Friday, 9 November 2018

SchoolNet nominated for UNESCO ICT in Education Prize

SchoolNet SA is proud to announce that the 'Learning Gains Through Play' project, funded by the DG Murray Trust, has been nominated by the South African National Commission to be considered for the UNESCO ICT in Education Prize.

What is the UNESCO ICT in Education prize?  

The UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa ICT in Education Prize was established in 2005 and is funded by the Kingdom of Bahrain. The prize aligns with the Education 2030 agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 4 and recognizes innovative approaches in leveraging new technologies to expand educational opportunities. The awards recognize teachers and organisations who are executing excellent models, best practices and creative uses of ICTs to enhance overall education performance. From the various national nominations, an international jury selects the two best projects to be acknowledged during a ceremony at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.


What was the aim of the Learning Gains Through Play project?

The vision of the 'Learning Gains through Play' programme was to transform learning environments by placing digital resources in the hands of learners, making the learning personalized, learner-driven, and resulting in students becoming skilled, excited and motivated life-long learners.


How was the project executed?

Twelve under-resourced schools (and two control schools) were selected from the areas around Howick in KwaZulu-Natal and Somerset West in the Western Cape to be part of this pilot project. Whilst the number of schools was small, the intention of the project was to provide intensive professional development and support to teachers, an array of resources to Foundation Phase classrooms, and to monitor the progress made by the learners. It was hoped that as a result of this research project that conclusive findings could be made as to the value of play in promoting learning gains, which will hopefully lead to other, similar projects being rolled out.


Each of the project schools were given tablets for teachers and learners as well as an Xbox Kinect (with games) and a large TV. Knowing that technology alone is unlikely to lead to significant changes to teaching and learning, the main focus of the project was on intensive teacher professional development in games-based learning and the value of digital learning when taught effectively. A range of educational apps and games were evaluated and analysed in terms of the national curriculum and teachers shared ideas and strategies for using digital tools in their classrooms. Workshops on Peer Coaching and Change Leadership were also provided to ensure buy-in from principals and school leaders, and also to ensure that teachers would be able to provide sustainable support to one another once the project is complete.


In what way are the beneficiaries vulnerable?

If there is a lack of meaningful learning in the Foundation Phase, learners fail to master foundational literacies such as visual literacy skills, fine-motor skills, literacy and numeracy. Without a good foundation, the conceptual gaps widen with each successive year, preventing progress later in primary school and beyond. If learners fail to grasp the basics of reading and numeracy in the Foundation Phase, when they are still taught in their mother-tongue, the deficits are only likely to  worsen when the learners move to grade four and the medium of instruction changes to English.


How has the use of digital tools enhanced the education of the participants?

The Learning Gains programme explored how visual literacy, fine-motor skills, literacy and numeracy can be enhanced through play and importantly, through the innovative use of tablet apps and games and the Xbox Kinect. Teacher development was designed to guide teachers on how to mediate learning in relation to the curriculum while learners were using the technology and resulted in confident use by both teachers and learners.


What have been some of the findings of the project?

We have tracked the performance of learners at the project schools who have been part of this project since grade one, testing them regularly in terms of literacy, numeracy, fine-motor skills and English acquisition. On the whole, we have been incredibly pleased with their progress, which has been better than that of learners in the control schools. Here are some of our key findings:
  • The 2017 study indicated that exposure to digital games had significantly improved a range of literacies of learners in project schools and most notably that of oral English acquisition
  • The 2018 study of project learners in Grade 4 indicated that as the learners' acquired language stages improved, there was a positive overall improvement in all subjects
  • Exposure to digital tools and resources that use the medium of English in Foundation Phase, impacts significantly on Oral English Acquisition and thus overall academic performance by Grade 4
  • Wherever there is a low level of second language English,  digital tools and particularly digital games can be used to fast track progress. 

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Memorable professional development for KZN Subject Advisors

In October 2018, SchoolNet SA facilitators Hlengiwe Mfeka and Senzo Ngcobo completed the Intel Tablets in the Classroom for 28 GET subject advisors from Kwa-Zulu Natal at the Bergville Education Centre. These subject advisors had already attended two previous courses namely; ICT Skills for Teachers and Using Digital Resources in the Classroom. The Tablets course, which formed the final step in their professional development pathway, aimed to provide subject advisors with tools and strategies for integrating tablets into the classroom.


In addition to the standard modules covered in this course, subject advisors completed a range of  activities that introduced them to additional tools and collaborative strategies for teaching and learning in mobile environments.


The subject advisors who attended the workshop were drawn from a range of districts across the province, including Umgungundlovu, Ilembe, Harry Gwala, Ugu, Amajuba, Umzinyathi and Uthukela. The group was described as “enthusiastic, jubilant and receptive throughout the week” and whilst most delegates had attended previous sessions, the four new delegates fitted into the group well.

The workshop was opened by Mr R Masondo the MST & ICT Deputy Director. He warmly welcomed everyone and highlighted the technological knowledge gap which the department was trying to bridge through this professional development. After a second ice-breaker, a course overview was provided. Delegates learnt that across the week’s activities they would be covering the 6 C’s of the 21st century skills (critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, citizenship and character) and that they would also be introduced to coding – whilst trying out different activities that would build these skills whilst using tablets.


With the introductory plenary complete, participants were split into two computer labs to begin the hands-on sessions with the same facilitator they had worked with at previous workshops. On the first day subject advisors learnt about the jigsaw teaching strategy.  Nomvuyo Thobela noted “This strategy ensures understanding of the content because each expert group member knows that he has to pay attention because he would have to teach his home group members later on”.


On the second day the group completed the Hour of Code Minecraft Adventurer Tutorial. The facilitators noted that  “at first, they thought it was just an easy game, that they’d cruise to the finish, but as they progressed, they realized that they had to apply their minds to move on to the next level of each puzzle. They agreed that coding does enhance creativity, collaboration and problem solving skills.” A further highlight of the day was using the tablets to create videos outside and then  uploading these to YouTube.


The third day of training involved a discussions about selecting quality educational apps and some hands on activities using a range of apps that are available on tablets. Mfeka reported that “delegates found these computational thinking activities very thought provoking and said this is what their learners needed to improve their performance, especially in the STEM subjects”. The fourth day of training involved groups learning about effective tablet management and internet safety by watching videos and sharing personal stories.


Whilst other groups of subject advisors who have attended similar workshops have also enjoyed a Gala Dinner, this group showcased their talents in a range of performances that made the evening especially memorable. All delegates received certificates at the Gala Dinner, and delegates who had excelled in various activities across the week were recognised for their achievements.


The course ended with subject advisors finalizing their action plans to ensure that their learnings would be shared across their districts, wrapping up their video uploads, thanking interns, and completing the course evaluation. Delegates expressed gratitude to the SchoolNet SA facilitators, with one subject advisor commenting that “This course has equipped me to contribute meaningfully to teaching and learning”. 

Friday, 26 October 2018

Intel's 'She Will Connect' Program reaches 5 million African Women

The Intel® 'She Will Connect' program was launched in September 2013 with the aim of reducing the internet gender gap and reaching 5 million women in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa over five years.

The milestone of reaching 5 million women across Africa was celebrated at a gala event at the iconic Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia on 24 October 2018. SchoolNet SA was recognized as one of the lead partners of the initiative, with Suraj Shah, the Intel Africa Program Director, thanking SchoolNet SA for "your contribution, passion and efforts to empower women in Africa".


The 'She Will Connect' program aimed to help women change their lives. It worked on the premise that when women are connected to the Internet, lives change – economic and educational opportunities are discovered, self-confidence rises, and connections are made. At the gala celebrations, a number of participants in the program shared their stories of how access to the internet, and some training in how to use digital tools, had changed their lives. 


Puleng Moyaha started as a 'She Will Connect' participant and now manages the Siyafunda Centre in Palmridge. Puleng said she cannot live without the internet, and that being connected helped her to gain skills to use at her Palmridge Centre with her students. Nontokozo Xaba reported that she uses social media for advocacy. Sarah Mahlaba said that she now realizes that schools must teach learners about digital skills and digital technologies to ensure that learners are better prepared for the world. Anolia Lusunzi remarked that we must ensure our children know about opportunities to reach their dreams.

 
The role of partners including SchoolNet SA, CareerBox, Siyafunda and the University of Limpopo was acknowledged by Shah - who noted that the accomplishment of reaching 5 million African Women could not have been achieved alone. SchoolNet's Omashani Naidoo and representatives from other partner organisations reflected on their experiences and highlights of being involved in the project as part of a panel discussion. Whilst the 'She Will Connect' project has reached a successful conclusion, all partners were encouraged to continue with their efforts to empower African women.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Digital Education Leadership Training Opportunity

Are you a digital leader at a secondary school or tertiary institution who is passionate about supporting colleagues to make appropriate use of technology?

The Commonwealth of Learning has designed the C-DELTA (Digital Education Leadership Training in Action) programme in collaboration with the University of Cape Town to benefit all Commonwealth countries.  The programme aims at fostering leaders in schools who can influence their colleagues to use digital learning appropriately and effectively for learning and for supporting sustainable development.


SchoolNet SA is in the process of identifying suitable lead teachers to participate in the initial C-DELTA workshop and online training programme who will then be able to train colleagues and implement the programme at their schools between January and March 2019.

The face-to-face workshop will be held in Johannesburg between 18 and 20 January 2019.
Travel and accommodation for selected lead teachers will be covered by the Commonwealth of Learning. There is no cost to attend the workshop or to complete the online programme, however applicants will need to commit to training colleagues using the C-DELTA platform on completion of the programme.

To be eligible for this opportunity, you should:

  • have a good level of digital competence
  • be a teacher/ technology coordinator at a high school or lecturer at a university or TVET College
  • hold a digital leadership position that involves coaching or training colleges to increase their digital skills and technology integration
  • willing and able to attend the face-to-face kick-off workshop in Johannesburg between 18 and 20 January 2018
  • committed to completing the online C-DELTA course
  • willing to serve as the C-DELTA coordinator for your school which includes, conducting an orientation session, supporting at least five colleagues in their digital journeys with C-DELTA, organising group sessions on modules as required, and providing a short report on activities conducted to promote the use of the C-DELTA platform 



If you meet the criteria to be considered for this professional development opportunity, please send an email to janet@schoolnet.org.za with C-DELTA as the subject line by 31 October 2018. You will then be sent an application form to complete. Candidates selected to be part of the C-DELTA program will be informed in early November so that they can plan to be at the workshop in January 2019.

To find out more about the C-DELTA programme, please visit their website or view the full concept note.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Tshwane West Interns boost their technical support skills

During the October school break, 32 of the 42 Tshwane West interns attended a two day workshop. The intention of this session was to provide the interns with some strategies and resources that they can use when supporting teachers and learners with ICT integration and technical support. The sessions took place at the Thuto-Pele Education Centre in in Ga-Rankuwa. Whilst this centre had a computer lab, interns were encouraged to use their own laptops as these are the digital tools that they use at the schools they support. 


On the first day of training, 3 October 2018, SchoolNet SA facilitator Mathapelo Sehume and technical assistant Siya Ntshintshi encouraged participants to add their expectations for the workshop  to a collaborative Google doc. The interns then "hit the ground running" with a challenge that involved each group being given a laptop with some technical issues that they had to solve. This exercise tested technical and problem solving skills and demonstrated the importance of following technical support processes and thinking systematically when confronted with technical challenges. 


Each group was then tasked with creating a PowerPoint presentation outlining the challenges the groups faced; the steps they took to resolve the challenges; and what it would take for the laptops they examined to be fully functional. These presentations were uploaded to a Google drive and one group member was randomly selected to present the findings of the group. This activity aimed to develop collaboration and presentation skills. 


The second day of training, 4 October 2018, began with a presentation from Pearson representatives. Their session aimed to provide the interns with the skills they would need to help teachers make better use of the Pearson resources that have been pre-installed on interactive boards provided in a Tshwane West schools.


The delegates then moved to the computer lab where Megan Rademeyer from Schoolnet SA introduced the group to the “YourthSpark Hour of Code”. After explaining the Hour of Code concept  Megan encouraged the interns to run Hour of Code sessions at their schools. The group worked through the first three Minecraft themed Hour of Code tutorials together, before the facilitator challenged the interns to complete the rest of the tutorials on their own. All participants were excited to try their hand at basic coding and wasted no time trying to complete the remaining stages. 


In the second phase of the training, Mathapelo introduced the interns to the Microsoft Digital Literacy course. She motivated the interns to encourage learners to complete the course to earn a digital competency certificate before learning school. Furthermore, Mathapelo encouraged the interns to assist the Grade 12 learners with their university applications.

In the final session, interns were introduced to the Microsoft ICT Skills for Teachers course and began to work through some of the scenarios. Interns were encouraged to upload their completed artifacts to their portfolios of evidence and to share them with the facilitator for assessment. Interns were informed that helping teachers develop digital skills would make teachers more self-sufficient with performing administrative tasks, leaving interns more time to be of technical assistance.


The training session ended with the team talking through the interns' expectations and how they were met through the training sessions. Most of the interns were delighted to be part of the training session and reported learning far more than what they were expecting. The group appreciated the initiative and were looking forward to implementing what they had learnt at the workshop when schools resumed after the break.