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The badge is up!

Thursday, January 10th, 2013 | Blogging, communication | Comments Off

Look to the right and you’ll see the badge for “The Best Education Blog – 2012”, thanks to all of you who have voted for e4Africa!  It is gratifying to know that the blog still holds value for folks of the education fraternity.

Last year I had to disengage the “Comment” feature, owing to spammers trying to advertise everything from Louis Vuitton bags to Viagra. These messages are not machine generated, but were posted by real people targeting blogs with spam filters – how low can you go! It took a lot of my time to remove them every day.

Since your comments are a valuable source of information to me, as well as to other readers of this blog I am exploring ways to make the comment feature spammer proof and will restore it as soon as I’ve found a solution.

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Please vote for e4Africa

Saturday, January 21st, 2012 | Blogging | 4 Comments

I was both surprized and amused when I received an email from someone in the USA informing me that e4Africa was nominated for the Most Fascinating Blog 2011 awards in the category Teaching Blog.

The decision of the panel who nominated this blog was based on a rather controversial posting that appeared in March 2011.  This particualr posting ruffled many feathers, evoked 322 emotion-laden comments and looking back, it is the one post I wish I’d never published.

If you find that posting fascinating, or think that e4Africa holds any fascination for you, please vote for it.  Simply click on the blue voting badge displayed on the right, search for e4Africa and cast your vote.  By doing this you are helping to put a proudly South African education blog on the map.

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Technology for Teachers … the book

Sunday, July 24th, 2011 | Blogging | 1 Comment

My new book Technology for Teachers was launched two weeks ago.

Like the previous two books, Laptops for Teachers and Interactive Whiteboards for Africa, this latest book is based on postings that appeared on the e4Africa blog.  Thanks for all the comments, emails and ideas you’ve given me.

The publication of the book once again shows the power that blogs can place in the hands of ordinary people like me, who would otherwise never have written a book.

The purpose of Technology for Teachers is to encourage teachers to explore the use of technology in their classrooms.  It is in the form of 101 questions that teachers may have, together with simple answers.  This book is not a “how to” but a “why should I” guide and the target audience is therefore the group of teachers who have not yet had the opportunity to harness the power of technology as a teaching and learning tool.

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New e4africa logo

Monday, April 4th, 2011 | Blogging, ICT in Africa | 3 Comments

A big thank you to all of you who commented and offered advice on my new logo – this all helped me to reach a decision.  In the end I decided on combining features from two of the original options.

The new e4africa logo

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New logo for e4Africa

Friday, March 11th, 2011 | Blogging | 24 Comments

I’m in the process of finding a new logo for e4Africa and have commissioned a graphic artist to come up with a few ideas. I need the help of you, my loyal readers and friends, to choose the most appropriate one. What do you think of the following three:

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

The cog symbolizes technology, the map of Africa is self-explanatary and the waves emanating from Cape Town indicate from where e4Africa operates on the ether.

Please let me know which one you prefer, and why, by leaving a comment. Thanks for your assistance in this matter.

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Communication trends

Saturday, February 5th, 2011 | communication | 13 Comments

Technology accelerated the pace of globalization – the result is a much smaller world, they say.  The advance of technology made travel easier and communication faster, so that the illusion of a smaller globe is created.

It seems as if technology, while making communication easier and faster, also has other effects on the way we communicate.

“Can I send you an e-mail,” one person asked.

“No, rather text me – I will get to it quicker than to my e-mail,” another replied.

The e-mail – long hailed as a technological wonder – is fast becoming yesterday, while the SMS is the flavour of today.  Doesn’t matter if the SMS (short message service) restricts you to only a few words – who needs a long message if a short one will do?

Blogging is also changing.  During the time of troubles in Iraq the world was alerted to what was happening there through blogs.  This has changed – eye-witness reports of events in Egypt are brought to us through Twitter.  We have now moved to micro-blogging as a way of receiving the news of the world.

Why use 140 words to report on something if you can do it in 140 characters?

What’s next?  We moved from long reports to a few words to a few characters.  How short can we get?  How low can we go?  The bit?

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Can technology make a teacher more productive?

Sunday, December 26th, 2010 | technology | 2 Comments

What does it mean to be productive?  Some shy away from the word because it sounds too much like hard work.  Teachers complain: “How can it be expected of us to produce more?  The education department is overworking us as it is – and now you want us to do even more!”

Does greater productivity necessarily mean working harder?  If you’re not a hard worker then yes, it means you have to work harder.  But if you are already a hard worker it does not mean that you must become an even harder worker.  Think for a moment about the definition of productivity:

Productivity is the amount of output per unit of input, where input may be time, equipment or money – you’ll therefore be more productive if you manage to increase your output, while keeping your input the same.

This tells us that, with the same amount of input – the same time and effort – you can become a more productive teacher.  How?  By increasing the output.  Technology can help you to increase your output with the same amount of input in two ways:

Using tools such as a word processor and a spreadsheet – often called productivity tools – technology will make your admin work easier, quicker and more accurate.  You will be able to spend less time on admin, leaving you more time for other productive work.

In a classroom the output is the amount of learning taking place.  How much do the learners in your class learn?  You know that some teaching sessions may pass with hardly any learning happening while a session of the same duration could be highly productive with a lot of learning takes place.  Technology holds the attention of learners and encourages their involvement – since this increases the potential for learning, your lessons become more productive. 

Productivity means accomplishing more with fewer resources.  Technology may come at a price, but when you experience the ways in which it will help you to increase your output you’ll soon conclude that it is indeed a bargain.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Should learners be encouraged to have their own blogs?

Sunday, December 5th, 2010 | Blogging, technology | Comments Off

Teachers start their involvement with blogs by reading them.  Then some of the adventurous ones create their own classroom blogs.  You’ll reach the pinnacle of blogging when you’ve succeeded in motivating some of your learners to become bloggers.

You must be realistic – don’t expect all learners to start their own blogs just as not all children in your class will take music lessons, or join the debating society, or sign up for sports teams.  But given the opportunity, many learners will accept the challenge of blogging – the blogosphere already teems with learner bloggers.

Does blogging benefit learners?  Think about the following possibilities:

The most obvious advantage of blogging is the improvement of literacy competencies of the participating learner.  Writing skills are practised and reading becomes a pleasure.  Since learners will want to post pictures and even video clips on their blogs, they will also develop new literacy skills.

Learners build research and interviewing skills when they gather information for their blog postings.  When responding to comments on their blogs, they learn how to communicate in an appropriate way on a public platform.

Digital skills are enhanced when learners use blogs – they will explore digital tools to make their blogs more attractive.

Blogging knocks down the walls of the classroom.  Learners who blog move into a learning community away from the classroom – a community that is accessible to them anywhere and anytime.  Their virtual classroom is open 24/7 allowing them to learn irrespective of time and place.

Some social networking sites in the cyber space have deteriorating into locations of debased communication.  Blogging provides an alternative where learners can find an outlet for their creativity, without having to resort to filth.

Blogs provide a forum for reserved learners – or those with verbal communication challenges – to express their thoughts.  In classrooms where inclusive education is practised, blogs can be a great help to teachers in providing learners with an alternative communication platform, which will help them to build confidence and communication skills.

For learners to benefit from blogging, they will need regular access to technology.  Learners may not have computers at home.  This means that you, their teacher, must ensure that sufficient time is available for them to access the school’s technology, preferably outside of school hours.

If you know about any learner blogs, please leave a comment with a link.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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How can blogs be used in the classroom?

Saturday, December 4th, 2010 | Blogging, technology | 1 Comment

While reading the blogs of experts and fellow teachers is most beneficial to you, the greatest value of blogs will be experienced when you create your own for use in your classroom.  Yes, you must become a blogger!

Here are two of many ways in which you can liven up your teaching by means of blogs:

The most basic method of exploiting a blog in the classroom is by using it as an electronic notice board.  Every time you want to inform your class about something, just post it to the blog.  These announcements may include homework assignments, handouts, lesson notes, reminders of forthcoming tests and examinations, reminders of due dates for handing in assignments, useful tips for learning, or any other snippet that you may want to share with your class. 

When all your learners understand that this is the way you communicate with them there are no more room for misunderstandings.  If any of your communications are not clear, learners can leave a question as a comment to which you can respond for the benefit of the whole class.  Imagine how much time you will save if you have to explain something only once!

The next step would be to use a classroom blog to develop literacy skills – it is the ideal space for you to work with your learners to improve their reading and writing skills.  Post a writing assignment on the blog – for example, instruct them to write hundred words on a topic.   Ask the learners to post their responses as comments.  You are providing an immediate audience to all learners.  Shy learners are often hesitant to make verbal contributions in class – but they may feel more inclined to participate in a blog situation.  You can, in turn, comment on their work, either giving commendation, or offering suggestions, or making corrections.  Learners could learn from reading each other’s written work, even more so when they read your comments on the work of their peers.

The opportunities for using blogs for other classroom applications are limited only by your imagination – and if that fails, look on the internet at what other teachers have done with blogs in their classrooms.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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How can reading blogs help teachers?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010 | Blogging, technology | 4 Comments

Blogs have the potential of helping a teacher in two ways: you can read them and you can create them.

Let’s look at one way in which reading blogs can be of benefit to you.

Suppose you are struggling to teach a particular topic – you know the theory, but you find it difficult to get the information across to your learners.  When you search the web you will find loads of information about the topic, but some of it may be similar to information you find in a text book.  Your problem is how to teach the topic.  This is where blogs can fill the gap.

Bear in mind that most blogs are published by people like you – ordinary people who want to share their experience with others.  Some of these bloggers are teachers – your colleagues – and write from a perspective of personal experience.  They may work and live on the other side of the globe, but they grapple with problems similar to yours.  When they find a solution to a teaching problem, they’re keen to share their knowledge, and so they blog about it.  Through their blogs they’re talking to you – teacher to teacher.

An added advantage of reading teacher blogs is the comments made by other teachers.  They may report on how useful they find the advice or comment on alternative ways in which they have approached the matter.  By reading these comments you’re benefiting from a multitude of practitioners and the beauty of it all is that you are not learning the theory but the practical application of the material.

The value you derive from these blogs will peak once you become involved by adding your comments.  Some of these comments are suggestions but they may be requests for advice.  How useful when other readers respond to your comments – soon you will have a global network of supporting colleagues!

Blogs are likewise useful when you want to improve your expertise in the use of technology in the classroom.  Your colleagues have trod the way before you and their experience is only a mouse click away.

Your first challenge is to find blogs relevant to your needs.  Once you’ve found them, bookmark them and read them regularly.  Comment freely.  Make them a significant part of your PLN (personal learning network).

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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