Teacher laptop initiative delayed … AGAIN!

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 | laptops

The long awaited implementation of the Teacher Laptop initiative is not yet happening.  According to reports, the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) has indicated that there is yet another delay.

The reasons for the delay are vague.  The bottom line to teachers: don’t rush out to buy your laptop unless you’ve received the go-ahead from your provincial authorities.

While the authorities are dragging their heals on the Teacher Laptop Initiative, most children in our schools are walking around with cell phones in their pockets.  They’re not using their mobile devices for making telephone calls – they mainly use them to send text messages and passing pictures to one another. 

This means that our learners are digitally connected.  Gone are the days of the digital divide for them – they have crossed the gulf.  Sadly, bureaucratic bungling left many of our teachers on the wrong side of the divide.


27 Comments to Teacher laptop initiative delayed … AGAIN!

Dwayne Bailey
Wednesday, 3 March, 2010

Doesn’t it worry you that your observation mocks the e-* that you guys have been talking about? We have learners who are the e-pioneers and the educators who are sitting waiting for laptops!

Mark C
Wednesday, 3 March, 2010

My advice to teachers have changed. Get your own laptop and don’t wait for the government. The same with the housing. People will wait forever. It does not matter which party is in power they are all basically the same. It is quite strange that millions are being bandied around in government and party circles but everybody else must tighten their belts.

By the way… I was sitting next to a PhD student busy writing up his thesis on Mobile Learning and being inquisitive I asked him what his findings were. His thesis shows that there is no significant difference in learner achievement whether they study with or without mobile phones. So the question is….how do mobile phones affect learning and teaching? In fact, does the Nokia project show that learners do better at Maths by using mobile technology or not? If this was measured, then did the researchers study which other factors could have contributed to an increase in learner achievement? In the same breath we should also ask what does research show about laptop use in teaching and learning?

Laptops as with mobile phones must just help us to do our job as teachers better.

Wednesday, 3 March, 2010

L = Left
A = Alone !
P = Poor
T = Teacher !
O = Our
P = Process (ICT Skills development)
S = Stopped….

Albie, My Apple is klein en compact (Compaq) and lê nou weer (Lenovo) somewhere (Samsung) ag siestog (Asus). Hi time (Hitachi) dat (Dell) to stuur (Toshiba) my a nuwe HP wat kan lê by my voetjies (Fujitsu). Meer (Mecer) kan ek nie sê, maar my hart a seer(Acer)oor die gesloer

Thursday, 4 March, 2010

Yes Dwayne, it bothers me! That’s why I posted this item, and made the comment in the last paragraph. Our learners are running technological circles around their teachers.

Thursday, 4 March, 2010

Question is – how many teachers will actually qualify for TLI now? Where will you be placed in rank out of 400,000. Principals first; assuming HODs next; management etc. When will the newer teachers -the new generation, the ones we want to assist to use technology and change the classroom experience finally receive their taxable allowance of R130 over the next five years? (and then they would have to make up the shortfall anyway) Who of the principals and senior ranked educators really WANTS a laptop? Who of them will put it to good use? Looking at the ads for laptops one can buy a laptop bundle for R250 per month X 36. Teachers who desperately want one should be encouraged to go out and buy one for themselves or it may be 2020 before they are even considered.

David Mathe
Thursday, 4 March, 2010

Very sad indeed that a project that created such hype and high expectations should be dogged by vagueness of intent. I however choose to differ with your PhD student Mark and say i think there could be, in the long run, and if used appropriately, a not-so-negligible difference in the achievements of pupils with and without mobile phones.

The factors that come into play could be, what is the mobile phone primarily used for, and how often. And most importantly, what functionality does the mobile phone have?

I have,on a number of ocassions, been “sitting next” to pupils exchanging their homework answers, peruse through the Encyclopaedia Brittanica etc. On the face of it, this should be stimulus enough to kickstart an improvement in one’s marks, but i may be wrong.

Mark C
Thursday, 4 March, 2010

There has been lots of educational research done by many rated researchers which prove what I say. In fact many have moved away from looking at learner achievement and ICT usage. Even from the conference held recently by the project that message came through. How we use technology in our daily lives is where the difference comes in.

Sitting next to another person may enrich the learning experience but may not actually lead to getting better marks. There mere fact that I can take a keen interest in baking cake and be involved in baking it does not make me a better baker. I can understand the process and even do many of the right things and still get it wrong. There are other mechanical, psychological, environmental and attitudinal factors that play a role that can short-circuit my attempt at being a better baker.

I can mention “khanya” schools that do well in mathematics without using any “Khanya” software. I live around from a school that did excellently in maths because they had good educators and tutors. Name me one “Khanya” school where due to the exclusive use of educational software they have done well in maths.

Look at the Physics results and at the top of the list in east are ex-model C schools who do not use technology in teaching the way we do. Where are all the other schools we support? Not one of them “at the top”. In fact the results where Physics is concerned is putrid. The factors mentioned why learners did so poorly cannot all be fixed by ICT.

Students were asked once what technology they require to make them do better in their studies. The women mentioned that they need washing machines although the lecturers thought that they would have asked for computers. In other parts of the world they did the same. The students asked for donkeys that would help them to get to school quicker. From this we learn that we have to give the education system what it needs, Sometimes what they need are not computers. We are looking at the problem because it serves our interests and not the interest of what issues the schools may face.

Using technology should address the need and that is to help enrich teaching and learning when educators and learners do what they normally do. None of the other fancy stuff that ICT offers in education really matters.

I am not against using technology in education. Neither have I changed my view of how technology should be used in education since I started working for the Khanya Project in 2004. I have always differed as to how technology is to be used.

We are still riding on one research piece done on maths in Khanya project (early 2000s) and anecdotal evidence that ICT improves learner achievement. No other scientific or educational research was done to prove what we do.

David Mathe
Friday, 5 March, 2010

Nice debate Mark. I fully agree with you that it is how differently some schools use technology. However one researcher summed it up and said “..through the use of advanced computing and telecommunications technology, learning can also be qualitatively different. The process of learning in the classroom can become significantly richer as students have access to new and different types of information, can manipulate it on the computer through graphic displays or controlled experiments in ways never before possible, and can communicate their results and conclusions in a variety of media to their teacher, students in the next classroom, or students around the world. For example, using technology, students can collect and graph real-time weather, environmental, and populations data from their community, use that data to create color maps and graphs, and then compare these maps to others created by students in other communities. Similarly, instead of reading about the human circulatory system and seeing textbook pictures depicting bloodflow, students can use technology to see blood moving through veins and arteries, watch the process of oxygen entering the bloodstream, and experiment to understand the effects of increased pulse or cholesterol-filled arteries on blood flow.”

“We know now – based on decades of use in schools, on findings of hundreds of research studies, and on the everyday experiences of educators, students, and their families – that, properly used, technology can enhance the achievement of all students, increase families’ involvement in their children’s schooling, improve teachers’ skills and knowledge, and improve school administration and management.”

In my view, those schools, call them ex-Model C schools may be doing very well simply because they use technology in one form or another. Good marks and technology in this case are not mutually exclusive, in fact one complements the other, i think.

Any worker would definitely do better in terms of performance and output if equipped with appropriate technology…and any worker would include students.

Mark C
Friday, 5 March, 2010

You are correct David, the qualitative aspects are important and that is what we should look at. The problem is that many of our colleagues are exclusively looking at the quantitative aspects. The bottom line is that only results count. We still have a lot of work to do here. It is a pity that not more people would enter into this debate as we can learn from each other. I still think we should deviate from our strait-jacket approach to the use of ICT in education.

Dereck Marnewick
Saturday, 6 March, 2010

It’s always difficult to admit to be wrong, especially when you think it’s going to have an effect on your means of income.
If I were still teaching, I would not so much use ICT as a teaching tool, but rather as a tool to free me up from the administration and other things related to my teaching so that I can prepare better, know my learners better, know my subject better and therefore be a more effective and productive teacher.

Mark C
Saturday, 6 March, 2010

I was thinking about a few companies’ slogans:
Nokia (Mobile): “Connecting People”
Nike (Shoes): “Just do it”
Telkom (communication):”Touch tomorrow”
Toyota (Cars): “Lead the way” (maybe not the best example now)
Twitter: “Share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world.”
Google : “Don’t be evil”
All the slogans hit at the heart of what people do. There may be guidelines on how to use their products but a person may use it to their advantage or disadvantage as they wish.
What is it that educators and learners do and what is it that they need to learn more effectively?

Saturday, 6 March, 2010

Mark, I am intrigued by your comment: “I still think we should deviate from our strait-jacket approach to the use of ICT in education.” What do you have in mind?

Mark C
Sunday, 7 March, 2010

I don’t think it is ground-breaking stuff but I will make some comments later. One of it is to move away from click-click software to more knowledge construction (for lack of a better phrase) using everyday tools. These tools may not necessarily be computers but any technology that will facilitate learning. I have to formulate a longer answer but unfortunately I am juggling a few balls (e.g. trying to get my assignments done before tomorrow afternoon). I think I will mention a few ideas as you write many of your insightful blogs…which I think is another way we should encourage.

Mark C
Tuesday, 9 March, 2010

Many learners do not study properly and cannot see any pathway through work (roadmap) . A program we used to have in the primary school basket of software was Inspirations, a propriety package. Most probably due to under-utilization it was removed, yet this piece of software teaches people skills that they need right through their lives (brain-storming ideas, studying etc.). This software presents a good visual picture of what people are doing, why the are doing and where all the pieces of a puzzle fit it. Of course I would push for freeware such as Freemind and X-mind etc. I will be including this in some of my training during next quarter. I came up with the idea when I saw a pattern in what I was doing when teaching organic chemistry. The software does not make itself “formula friendly” but it can work in some way. You can use this with pen-and-paper but doing it the e-way, on an electronic whiteboard is better.

Mark C
Thursday, 11 March, 2010

Some time ago I spoke to an educator teaching at an independent school. He mentioned that he uses Moodle, a content management system, to assign learners work. It is multi-platform and saves him time marking. There are various assessment modes on the system such as MCQs, matching, True-false, etc. (We do have some of this in our current software but the reporting for portfolio purposes is not always accessible). These types of testing appears in many question papers. The teacher does the normal setting up of the questions, choose the correct answers and bangs them out with immediate feedback.

I am not pushing Moodle, but I think it is worth a try. This suggestion worries me a bit in the sense of that teacherś as developers (even of tests) do not always work very well. In my earlier years at Khanya Moodle was show-cased by CEI but never really looked at as an option for schools(?).

I would also suggest we look at another platform such as Apple and Linux as many CMS are web-based. There are not a lot of viruses written for both these operating systems. On top of it, for Linux there are loads of freeware that can be downloaded and used.

The downfall is that one needs a reliable internet connection and committed PEOPLE. The skills to run a server different from the normal Windows server needs to be trained and it is not easy. Looking at the government’s commitment to signing agreements using FOSS first but then continuing the Windows way somehow does not make sense to me. So Mac and Linux do not have much impact in our schools.

The content management system has been around a long time. Have we given it a bash yet? If so, what was the outcome?

Reza Bardien
Sunday, 14 March, 2010

Take a look at the McKinsey Report: “Shaping the Future: How Good Education Systems Can Become Great in the Decade Ahead” It identifies the quality and competency levels of teachers as central to ‘effective education systems’ and postures the ‘appropriate’ role of technology. Although South Africa is not included in this report, it is telling when we consider the challenges faced by the education system in this country.

How do we ensure that we hire the best and most competent teachers and school leadership into our education system, ensure tenure so that the system can gain from experienced teachers, actively promote relevant teacher professional development and ensure that teachers are supported by systems and tools to be more effective? Clearly technology has a role to play in supporting teachers as the kingpin toward a successful education system but we need to have consensus re. both the challenges as well as the priorities that need to be addressed and who carries this mandate.

We have the compounded challenge in South Africa with a ‘good percentage’ of our teachers being ‘under qualified’ to teach the subjects at the levels that they’ve been appointed to. Let’s not be confused that the TLI on its own without systemic transformation will effect the improvement that we all seek. A qualified, competent, experienced, innovative and motivated teacher in an effective and supportive school, district, Provincial and national education system, with appropriate learning and teaching resources (including a laptop) is powerful! How do we drive a multi-stakeholder partnership to make this a reality?

Reza Bardien
Sunday, 14 March, 2010

As a follow on from the comments above, what would it look like, integrating the TLI under the banner of the “Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign” with a tangible, decisive and courageous execution plan for each Provincial DoE which aligns and leads all education initiatives within each Province? Would the TLI take on a different function? Would we measure success of the TLI differently? What would teachers include as priorities in the ‘Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign? How do we address the critical issue of accountability, responsibility and leadership is such a broader campaign? What can we learn from the global experience that contributes toward ‘GloCal’ success?

Reza Bardien
Sunday, 14 March, 2010
Sunday, 14 March, 2010

Thank you for your most valuable comments(and link) Reza. I agree with you wholeheartedly that the TLI can only be successfull if it is part of a wider drive to improve the quality/ability/attitude of our teachers. It’s good to know we have good partners joining in the fight!

Thursday, 18 March, 2010

I have used Moodle for a while in my Lab, about 5 years ago, and really it is a wonderful tool, I tried getting other teachers to join, but its difficult as they are so ‘scared’ or ‘lazy’, and you end up doing all the work, and it really takes lots of effort to get all the tests setup. Mark, we used Xampp and hosted Moodle on a localserver. I think that CEI have moved on to LAMS: http://www.lamsinternational.com/

I also try to expose my learners to different CMS’s to show them how easy it is to get your ideas on the web, Joomla, WordPress etc as opposed to the Facebook hype.

And coming back to the Laptop initiative, I would recommend the ASUS 1201n, a 12.1″ netbook that has got some good specs.

Reza Bardien
Sunday, 21 March, 2010
Tuesday, 23 March, 2010

Thanks for the link, Reza

Mark C
Thursday, 25 March, 2010

Can we move on to use web 2.0 tools with educators already? Online repositories of information are lying on the internet which educators in disadvantaged schools are not accessing yet.

Thursday, 25 March, 2010

Of course, Mark, you can do that immediately, provided the particular teacher is ready for it. That is the ultimate goal: to empower teachers to use state of the art tools to create learning experiences for their learners. The use of packaged software is merely a stepping stone to achieve this ultimate objective. So, if you have teachers you feel can make the leap to Web 2.0 (and beyond!) tools … go for it!

Laptops in pakistan
Thursday, 28 October, 2010

nice one i really like it Very interesting post. I really enjoyed read this awesome blog post.

Henk Arangies
Tuesday, 7 December, 2010

Hi Kobus – very interesting thoughts and interesting people in this Blog – I’m busy with Moodle as well and am looking at a very simple deployment of it in a Primary School – I’ll give some more info later.

Jan Viljoen
Tuesday, 21 December, 2010

In my opinion the most important thing is to simply get started – this is the only way to start building skills – and overcome the enormous challenges on at a time.

We are looking at ways to provide teachers/schools with a simplified version of Moodle – a kind of a “getting started” out of a “box” (together with e-learning content) – through a new initiative (XpertkidZ) launching in January 2011. In many cases teachers do not even know how to use a computer never mind complex LMS’s. Teachers need to be able to learn how to use a simple system quickly or they will simply not use it and if they do not use it, they will not extend it to the classrooms. The Microsoft Digital Literacy content is great and we want to incorporate this into the simplified version of Moodle together with further content (we are currently in negotiations with some suppliers). We want to offer this via the XpertkidZ for free (the intention is to always offer the content free, tools, supporting products & services for free and possibly later offer “pay-for” products such as further educational software & resources at a price but still at as low a price as possible – on a non-profit basis and subsidized through whatever funding we can get) but this means that initially only teachers/schools/children with web access will be able to access it. Once it’s up and running we want to also provide the tools and content on CD/DVD with a “getting started” manual.

There’s a lot more detail to this – will communicate this soon… Once version 1 of XpertkidZ is up & running I’ll post details here for your thoughts and input – it will be before the end of January so within the next month & a bit.

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