Clear statement of purpose required for ICT implementation in schools

Friday, June 5th, 2015 | Computer Usage, technology | Comments Off

When an attempt is made to take technology into schools without clearly stating how the technology is to be used, one can hardly expect success.  “Doing so because it seems the right thing to do” is not enough reason to launch such an initiative.  It must first be determined what purpose the technology will serve in the school.

  • Is it to improve administration?
  • Is it to improve communication?
  • Is it be to make learners digitally literate?
  • Is it be to improve teaching?
  • Is it be to improve learning?
Why do we do this?

Why do we do this?

A lack of purpose is often the result of a lack of understanding on the part of those initiating and driving e-learning projects.  It is important to determine and agree, up front, what the desired outcomes of technology implementation in a classroom, school, or group of schools will be. This must then be clearly documented to serve as a constant reminder of the purpose of the undertaking.

Picture credit: http://www.mycutegraphics.com/graphics/school/school-kids/kids-using-school-computer.html

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Are South African schools ready for flipped classrooms?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 | education | Comments Off

Before we can consider whether schools in South Africa are ready to have flipped classrooms, we must first be clear about what they are.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

Better not to flip than to struggle!

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.

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Should teachers be responsible for their own ICT equipment?

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!

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What can motivate teachers to use ICT?

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.

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What is necessary for teachers to succeed in the use of ICT?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 | education | Comments Off

It is possible for teachers to succeed in using technology in their classrooms.  The following snippets of advice may be encouraging to them:

The wise teacher who gets stuck with technology never hesitates to ask a colleague for assistance or for advice.

While some teachers are comfortable exploring and creating ICT content on their own, others need it in neatly packaged format.

Your ICT equipment manual – though of limited value in learning how to use the tool – is a quick reference when needed.

What makes it easier for some teachers to come to grips with ICT? 4 things: prior exposure, effort, aptitude and attitude.

Once teachers have become computer literate they must be given the opportunity to keep up to date with the latest ICT releases.

It is useful if a teacher has basic computer skills before attempting to learn how to use an interactive whiteboard.

A big difference exists between a teacher receiving training to use ICT in the classroom and a teacher being skilled to do so.

Teachers don’t have to understand the underlying technology of ICTs – all they need to know is how to use them for teaching.

Teachers who want to make a difference in the lives of learners recognize that technology is already a part of learners’ lives.

When ICT is introduced into a school, a teacher can succeed, but the teaching style of teachers has to change … and that’s not as easy as you may think!  But if there is a will, there is a way!

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Why should teachers and principals bother about ICT?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 | ICT in Africa, technology | Comments Off

So, what is this thing called ICT that principals and teachers are encouraged to use?

In the field of technology many abbreviations and acronyms are used and they can be confusing particularly if you don’t know their origin.

ICT is the abbreviation of Information and Communication Technology.

In the past, information was available almost exclusively in printed form.  Teachers used books to teach and learners used books to learn.  Modern technology makes it possible for information to be stored and accessed in other ways.

All these tools are available to teachers

Information technologies refer to electronic tools on which information can be made available.  A computer or laptop used to be the most common form of information technology but tablets and other mobile devices are now used widely.

Communication technologies refer to electronic tools used for communication.  The telephone and cell phone are examples of such technologies.

A few decades ago different information and communication technologies were represented by separate tools.  For example, a computer and a telephone were distinctly different tools and they were used separately.  Today, many information and communication tools have converged on single devices: you can make Skype calls from your computer; you can also use your cell phone to perform operations that you would normally associate with a computer, such as sending an e-mail. It should therefore be clear why the term ICT is used to include all information and communication technologies that are available for communicating information in the modern world.

ICT includes any tool that can receive, retrieve, store, manipulate and transmit information electronically.  It enables you to use tools such as Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Mxit, Whatsapp, the internet and email to share and communicate information around the globe.

The potential of ICT in education is great – it is up to you, the educator (teacher or principal), to explore the many ways in which it can help you in your school.

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Is ICT useful to teach all subjects?

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 | education | 1 Comment

A learner using a computer to hone her mathematics skills by doing repetative exercises

Can ICT can be used as a teaching tool – and more importantly, as a learning tool – in all subjects?  Yes, it can!  It simply calls for a teacher who understands technology tools to think up ways in which ICT can enrich the classroom.

Here are a few of the ways in which technology can be used in your classroom:

Start a history lesson by using a data projector to display a picture of a historical person or a video clip of a historical event to stimulate discussion in the classroom.

Computers are useful in teaching mathematics – drill and practice exercises help develop skills through repetition.

When teaching geography, nothing beats having Google Earth on tap in the classroom.

Science experiments can be simulated repeatedly in a normal classroom environment through the application of ICT.

Blogging and the use of email are excellent ways to develop writing and communication skills of learners in any language.

In what subjects have you found technology to be useful?

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How does ICT affect job opportunities for teachers?

Sunday, January 1st, 2012 | education | 1 Comment

When teachers are introduced to technology, logical questions for them are:

  • How does technology affect my career?
  • Is it a threat?
  • How will it help me in my current teaching job?
  • Does it open up other job opportunities?

Here are a few thoughts for you to ponder about ICT and your career?

As schools move towards digital inclusion, ICT skilled teachers will be the first hired and the last fired.

Being skilled in ICT may not lead to an immediate promotion for a teacher, but it opens up many future career opportunities.

Teachers don’t have to fear: technology can make them more productive, but it will never make them redundant.

Some teachers who learn how to use technology in the classroom find other career opportunities opening up to them.

For those teachers who view teaching as their permanent chosen career, ICT empowers them to become super teachers.

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White paper on e-Education

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 | education, ICT in Africa | 3 Comments

The White Paper on e-Education, published by the former Department of Education in 2004, states the following:

Every South African learner in the general and further education and training bands will be ICT capable (that is, use ICTs confidently and creatively to help develop the skills and knowledge they need to achieve personal goals and to be full participants in the global community) by 2013.

Or are we chasing rainbows?

With only a few days left before we reach 2012 (and eight years after publication of the paper) one wonders … how far have we progressed towards reaching that goal?

What do you think … will we make it?

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ICT – a valuable tool in the hands of teachers

Monday, October 17th, 2011 | education, Tips | 2 Comments

Information and communication technology (ICT) can be a valuable tool in the hands of teachers when used skillfully.  ICT has great potential as a productivity tool, helping teachers to save time and energy.  It is also great as a teaching tool, as well as a learning tool.

Just to give you a taste of what is possible,  consider 5 of the many ways in which a teacher can use technology:

A computer makes a great filing cabinet for teachers – all documents they need are stored safely in one place.

Don’t forget the “C” in ICT – technology is a wonderful tool to communicate with fellow teachers around the globe.

Teachers can save time by displaying the class register on an interactive whiteboard and allowing learners to click their presence for the day.

Many stories of Africa have been transmitted orally and must be preserved – use ICT to record these stories for posterity.  Even better, let the learners record these stories … imagine how this will help them to build literacy skills.

In a multi-grade class, use ICT to keep one grade purposefully busy while giving personal attention to the rest of the class.

These are only a few arbitrary suggestions.  Teachers, why don’t you try some of them?  Talk to your colleagues who are already using technology as a productivity tool, as a teaching tool, or as a learning tool.  You will be pleasantly surprized to discover how ICT can enrich your professional life.


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