An exciting new partnership is revolutionising access to innovative teacher training methods

Friday, August 28th, 2015 | training | Comments Off

Online education company, GetSmarter and University of the Witwatersrand School of Education (WSoE) have announced that they have partnered to offer a new online short course in the educational sphere: Strategic Implementation of ICT Integration in Education. This course is part of an initiative to develop the technology skills of teachers in classrooms across South Africa.

Broadening access to top quality education

The new partnership between GetSmarter and WSoE aims to increase access to top-tier university programs in the educational faculty, a sector of Africa that, in comparison to countries across the world, is behind in practical skills training for teachers. GetSmarter’s core purpose of Improving Lives Through Better Education is now not only brought to life by their current business portfolio of industry relevant short courses aimed to provide career advancement to working professionals, but now also by enabling the teachers of South Africa to possess the technical skills they need to be better teachers and therefore improve the lives of the young minds they teach.

This exciting new offering by WSoE is in line with their industry leading short courses offered via their Wits Plus programs, an initiative focussing on part-time, evening classes. Now Wits is able to not only offer contact based learning, but also courses that are 100% online and accessible to anyone with access to an internet connection and computer. The partnership formed out of the mutual belief that the educational achievement of South Africa’s youth is a key determinant of South Africa’s future economic growth, and therefore improving educational attainment should be seen as an urgent priority for South Africa.

Rob Paddock, chief academic officer at GetSmarter explains:

“We believe that South Africa’s future economic prosperity hinges directly on improving the quality of the teachers already working in our schools. In order to do this, we need to revisit the ongoing education models for our educators, and reimagine a system that can help teachers develop their practice in ways that will benefit students. To this end, the Wits School of Education (WSoE) and GetSmarter have forged a partnership to offer cutting edge online teacher development programmes for in-service teachers throughout Southern Africa.”

Education is the single most important tool we have to effect change in our country. By empowering teachers with critical new skills in technology, we can radically improve teachers’ skills and therefore provide students with a better chance of success in the future” Says Reuben Dlamini, the Course Convener from Wits School of Education.

Improve current teaching practice throughout South Africa

The Strategic Implementation of ICT Integration in Education short course is designed for teachers currently practicing in the primary, secondary, tertiary and higher education sectors. In addition, this course is particularly suited to teachers in the formal sector and trainers in the informal sector, learning and teaching professionals (education developers, instructional designers, etc.), people new to online or blended teaching, or those who want to improve their current teaching practice, as well as anyone interested in educational technology or online instruction. To apply for the course, students need to be current teachers in practice.

Teachers will complete an online short course which will focus on the development of effective teaching methods, using technology. GetSmarter’s Virtual Learning Environment brings teachers on the course together and enables them to swop ideas and debate various teaching methods with the support and guidance of their Head Tutor, Kobus van Wyk. Students will have to complete various assignments and tasks to achieve a minimum of 50% to successfully pass the course, and upon successful completion, will receive a certificate of competence from WSoE.

Diversifying the reach of WSoE’s current offering

Wits understands distance learning and the competencies needed to successfully execute online courses, and recognises GetSmarter as the leaders in online education. These 2 power houses aim to eradicate barriers to teacher training in South Africa, which will hopefully open doors to many more opportunities in the educational sphere.

Rob Paddock explains:

“Our vision is that the partnership will allow WSoE to extend and diversify the reach of their current offerings through GetSmarter’s industry leading online education competencies. By leveraging the unique competencies of these two respected institutions, it is our hope that this partnership we will prove a new model for effective, accessible and research-driven teacher education in Southern Africa.”

In an African and South African context, there is an opportunity for this form of distance learning to transform education, and it can be claimed that GetSmarter and WSoE are leading the way for a brighter future for South African teachers and students alike.

With over 8 years experience in the field, GetSmarter brings a practised and proven learning model founded in pedagogical expertise, and a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) that promises to replicate, and even enhance, the very best features of the traditional face-to-face classroom.

Visit for more information.

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Classroom technology: how long does it take a teacher to come to grips with it?

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 | training | Comments Off

This question is the same as asking: “How long is a piece of string?”

And the answer is the same: “It depends …” Yes, different factors determine the length of time it will take a teacher to come to grips with classroom technology.  For example, a teacher who is already digitally literate should find it easier to make the transition from traditional classroom teaching to one where technology is harnessed.

Not easy to measure the knots and the curves ...

Not easy to measure when there are knots and curves …

When technology training programmes are developed for teachers, bear the following in mind:

Training teachers in the use of classroom technology takes place in stages; it is not a once off event.  Short training sessions over a period of time is better than one intensive course.

The more time teachers spend trying out newly acquired technology skills, the sooner they’ll become proficient.  Allow enough time after a training session for the teacher to practice new skills.

Just in time (JIT) training works better than training a teacher now with a view to applying the knowledge much later.  When teachers are trained, but technology only becomes available in their classrooms months later, some of the skills would have faded.

Each teacher – like learners – will acquire skills at a different speed; the important thing is to practise each new skill often.

Teachers should not despair when they battle to acquire classroom technology skills; from experience they know that fast learners are not necessarily the best learners.

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5 Tips for teachers to get going with technology

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 | technology, Tips | Comments Off

Where do I start?

Where do I start?

Are you a teacher who would like to improve your teaching in the classroom?

Have you considered using technology as a tool to do so?  But you’re facing a dilemma – you’re not a technology boffin and you don’t know how to learn to use it?

Here are a few tips that may help you to get going:

A quick and easy way for you to learn to use technology is to buy it, switch it on, use it and ask for help when you’re stuck.

When you consider a technology training course, remember that Just-In-Time (JIT) training is recommended otherwise new skills can’t be reinforced and are soon forgotten.

You would likely respond best to face-to-face training; the comfort of the warm-body experience must not be under estimated.

A blended approach is possibly the best way of learning to use technology, using different available training options such as: enrolling for a training course; making use of e-learning material; trial and error discovery; and asking a friend for help when you’re stuck.

If you’re a technology novice, you may initially find entertainment available on a computer or a tablet (or even your smart phone) a painless introduction to technology.  Play a game, or download a few videos, or start reading an e-book, or sign up for one of the social networks.

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How much effort should go into teacher ICT training?

Monday, November 12th, 2012 | training | Comments Off

The short answer to this question is: a lot of training.

At least the same amount of money that schools spend on hardware and software should be devoted to ICT training of teachers.

Most ICT tools were not specifically designed for educational purposes; teachers must be helped to discover their classroom potential.

Being computer literate is only the first step for teachers who want to use ICT as a teaching tool.

For teachers to succeed with ICT they need a paradigm shift – this means thinking differently about teaching and learning.  This process can only happen if training takes place over an extended period.

ICT training of teachers is labour intensive but, without it, technology in education has no chance of success.

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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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Technology training for teachers – not negotiable

Sunday, October 9th, 2011 | education | 2 Comments

One of the critical success factors of implementing technology solutions in schools is the proficiency of teachers in the use of technology as a teaching and a learning tool.  This is why technology training of teachers must form a prominent part of plans for the implementation of technology in schools.

Why is technology training of teachers so important?

Consider the following factors:

Few teachers have been exposed to technology, particularly computer technology.  The use of technology is foreign to them and technology jargon makes no sense to them.

Even fewer teachers have experience in the use of technology as a teaching tool.  They have no knowledge of the various hardware and software products that can be used in the classroom.

Most teachers do not understand the pedagogical value of technology.  Their under-graduate training (and even post-graduate training) did not include the use of technology and so most teachers are unfamiliar with its benefits and they do not have the skills to harness technology in the classroom.

In order to make technology implementation initiatives successful, adequate provision must be made to develop teachers to become competent technology users.

The term “professional development” is often used by the education fraternity.  Whenever the curriculum changes (for example when there was a move a decade ago towards outcomes based education, and recently, when there was a move away from it) or when there is a shift in teaching methodology, great efforts – and huge amounts of public funding – are put into so-called continuing professional development.

The introduction of technology into education requires a major shift in teaching methodology – this, in turn, requires a major shift in the mindset of teachers.  If a school or education authority – or any other organization – is contemplating the implementation of technology projects in schools, professional development of teachers in the use of technology is crucial.

Without careful planning, execution and funding of such continuing professional training, the implementation of technology projects is at risk.

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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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How can I cope with cell phones in my classroom?

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 | communication, technology | 1 Comment

When the use of cell phones in the classroom becomes a problem – because its use is viewed as distracting to learners – some schools ban its use altogether.  You can imagine how learners resist this restriction.

Most learners in schools – even the poorest ones – have cell phones in their pockets or bags.  Efforts to curb the explosive use of these devices are bound to be countered with learner schemes to use them in an illicit way.

Isn’t there a better way to handle the situation?

How about using the fascination of learners with their cell phones to improve learning?  This can be done if innovative ways are found to harness the phones in the hands of learners as teaching and learning tools.  This approach has many apparent advantages:

Learners already own cell phones – you do not have to buy technology devices for them.

You don’t have to introduce technology into the classroom – it is already there.

Since the instruments are the property of learners, you don’t have to protect equipment against vandalism.

Children love their cell phones and are keen to show off what they can do with them. 

Pilot projects are under way to determine practical applications of mobile phones in the classroom.  A few simple uses are already evident:

By sending an interesting text message (SMS) in a target language to learners on a regular basis (even after school hours) their literacy is enhanced.  Imagine how you could build the vocabulary of your class.

Mobile ‘novels’ are already available where learners receive bite size instalments.

When learners use the camera function of cell phones, they can record images of science experiments, or other visual displays, for future revision.

Some vendors of educational software are developing programs suitable for classroom use.  With a cell phone a learner can see and hear, without disturbing the rest of the class.

The ubiquitous use of cell phones makes them ideal tools for teaching and learning.  Keep your eyes – and minds – open for developments in this area in the future.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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I am not so young anymore – won’t it be difficult for me to become skilled in the use of classroom technology?

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 | technology, training | Comments Off

If you are a senior teacher you may be concerned that your ability to acquire new skills – particularly technology skills – is not what it used to be.  “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks – I am too old to learn modern technology,” you may say.  Don’t allow clichés to control your destiny!

Do you really believe that you are too old to learn – or is it just an excuse? 

How did you feel a few years ago when cell phones were introduced? 

Some said that they would never use them … but eventually they capitulated and agreed to carry a mobile phone.  “But only to receive calls,” they said.  Soon they were making calls too, and it did not take long before they started sending text messages – now they can’t imagine how they managed before without an SMS.  Over time these older folks discovered other functions of the phone – taking pictures of their grandchildren, browsing the internet and even becoming active on social networks.

Does this sound familiar to you?  If you conquered a cell phone, you can conquer classroom technology.  The technology available to you for teaching is not much different from a cell phone – you will be surprised how many functions are the same.  In fact, you will discover that cell phones are powerful teaching and learning tools!  It all depends on how willing and eager you are to learn.

Many teachers in their fifties, sixties and seventies have already mastered the use of different classroom technologies and now proclaim that they can’t imagine life without them.  If you are a life long learner, this is what you will do – continue to learn new things as they come your way.  Your age is not the limiting factor when it comes to becoming skilled in new technologies, but rather the extent of your willingness to move outside of your comfort zone.

While you are still able to teach, you are not yet over the hill.  The education system needs your experience, passion and commitment – and above all, your example.  When you master the use of technology, you are setting an example to the new generation of teachers.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Can technology improve learning in the classroom?

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010 | Learners, technology | 1 Comment

It doesn’t matter how many technology devices you bring into the classroom – if they don’t have a positive impact on learning the investment is wasted.  How can you ensure that technology will improve learning among your learners?

Better teaching leads to better learning.  When technology improves the teaching abilities of a teacher it must have a beneficial impact on learning in the classroom.  You make a personal contribution towards improved learning when you:

  • optimize the use of technology for the preparation of your lessons
  • optimize the use of technology for innovative presentation of your lessons.

What about a more direct benefit to learners when they engage with technology?  Is it possible?  Yes, if the technology is used to transform the classroom into one where learners are encouraged to have greater involvement in the learning process.

The classroom of today was designed a few centuries ago – little has changed since.  Learners sit at desks, mostly facing a blackboard, while a teacher chalks and talks.  This might have been good enough until a few decades ago, but it no longer provides an environment conducive to learning for today’s learners – they are bored to death in a classroom devoid of technology!

You can use the fascination of children with technology to your advantage.  But don’t be deluded – technology itself will not bring about improved learning.  It can only act as a catalyst.  By allowing learners to see and touch and do you grab their interest.

Technology allows the children in your class to be involved in the learning process.  They can use electronic tools to practice skills, find information and then learn to present their new knowledge in innovative ways.  But remember: it is not the technology that brings about improved learning – it is what happens as a result of what they do with the technology that has an impact on improved learning.

When learners are involved in an activity they enjoy, they are more inclined to be attentive.  This leads to better class disciplineAn attentive and disciplined class, in turn, leads to improved learning.  No question about it – technology in the hands of a skilled teacher can have a positive influence on learners.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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