Laptops for Teachers … at last!

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 | laptops | 1 Comment

It took forever to dot each i and to cross the last t but at long last the Teacher Laptop Initiative (TLI) is underway.

Announced in the Government Gazette 32207 of May 2009, the TLI took many twists and turns as it tried to surface through bundles of bureaucratic red tape.  Many teachers thought the programme would never come off the ground, but they will be happy to know that all obstacles have been removed and that the TLI is now a reality.

Mustek has been appointed by the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) as an “approved supplier” to supply a choice of three different packages to teachers.  These packages differ with regards to processing capacity and data bundles for internet access, but they all come with a warranty, comprehensive insurance and pre-loaded software to the value of nearly R40 000.

Full-time government teachers qualify for an allowance of R130 over a five year period (total of R7 800).  Teachers who are employed by School Governing Bodies and private schools may also purchase these superb packages, but unfortunately they do not qualify for the allowance.

Teachers should contemplate the total value of the packages offered by Mustek before they think of buying a cheap laptop from an electronics supermarket.  These packages are good, comprehensive deals and are difficult to beat.

With a laptop in their hands teachers will be able to cross the digital divide, bringing us a step closer to an e-learning reality in our schools.

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How can a laptop benefit a teacher?

Monday, October 31st, 2011 | education, laptops | 2 Comments

Why should teachers consider buying a laptop?  Of what use will it be to them?

A teacher reading the book "Laptops for Teachers"

Laptops have many uses.  Just consider this simple suggestion:

Take a laptop with you to meetings and type up the minutes as the discussion progresses – it saves time later.

Teachers are expoected to attend so many meetings of which minutes have to be written later.  The value of doing the minutes while the meeting is in progess should be clear.

The most useful thing about a laptop is its mobility:

Laptops allow teachers to communicate, work and learn wherever they are. 

Laptops allow teachers to be more productive – with it they can work whenever they have some time available for it.

Mobile technology makes whenever-wherever work possible.  Wise teachers make use of it … but they remember that the best mobile device avaialble to them remains the brain.

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5 Tips for stretching your laptop’s working time

Friday, October 21st, 2011 | laptops | 3 Comments

When you set off with your laptop – fully charged – you want the battery to last as long as possible.  How can you do this?  Here are a few tips:

Keep your laptop cool.  A laptop generates heat and the price one pays for portability is a less efficient cooling system.  A higher operating temperature reduces a laptop’s efficiency, which leads to a greater consumption of battery power.  It therefore follows that the cooler you keep your laptop, the less power it will use.  The secret of keeping a laptop cool is that you must allow the machine to breathe.  Make sure that the cooling vents are not blocked by clothing or by a pillow – this can happen when you put the laptop on your lap, or if you work on a bed.

Adjust the brightness of your screen.  The screen can account for 25% of the total power consumption of your laptop when the machine is idle – and big widescreens take much more power.  The brighter the screen, the more power is put into back-lighting it.  You can save power by simply dimming your screen to the lowest level that is comfortable for you.  Avoid working in places with bright light, because that is where you’re usually tempted to increase the brightness.

Turn off the wireless networking connection.  The wireless device on your laptop is a significant drain on battery power.  When you don’t have a need to be connected to a wireless network, turn it off in order to conserve energy.

Don’t let your CPU work too hard.  The CPU (central processing unit) is the biggest consumer of power in in laptop.  You can lighten the load of the CPU by limiting the number of programs open at the same time.  The constant switching between programs eats up processing power, it works the memory and it results in a steady churning of the hard disk, which also uses power.  Of course, it is cool to have a number of programs open at once, allowing you to flip between them as your work dictates, but keep in mind that this does use extra power.  When you are in energy conservation mode, use one program at a time!

Invest in a spare battery.  If working time is important to you, buy an extra battery.  This may double your power reserve; you may even be able to get hold of a battery with higher capacity than the one that came with your laptop.  Of course, this would require that both batteries are fully charged when you hit the road, otherwise the extra battery will be of little use to you.  Also bear in mind that the extra battery will add weight to your luggage.

If you have any other power-saving tips for laptop users, please share them with us.

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How can I stretch the working time on my laptop?

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 | laptops | 3 Comments

In general, a laptop is a greener option than a desktop computer.  A laptop consumes little power and you can work on it for a long time without running up your electricity bill significantly – that is when you’re working at home or at your office where you have access to electricity.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of a laptop over a desktop computer is that you can take it with you wherever you go.  Many restaurants, airports and other places cater for your needs by providing electricity outlets where you can simply plug in and work.  But when you want to work at a place where there is no such provision – such as when going on a long flight in economy class or when a teacher takes learners on a field trip – you are limited by the length of time the laptop’s battery will last.

You can do two things to ensure longer working time even before you go on the trip:

Clean your battery contacts from time to time.  Over time these contacts may become corroded or get dirty and this will interfere with effective delivery of power.  Cleaning the contacts is a simple operation: turn the laptop off, unplug it from its power source, remove the battery, use a soft cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol to wipe the contacts on both the battery and the laptop, make sure the contacts are dry and then replace the battery.  If your laptop does not have a removable battery, take the laptop to your dealer for a clean.  Clean battery contacts will ensure that you get full benefit from even short periods that your laptop is plugged in.

All you need is a soft cloth and rubbing alcohol

Picture credit

Keep the battery fully charged.  Make a habit of charging the battery whenever you have access to electricity.  Modern lithium batteries can be recharged partially and repeatedly without harmful effects (with older laptops using nickel-based batteries, the situation is different and it is advisable to consult the user manual about the best way to charge the batteries).  So, when you are at an airport, find a place to plug in while you’re working – this will ensure that you board the plane with a full charge.  Or when you’re travelling and you find a place to plug in your laptop, do so.  The simple thing to remember is that a battery that is fully charged lasts longer than one that is only partially charged.  Common sense, isn’t it!

Once you are on the road you can stretch battery life considerably by the way you use your laptop.  Watch this space for a few tips on how to do this.

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Should teachers buy their own laptops?

Friday, June 17th, 2011 | education | 4 Comments

No doctor qualifies without owning a stethoscope.  While they are still studying it is expected of student doctors to purchase their own diagnostic equipment. 

One of the tools of a doctor's trade

Does the same principle apply to teachers?  In this digital age, can teachers do what is expected of them without technology?  So, should teachers acquire their own laptops?

One of the tools of a teacher's trade.

Some may argue that it is the responsibility of education authorities to provide teachers with technology tools; others believe teachers are duty bound to fund their own equipment.   This is one of those two-sides-of-a-coin arguments.  In any event, there does not seem to be much hope that teachers and education officials in South Africa will soon be kitted out by state funded technology.

I don’t want to get in the middle of this argument and I don’t know who will win it in the long term … but I know who the losers are if teachers don’t have private access to technology: the learners.

A previous post (Should it be expected of teachers to buy their own equipment?) gives reasons why teachers should seriously consider purchasing their own laptops if they are not forthcoming from their schools or the education department.

But whatever you do: think about the learners.

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Laptops for Teachers … the saga continues!

Monday, April 18th, 2011 | laptops | 2 Comments

Three years ago teachers were promised that the state would provide them with laptop computers.  Since then I’ve blogged about this topic: how a laptop can benefit a teacher, how they can learn to use it, what it will cost them, and how to care for it.  Then I went through the whole process of publishing the blog postings in book form, and to date over 10 000 copies of Laptops for Teachers were distributed among educators.  The purpose of this was to show teachers the value of having their own technology.

Some provinces even had Laptop-for-Teacher launches late last year, further raising expectations that the happy day has drawn near.  While many teachers were disappointed that the subsidy they were to receive would not cover their cost, some were still willing to acquire a laptop.

However, to date no machines have fallen into the laps of teachers!  The latest report states that the Treasury and Department of Basic Education have not succeeded in reaching an agreement about how the initiative would be funded.  A bit late to deliberate about that, don’t you think?

If the state can’t even provide equipment to teachers, what hope is there that technology would ever be available to our learners so that they can cross the digital divide?


What is wrong with eating, drinking and smoking in the computer room?

Sunday, March 6th, 2011 | Computer Usage | 1 Comment

A sign telling you that eating, drinking or smoking are not allowed is found in most computer rooms.


This rule is there for good reasons.

Drinking is discouraged because liquid spills can damage the equipment.  Liquid may cause your keyboard to cease functioning.  If you’re using a laptop, the liquid may trickle to the inside and damage your entire machine.

When you’re eating, crumbs will fall on the keyboard and it’s nearly impossible to get them out.  These crumbs may not cause problems immediately, but they all add up.  Sticky fingers cause dirt to accumulate wherever you touch the computer.

Eating or drinking may also cause discomfort to others in the room.  Imagine how irritating crunching of potato crisps can be when you’re trying to concentrate, or what the effect of the smell of spicy, garlicky food will have on you.

As far as smoking is concerned … well, you know how much damage it does to your lungs (and to the lungs of those around you).  The smoke and ash particles are likewise damaging to computer equipment. 

These rules are not for learners only.  They also apply to teachers, even when they are in the computer room after hours, preparing lessons or catching up on admin work.

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Teacher Laptop Initiative Launch in the Western Cape

Saturday, October 30th, 2010 | laptops | 4 Comments

Teachers thronged to the Cape Teaching and Leadership Institute in Kuilsriver today for the long awaited launch of the Teacher Laptop Initiative.

A part of the eager crowd of teachers

Two and a half years after the promise of laptops for teachers was first made, it has now become a reality for some teachers.  An unexpected large crowd pitched up for the event.

Different hardware vendors displayed their products and distributed information to prospective buyers.

A teacher reading her copy of 'Laptops for Teachers' while waiting for the speeches to start.

300 copies of the book Laptops for Teachers, sponsored by one of the suppliers, were given away to teachers.  Many were disappointed when stocks ran out.

The interest in laptops displayed by teachers is heart-warming – it bodes well for e-learning in the Western Cape.

For more pictures of the event, see the Afrikaans version of this posting.

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Teacher Laptop Initiative comes to Western Cape … at last!

Thursday, October 14th, 2010 | laptops | 8 Comments

The Teacher Laptop Initiative (TLI) saga is hopefully nearing its end.  The Western Cape Education Department is one of the last in the country to launch this scheme.

This comes two and a half years after the then Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, promised every teacher in the country a laptop.  Union interference and bureaucratic bungling are to blame for delays in making the minister’s noble intentions a reality.

A launch of the TLI in the Western Cape on 30 October 2010 will take the form of exhibitions by service providers, demonstrations and speeches by the MEC, the Superintendent General and Union representatives.  It would be interesting to see who actually pitches up for the event.

According to reliable sources 3 500 teachers will be eligible for laptops during the current financial year (ending March 2011).  Allocation will be done on the basis of “seniority”, which is determined by number of years of service per rank.

The book Laptops for Teachers was published more than a year ago to encourage teachers to use these devices.  The printing and distribution of more than 8 000 copies have been sponsored – the book serves as an advocacy tool to encourage the use of laptops by teachers.  The full text of the book can be found here.


I am delighted that we have reached this stage and trust that the laptops acquired by teachers will propel them further on the e-learning road.

For an Afrikaans translation of this posting, click here.

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Teacher laptop initiative delayed … AGAIN!

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 | laptops | 27 Comments

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.


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