What are the infrastucture costs that I may incur before installing an interactive whiteboard?

Thursday, September 24th, 2009 | Implementation Issues, IWBs | 3 Comments

Never underestimate the cost of infrastructure preparation to accommodate an interactive whiteboard in the classroom.  Your requirements depend on the state of the room and the type of equipment you want to install.

The following is a list of things that need attention:

Security: Some form of security in the room is always required to protect your equipment.  The computer and data projector are particularly vulnerable since they are portable and are easy to resell.

Electricity: You will need a few electricity plug points, and these must be in convenient places.  If you install the data projector in the ceiling, provision must be made for a plug close to where the data projector is mounted.

Internet: If the school already has access to the internet, ducting must be installed to house the connection wires to the point of access.

Light: It must be possible to reduce harsh light to enable all present to see the images on the board comfortably.

Worktop: The teacher requires a sturdy worktop on which to place the computer – in most cases a small cabinet suffices.

Wall: A sturdy wall is required on which to mount the board.  Walls of old schools are often made of clay or wood that may not be strong enough to hold the weight of the board – in these cases reinforcement is required.

You may fret about the cost of the board itself, but could find that the real killer is the cost to create an acceptable infrastructure.

Click here for more information about interactive whiteboards.

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Don’t underestimate infrastructure

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 | ICT in Africa, Implementation Issues | 4 Comments

The hole in the picture below is an important step towards technology installation at a school in Grabouw, South Africa.  It was dug to erect a pole that will carry electricity to the school.

Hole dug to provide electricity to Umyezo Wama Apile School - picture taken by Jaco Joseph

Hole dug to provide electricity to Umyezo Wama Apile School - picture taken by Jaco Joseph

The importance of infrastructure preparation as a first step towards technology implementation in schools in Africa is often under-stated or outright ignored.

While talking about e-learning and Web 2.0 and social networks and the classroom of the future, and debating the merits and demerits of specific operating and application software products, don’t forget that there are more mundane things that can make or break your project … such as digging a hole for the electricity pole!

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What is meant by the “total cost of ownership” of a laptop?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 | Implementation Issues, laptops, resources | 4 Comments

The phrase Total Cost of Ownership – often referred to as TCO – means exactly what it says.  When the term is applied to a laptop, it refers to the accumulated costs incurred from the time you purchase the device until you dispose of it.

It is a mistake to think only about the purchase price of a laptop.  There are many other costs that must be considered as part of the total cost of ownership of the machine.

An analogy may help to explain the concept of TCO.

A ten year old boy, Thabo, wanted a dog.  He saw all his friends walking around with their dogs but his parents could not afford to buy one for him. 

Then they heard that puppies were available at no cost from the animal welfare society.  Thabo’s father rushed out to select Fluffy, a cute puppy with some Labrador blood in him. The boy was ecstatic.

At first the puppy ate leftovers from the table and slept in the house.  As he grew, his appetite increased and he became too big for the box in which he slept in front of Thabo’s bed.  The family could not afford a kennel, since their resources were already stretched to the limit by the dog food that was required by the growing dog.

At this time the municipality passed a by-law demanding that all dogs be neutered or spayed, or else a tax would be levied for permission to keep the dog.  Thabo’s parents could not afford either.  A distemper epidemic broke out among the dogs in the neighbourhood, and the cost to vaccinate Fluffy was high. The family realised that they were faced with a dilemma: the boy and the dog were inseparable, but they could not afford to keep the dog any longer.

What went wrong?  Simply: they did not consider the total cost of ownership of a dog before they took Fluffy home.

Owning a laptop is similar.  A teacher may acquire one at no cost, or at a fraction of its normal purchase price, but could forget about the cost of keeping a laptop.

Before rushing out to bring a laptop home, do the wise thing: calculate the total cost of ownership.  Then consider if you can afford one.

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