Friday, October 14th, 2011 | e-Learning pioneers
Albie Smith is currently a Khanya facilitator in the Metropole East district of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). He is passionate about technology and is an excellent example of what an e-pioneer should be like; he is also a regular contributor of comments on this blog. I’ve interviewed Albie to discover what makes him tick and I trust that his experience will be encouraging to others.
Question: How did your interest in technology start?
Albie: The journey started twenty-three years ago when I arrived at Umtata High School. They had a “lab” with four Commodore computers fitted with green screens and two floppy drives each; you were supposed to swap the drives to do a backup. The rest is history.
Question: So now, after more than two decades, how do you feel about the use of technology in education?
Albie: Technology is more than just some smart electronic pieces of copper wire mixed with other electronic parts, bolts and nuts. It is there for us to use it to open our hidden brainy capabilities and to improve our daily complicated lives. I have used technology to improve the LITNUM skills of learners, but also to help them to use their brains more effectively, to strengthen themselves physically (for example, hands and fingers = keyboard + mouse) and to develop emotionally to levels beyond their own expectations.
Question: Did you benefit from being a Khanya facilitator?
Albie: You can teach an old dog new tricks and I am a perfect example of this. When I started facilitating at Khanya four years ago I was already working with technology for more than 20 years and thought I was on top of it. But I discovered that my knowledge was only partial. Khanya gave me the opportunity to keep my mind active and to open those grey areas of my brain to become alive! As the days as a facilitator became weeks, months and years, I realised technology is fun – it is unique and can make your life much more rewarding here on planet earth. I benefitted from being a Khanyanian since it allowed me to plough back what I’ve learned to the communities and schools that I served.
Question: In your opinion, what are the greatest obstacles to the use of technology in schools?
Albie: The human factor is maybe the biggest obstacle in many schools, but I have noticed lately that another major obstacle is the functioning of the technology – if it doesn’t work the school is left in the dark.
Question: What could be done to overcome these obstacles?
Albie: Ensure that principals attend technology workshops that are arranged for teachers since the leaders must also enrich, update and upgrade their technology skills to ensure that staff members stay abreast. To sustain technology at the school, trainers (or facilitators) must be available to schools – at least one trainer for every five schools. And then, ensure that daily technical support is available to schools.
Question: What can be done to create a greater awareness of the value of technology among the education fraternity?
Albie: I feel that all government and provincial departments should take note of the worldwide trends in technology and its application in schools. We cannot and should not underestimate the educational value of technologies such as computers, software and interactive whiteboards. Twitter, Facebook, Google Talk, Mxit and other social networks have transformed many aspect of life – even at school. Education authorities should not underestimated the value of technology – the sooner officials are introduced and exposed to ICT applications, the sooner they will see and experience the value of ICT in education.
Question: Do you have any advice for teachers and schools who want to succeed in the use of technology?
Albie: You must have a passion for ICT. Without it … nothing is possible. With it … all things are possible. Grab the changes coming your way to enrich yourself – attend ICT workshops, peep over the technician’s shoulder and ask learners how to do things and then … just do it.
Question: What are your plans for the future?
Albie: I have applied for a few jobs in view of the fact that Khanya is soon coming to an end. My skills are in the ICT field, my passion is technology, my calling is facilitating, my duty is to serve (not on a plate, but on an interactive whiteboard) and my first love is my laptop. I hope to find a position where my experience can be used to the full.
Thank you, Albie, for sharing your views and experience. I wish you and your Khanya colleagues well and trust that organizations keen on the promotion of technology in education will snap you up when you become available on the job market in the near future.