Excellent use of technology in a poor school

Saturday, October 9th, 2010 | technology | 4 Comments

A small school on the West Coast of South Africa did exceptionally well in the CAMI Speed Challenge, which was held in George yesterday and today.  This school is Riverlands Primary, serving a rural community in the farmlands between Atlantis and Malmesbury.

The principal, Jonathan Saunders, accompanied 23 finalists to the event.  The school has 242 learners, which means that nearly 10% of the school qualified as finalists for this challenge.  In the semi-finals 46 learners participated – 20% of the school population.

The principal and Grade 8 learners

Jonathan explained that the main reason for the school’s participation is to improve numeracy results.  All learners, from Grade 1 through to Grade 8, are exposed to technology with a view to honing their mathematics skills.  The top learners are then enrolled for the Speed Challenge.  Overall, learners are helped to improve their ability to perform mental maths, including multiplication tables.

The principal is committed to improving education in a disadvantaged community.  He said that one of the secondary benefits of participating in competitions of this nature is that it builds self-confidence in learners.  They sit side by side with learners of the top schools of the country – and often beat them.  This year Riverlands scored 1 first place in a grade, 2 second places and 2 third places – this equates to 5 medals!

The school received 20 computers from the Khanya Project, and won an interactive whiteboard in another competition a while ago.  One Grade 8 boy, Lucien Titus (left on the picture above), is a keen computer user.  He switches the computer, whiteboard and data projector on in the morning, and loads the required software for the day’s lessons before teaching starts.  “He knows far more about technology than most of us,” one of his teachers said. “When we get stuck, he solves the problem for us.”

Aside from using technology to build mathematical proficiency, it is also used in other learning areas.  For example, Grade 8 learners use presentation software to prepare and present oral work.

Many lessons can be learned from this school:

Wise use of technology can indeed lead to improved learner performance.

The lead of the principal is important.

When they get stuck teachers must not be scared to allow learners to help them.

Technology can serve as an equalizer in a system riddled with inequalities.

Well done Riverlands!  I applaud Jonathan Saunders, his team of dedicated teachers and the bold learners of the school for demonstrating how technology can make a difference in a school.

For the Afrikaans version of this posting, click here.

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Technology improves numeracy in schools

Friday, October 8th, 2010 | Computer Usage | 4 Comments

The CAMI Speed Challenge has become a part of the annual education calendar of the Western Cape.  The finals of Grades 1 to 7 of this mental mathematics speed challenge took place in a shopping mall in George today.

Learners in all parts of the province went through rounds of elimination over the past weeks and the finalists, with their teachers and supporters, arrived in throngs today to see who the champions are.  Super prizes were sponsored for winners of first, second and third places in each grade.

Little hands moving faster than shutter speed

This competion generates a great deal of enthusiasm every year.  For months prior to the competition learners are allowed into computer facilities at all hours to practise for the event.  The benefits are:

  • increased use of computer facilities
  • improvement of numeracy skills of individual learners
  • improvement of overall numeracy performance of participating schools.

This event is not driven or sponsored by the education department – it is a purely private initiative.  The Khanya Project applauds this type of private involvement, which underscores our motto: Together we can make it happen.

The finals of Grades 8 to 11 take place tomorrow.

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