How can a teacher maximize the value of technology in the classroom?

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 | education | Comments Off

If classroom productivity is measured in terms of the amount of learning taking place, ICT will prove to be a productivity powerhouse.  But this does not happen automatically.  The value of technology in the classroom depends on the way the teacher uses it.

Here are a few points for teachers to ponder:

Use your ICT devices to impact positively on learning; otherwise they’re a waste.

The mere presence of technology in your classroom won’t bring results –you need to apply it as a teaching tool.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating – you will only know the value of technology in the classroom when you try it.

Different degrees of white-elephantness occur in classrooms relative to ICT, ranging from under-utilization to total non-use.

Don’t allow technology to hinder teaching and learning – it remains a tool, albeit a powerful one in the hands of enthusiastic teachers.

Technology is most successful in the classroom when the focus is not on the technology but rather on teaching and learning.

Also bear in mind that technology in the classroom will only empower a teacher if the teacher powers it “on”.

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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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Could teachers soon be replaced by technology?

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 | education, technology | 2 Comments

The proponents of technology say, “YES.”  The education fraternity says, “NEVER.”

This question is discussed in an interesting blog posting on the blog Education Land, maintained by a teacher of English in Saudi Arabia. A few interesting comments, giving some food for thought, are found in this posting.  For example, the following observation is made:

Computers and technology already serve as teaching aides. Whether it’s teaching children their ABC’s or helping a college freshman memorize the periodic table, technology for educational purposes is already available.

Is this the future of education?

It is already possible for technology to take over some of the functions of teachers.

As technology tools become cheaper and more readily available, we can anticipate that it will take over more functions of teachers.

Will technology ever replace teachers?  Perhaps not completely, but it can go a long way towards filling the void where there is a shortage of teaching skills.

Picture credit

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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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What is an interactive classroom?

Monday, December 19th, 2011 | education | 2 Comments

Boring, boring, boring!

It is the dream of every teacher to be in a classroom where learners respond and participate in the learning process.  Sadly, this is often just a dream.  Many teachers battle to grab the attention of learners, let alone getting them to interact during lessons.

An interactive classroom is one in which learners participate as equal partners in the learning process.  The teacher acts as a facilitator and guide, but the learners are enthusiastically playing their part in learning.  Apart from the fact that learner participation makes the teaching task more interesting for the teacher, research has shown that much more learning takes place in an interactive classroom than in a passive one.

What are the features of an interactive classroom?  It definitely is not a place where a teacher lectures and the children passively listen.  Learners do writing exercises, take part in class discussions and actively participate in solving problems.  An interactive classroom also requires that learners engage in higher-order thinking tasks, which include analysis of information, evaluation of the facts and a process of synthesis to build new knowledge.

Many teachers have acquired the skills to transform a dull classroom into an interactive one.  Different techniques exist to do this and where teachers apply these techniques the attitudes and achievements of learners are affected positively.

The key to a successful interactive classroom is in the hands of the teacher – it is not dependent on any fancy tools or equipment.  However, children are fascinated by technology.  They grow up in a world dominated by technology and they likely have cell phones or other mobile devices in their pockets.  The wise teacher makes use of technology to enhance the learning experience of their learners.  In this way technology enables an interactive classroom.

You can have learner interactivity in the classroom without technology … but if this goal is illusive, technology will help you to attain it.

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Oxygen masks and classroom technologies

Sunday, December 11th, 2011 | education | Comments Off

When you are about to take off in an airplane you are given safety instructionsAmong other things you are told about the oxygen mask that will drop from a panel above you in case of an emergency.  “Only when your own mask is secure, assist children or fellow passengers,” you are instructed.

Compare the oxygen masks to classroom technology

Have you wondered about this?  My natural instinct – and I suppose that of most parents – is to help my child first.

But if you think about it, the instruction makes sense.  If you don’t have a steady oxygen flow you may not be capable of assisting your child or others.

The airplane oxygen mask is a perfect metaphor for other situations: we must make caring for ourselves a priority if we hope to be of assistance to those around us.

Let’s apply this principle to the use of technology in the classroom: “Only when you are secure in the use of technology as a teaching tool, assist children and fellow teachers to use it as well.”

The point is: you can only help others to use technology as a teaching and a learning tool when you know how to use it.  Some children may learn quicker than you how to use technology, but many will need your help.  Even those children who manage to operate the technology will need your guidance to learn how to use it as a learning tool.

What about your fellow passengers – those teachers who are travelling with you on the e-learning road?  With your skills and experience you will be able to help your colleagues in your own and neigbouring schools – even your curriculum advisors and other education department officials – to become expert e-learning practitioners.

You may wonder what you must do if you are battling to come to grips with technology.  A flight attendant will help you if you can’t manage to secure your oxygen mask.  Similarly, you can call on your technology advisors to assist you.  In most cases these will be your hardware or software suppliers, or the agency that provided your initial training.

The bottom line: secure your own technology position to enable you to render technology support to others.

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Teachers, technology and weaver birds

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 | education | Comments Off

We can learn so much by observing the marvels of creation around us.  For example, if you are a teacher who battles to come to grips with technology, you may take a lesson from the weaver bird.

Are you overwhelmed by all the different hardware components that make up your system?  Or the many software programs you have to learn?  Are you stymied by the new ways in which you have to work when you incorporate technology into your teacher’s toolkit?  Are you scared that you won’t get it right, and that your learners have a technological advantage over you?

What does a good teacher and a male weaver bird have in common?

Don’t despair.  The male weaver bird does not get it right the first time either.  He builds a nest – sometimes several nests – and waits for the female’s approval.  In most cases she turns down the first offerings.  He would then patiently dismantle the rejected nest and build another one, until she is satisfied.  Mr Weaver is not discouraged when a nest is turned down … he is not all that concerned about getting it right the first time.  The main thing is that he gets going – he knows that eventually he will succeed.

So, teachers, if at first you don’t get technology working the way it ought to be used, remember that the important thing is to get going.  The learners in your class are already following the example of the weaver bird – they are not scared to try, retry and try yet again.  And eventually they get it right.

The weaver often recycles material from the discarded nest and uses it for the next one.  This also contains a lesson: skills learned while making mistakes are valuable stepping stones for further development.

The moral of the story:  if you persevere, you will succeed.  Don’t worry about getting it right … just get going!

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The data projector trolley – a useful tool for the mobile teacher

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 | Gadgets | 1 Comment

Even though it is advisable for data projectors to be permanently fixed in classrooms – preferably suspended from the ceiling – this is not always possible.  Schools may not be able to afford a data projector and a laptop for each classroom, or teachers may have a specific need to move the equipment from one location to another.

The mobile teacher’s best friend

Many teachers feel that lugging a data projector and laptop around is too much of a schlep; they need a vehicle to assist them to be truly mobile.

A data projector trolley is an easy solution to their problem.  This low cost device is simply a number of bags on wheels, but it is designed in such a way that it can transport a data projector, a laptop, connection and extension cables, books and other  accessories.  For the diligent teacher who wants to spend the night at school, it even has space for pyjamas and a toothbrush.

With this trolley – specially designed to move delicate technology equipment securely – a teacher will be sure that the required tools are always at hand.  This device is particularly useful for curriculum advisors who move from school to school and when they visit schools where no technology is available.

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Technology – a labour saving device for teachers

Sunday, November 6th, 2011 | education, Tips | Comments Off

Teachers, do you know that that technology is the best painkiller for admin work?  Admin is certainly the least glamorous part of teaching but technology – particularly a computer – can take the sting out of it.

Consider just a few examples of how technology can make your life easier:

You will save a lot of time when you use a computer to create test and examination papers, class notes and lesson plans. 

Once documents have been created – and stored electronically – they are available for instant reuse at a later date.  Even when changes are required, these can be made in a jiffy, eliminating the need to recreate the entire document.

If you use a spreadsheet to record student performance, you will save yourself much recording and calculation time – and your figures will be more accurate.  At the press of a button you’ll be able to  obtain averages and other statistics required by the education system; this will also help you to keep your finger on the pulse of the class and can inform you how effective your teaching is.

You may think that these tips are so obvious … it is not so obvious to more than 90% of teachers in South Africa who are not yet using technology!  Let’s encourage them to do so.

If you have found ways in which technology has eased the admin burden of teachers, please share them with us.

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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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