Thursday, October 11th, 2012 | education | Comments Off
With apology to Sir J C Squire, I reworked his poem, There Was an Indian, as follows:
There Was a Teacher
There was a teacher, who had known no change,
Who taught content within her comfort reach
Using books. She heard a sudden strange
Beep-clicking noise: looked up; and gasped for speech.
For in her class, where she had ruled before,
Appeared on desks, by magic, small machines
With blinking lights, and knowledge in their stores
And nimble thumbs that follow prompts on tiny screens.
And she, in fear, this teacher all alone,
Her hands forgotten chalk and board,
Her lips gone pale, a heart gone cold as stone,
And stared, and saw, and did not understand,
A cell phone reigning now as lord,
Clasped firmly in each learner’s hand.
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 | education | Comments Off
Not everyone understands a flipped classroom in the same way. For the purpose of this discussion, I accept the following definition:
The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed.
According to this definition, a traditional classroom is one where a teacher first teaches by presenting a lesson or by giving a lecture (perhaps involving some class discussion); this is then followed by homework to practise the new things learned and to consolidate the knowledge.
In a flipped classroom, these activities are reversed: first the homework, which requires the learners to watch one or more videos of pre-recorded lessons or lectures. These lectures are either created by the teacher specifically for the class, or they could be obtained from on-line sources. They may contain on-line quizzes or other real-time activities. When the learners come to class, they already have knowledge of the topic and classroom time is used by the teacher to help students to work on projects or engage in activities that will help them to make sense of the content.
What are the advantages of the flipped classroom?
The advantage of flipping the order of lesson and homework is debatable. However, a clear advantages of this approach is that learners can work at their own pace. If a lecture is not understood at first, it can be watched again and again. Additionally, teachers can spend time in the class working more closely with individual learners, perhaps putting them in groups so that learners can benefit from peer engagement.
In a successfully flipped classroom a teacher’s contact time can undoubtedly be used in a more constructive way than in the old-style talk-and-chalk delivery mode.
Is the flipped classroom a new concept?
Studying material before coming to class is by no means a new idea. Many teachers prescribe a pre-reading of selected portions from a textbook before learners come to class. What is new in the flipped classroom is the way in which technology supports the notion. Rather than passive reading of a textbook, learning material can be animated and made available in a variety of presentation formats and on a variety of platforms.
Can the flipped classroom work in South African schools?
The flipped classroom should work in any place in the world. There are, however, two critical success factors that must be considered.
- The flipped classroom is dependent on the availability of technology.The child must have access to technology at home – technology that is connected to the internet. How many of our learners have this type of access? Some may argue that cell phones can be employed for this purpose – whether this is a practical solution remains to be seen. Until we can ensure that every child in the class has adequate access to a technology device and the internet, the flipped classroom is not feasible.
- The flipped classroom depends heavily on thoughtful preparation on the part of the teacher. The teacher must either create or source relevant lesson material and make this available to learners. This requires that the teacher: must understand the lesson material; has access to technology; has experience in the use of technology for teaching and learning; and is able to create a lesson plan that contains both pre-classroom and in-classroom activities. How many teachers in typical South African schools do you know who have these qualities?
It is encouraging to hear reports from schools in South Africa where teachers have successfully managed to flip their classrooms. But is this possible in all our classrooms?
Unless much more work is done to make technology available to learners, and to equip teachers with the necessary skills, it is unlikely that a flipped classroom will be successful.
Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 | education | Comments Off
The responses that you will receive to this question are likely to be loaded with much emotion! The facts, however, are rather simple.
When teachers own a personal computer or laptop they can do more work in less time with less effort; techonology also helps teachers to improve teaching and learning in the classroom. It follows that it is in the interest of everyone – the teacher, the school, the education authorities and, of course, the children – for every teacher to be equipped with the necessary ICT tools.
If education authorities are serious about productivity and improved teaching and learning, they will provide teachers with tools for personal and classroom use. Responsible employers provide their employees with the tools of their trade.
Where education authorities are not yet in a position to provide technology to all teachers (granted, in South Africa it is a huge undertaking to provide technology to about 400 000 teachers), school principals who are serious about productivity and quality of teaching will consider the investment required to provide teachers in their schools with relevant technology.
If the school or education department does not provide ICT to its employees, teachers should consider buying their own equipment. It would not be in their interest to wait indefinitely, while the world around them is becoming technology rich. Just as working for another qualification will enhance the professional stature of a teacher, so would acquiring technology and the skills to use it lift the teacher to new levels of professionalism. As they say, “no pain, no gain”.
Not too difficult to figure this out!
Monday, July 9th, 2012 | Miscelaneous | Comments Off
Jimmy Daniels is a 30 year old black man who is deaf from birth. When I managed the Khanya project we employed him as a messenger (seven years ago), but soon discovered that he was capable of much more. Within a short while he became computer literate and he was then used to do data capturing and to perform other office duties. As his technology skills increased, he became responsible for reproduction of CDs and DVDs for education institutions. He also handled filing, mailing of materials to 1 400 schools, and was always willing to accept any task assigned to him.
He is honest, reliable and once he understands what must be done, hardly ever makes a mistake. Being deaf, he is not distracted at all by office chatter and so he remains focused on his job. He is a good lip reader and can use his voice to some extent, so communicating with him is not much of a problem.
When Khanya came to an end in March 2012, Jimmy became unemployed. If you are in the Cape Town area and have a vacancy for him, please contact me. You’ll have a solid worker on whom you can depend.
Thursday, July 5th, 2012 | e-Learning pioneers, education | 2 Comments
The book is entitled “Teaching and e-Learning in the South African Classroom” and is published by MacMillan. It was launced as an e-book and can be ordered on-line. Hard copies will be available soon.
Sunday, June 17th, 2012 | e-Learning pioneers | 3 Comments
One never knows whether the seed one sows will take root and grow into something beautiful. Imagine my joy when, out of the blue, I received the following email from Maxwell Funo, a man whom I have never met before:
I just want to thank you for the excellent job that you’ve done. Teaching at a previously disadvantaged school in Nyanga township (Cape Town), I personally benefitted a lot especially from your Khanya Project because I never had any computer training whatsoever.
When I won the competition by Microsoft Partners In Learning on ICT Integration in Durban, I was over the moon, credit to your great efforts. Today, I am walking with my head held up high getting ready for my presentation in Morocco by July, something that I never thought would ever happen to me. I so wish to be able to work with you one day and learn more from you.
Maxwell used the limited ICT equipment at his school to do a project with his Grade 7 learners on pollution. The purpose of the project was to create an awareness of the effects of dumping around the school and in the community. He was one of twenty finalists and came first in two categories of the Microsoft Partners In Learning competition: Innovation in Challenging Context and Collaboration. He will be representing South Africa in Morocco in July 2012.
This teacher is an example of what can be done by means of technology. Working in a school with limited resources, he used the technology available to him to create something of great value for the learners, as well as the community; and it is good to know that his efforts to master technology yielded fruit for him personally too.
The email of Maxwell means more to me than all the awards that Khanya won over the years.
Monday, June 11th, 2012 | education | 3 Comments
A thousand years ago a person could prosper without being literate; this is no longer possible today. Thirty years ago a person could prosper without being digitally literate; this is likewise no longer possible today. The workplace demands both literacy and digital skills and someone who enrols for a university course without them is at a disadvantage. These skills must be developed before a child leaves school.
It follows that the debate is no longer “should we use technology in school” but rather “how can we accelerate the introduction of technologies into our classrooms”. In other parts of the world technology has been a part of classrooms for decades but in South Africa we are lagging behind. While educators in other countries are already experiencing the power of technology as teaching and learning tools, we are grappling with the basics.
Technology can be used in a classroom in different ways.
The first one is to teach learners about technology. Just as good handwriting, spelling and grammar skills are basic building blocks for learning, so a sound understanding of technology is required. It is important to know how to use a word processor, a spreadsheet, presentation software and how to communicate effectively through email. These are basic skills and we may assume that learners will pick them up by themselves, but we only have to look at the way they write SMS messages to understand that much more is required than merely knowing where to press the buttons.
Teaching with technology is the second level for which to aim. Technology can be a powerful teaching aid. Think about a teacher who uses a laptop and a data projector in the classroom to spice up lessons by showing interesting pictures or video clips. This can spark off interesting class discussions, focussing the attention of learners on the learning material. An interactive whiteboard can take this one step further, encouraging further interactivity. If a teacher has a trolley with netbooks available, she can use this for drill and practise exercises to reinforce numeracy skills. Innovative educators will find many ways in which technology can be used as a teaching tool.
Teaching through technology is the third level to which teaches must aspire in the classroom: technology devices can assume the role of tutors to assist teachers with teaching and learners with learning. It becomes a tool for learners to find information, evaluate it, analyse it, and synthesize it to build knowledge. Collaboration skills can be developed as well as other critical thinking skills required for twenty-first century living.
We have a long way to go to reach this third stage – most schools are still battling to bring technology into classrooms to get stage one off the ground!
The state alone can’t make technology in education happen, even though we are looking at the national and provincial education departments to take the lead. NGOs and corporate organizations can play a major role in making technology in the classroom a reality.
The education system faces many challenges – making technology a part of the classroom experience is only one of them. It is, however, a critical one if we do not want the digital divide to widen even further.
The image of a school is determined first and foremost by education outcomes. These outcomes could be pass rates, the number of learners entering tertiary institutions and even the number of sports stars produced by the school.
Why is image so important? Principals want their school to be the one of first choice in an area so that the best learners are drawn to the school. A good image attracts desirable learners, as well as good teachers.
ICT often serves as a draw card. In the belief that technology skills will put them in an advantageous position when they are looking for jobs or when they are about to enter tertiary institutions, parents want their children to be exposed to technology. They are not wrong feeling this way.
The image of a school is further enhanced when ICT is seen to achieve educational outcomes. For example:
If a school has an arts focus, graphic design technology will give it an edge over schools that do not have this type of technology.
A school’s image will be boosted when it uses technology to improve literacy and numeracy results.
A school offering computer subjects is seen to be preparing learners better for the future than schools that don’t.
The time is approaching – in many areas it has already arrived – when it is no longer a matter of technology improving the image of a school, but rather one where the absence of technology detracts from its image.
While an enhanced image is a welcome bonus, it should not be the main motive why ICT is brought into a school; the aim of technology must always be to improve teaching and learning.
Monday, May 14th, 2012 | education | Comments Off
Computers can’t think – teachers must think how these tools can be used to stimulate the thinking of their learners. But how can we motivate teachers to use technology at school? The following suggestions may help:
ICT makes it easier for teachers to build a personal learning network (PLN) with fellow teachers, subject experts and gurus.
The payback for the investment a teacher makes in time to learn ICT must be measured in terms of improved teaching.
Explore the way teachers in other schools use technology – you will get ample tips for your own classroom.
It may also help to remind teachers who find it hard to change to the use of ICT of the technological changes with which their learners must contend. It is their duty to prepare children in their care for life in the twenty-first century.
Monday, April 2nd, 2012 | education, ICT in Africa | 1 Comment
What happens when an irresistible – or unstoppable – force meets an immovable object? This has been the topic of many philosophical discussions.
Purists argue that this is a paradox: in a universe that allows for an irresistible force, an immovable object cannot exist, and likewise, in a universe where an immovable object is possible, an irresistible force cannot exist.
If, however, we ignore the laws of physics, this question becomes a useful metaphor. Is it not an apt description of an encounter between a mother and a determined toddler or of what happens when a besotted man pursues an uninterested woman? And does it not help to paint a picture of what happens when technological innovation tries to enter the ultra-conservative sphere of education?
The advance of technology is relentless. It has penetrated most areas of human activity. Medicine, engineering and commerce did not prove to be immovable but allowed technology to transform them for the better.
The example of the unstoppable force of wave after wave bashing against immovable rocks has been used to explain what can happen in the hypothetical situation of an irresistible force meeting an object that’s immovable: eventual erosion of the object. But this can take centuries! We can’t wait for technology to wear down the education system over time – an immediate solution is required.
If technology continues on its unstoppable course (which is inevitable), and education continues to be unmoved by technology (which will be a tragedy), a disaster is inevitable … one that will leave South Africa with a digitally illiterate cohort of learners.
What can you and I do to avert this catastrophe?
- Wayne of BlackBoard applauds the #motheoconf2013 for having a Twitter stream, displayed to all conference attendees. Tweeted 15 hours ago
- "Lecturers, e-learning starts with you," says Wayne of BlackBoard. #motheoconf2013 Tweeted 15 hours ago
- Since this space is now used for advertising ... MUSTEK and LEZMIN are your premium technology partners in the Free State. #motheoconf2013 Tweeted 18 hours ago
- Seeing that this space is now used for advertising... remember that MUSTEK and LEZMIN are your premium Free State technology partners. Tweeted 18 hours ago
- #motheoconf2013 The Telkom guy says connectivity is key for FET education... he would say that, wouldn't he! Tweeted 19 hours ago
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