Thursday, 9 August 2018

Help girls to #MakeWhatsNext this Women's Day

When we encourage girls to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), we double the potential to change the world for good. This Women's Day let's think about why girls don't pursue careers in STEM - and what we as teachers can do about it.

Problem: Girls and young women have a hard time picturing themselves in STEM roles. They need more exposure to STEM jobs, female role models, and career awareness and planning.

Solution: Provide girls with role models of women who have successfully pursued careers in STEM or IT.

What we are doing: This year SchoolNet SA has worked with Microsoft Philanthropies and the Mpumalanga ICT Club Community of Practice to run a number of DigiGirlz events. As part of these events, women who have succeeded in careers that use digital technology speak to girls about their experiences in IT careers and girls try out a number of digital tools for themselves.

At the Soweto DigiGirlz event held in Soweto Sankari Nai, the Uber South Africa Lead Analytics Manager told girls from "programming is a magical world where you get to learn and create new things every day." She encouraged the girls to study engineering and embrace opportunities to master a range of skills.

At an Emalahleni DigiGirlz event three @MicrosoftSA women who described how they went from ordinary township schools to careers in IT. Girls were surprised to learn that women who now manage Microsoft's relationships with major South African companies went to schools where neither CAT nor IT were offered as subjects.

At a Moipane Maths Centre in Tembisa, SchoolNet's Mathapelo Sehume described to the DigiGirlz how she was the only girl in her class when she studied IT at college - yet she was the first one to write an pass the examination. She encouraged the girls to focus on their studies and not to believe stereotypes about which subjects are for girls.

Problem: Girls don’t initially see the potential for careers in STEM to be creative or have a positive impact on the world.

Solution: Expose girls to a wider range of possible careers that make use of STEM subjects and skills.

What we've been doing: At our YouthSpark workshops we have encouraged teachers to show learners the Make Whats Next Career tool. This tool asks learners to select two fields that they are interested in and a range of careers that incorporate those interests, as well as some STEM component, appear. This tool can be useful when grade 9 learners are selecting their subjects to take from grade 10, as well as when grade 11 and 12 learners are considering their options for tertiary studies as the tool shows a range of careers that many learners may not have heard of before.

Problem: Research shows that girls who participate in STEM clubs and activities are more likely to say they will pursue STEM subjects later in their education. So how can we get more girls doing STEM activities?

Solution: Provide teachers and learners with free resources and tools that they can use to introduce learners to basic computer science concepts. 

What we've been doing: Through the YouthSpark Grant that we received from Microsoft Philanthropies, we have been offering free introductory workshops to teachers who are keen to learn how to introduce their learners to the Hour of Code, Scratch programming, computational thinking using the Computer Olympiad resources and physical computing using virtual microbits

We would encourage teachers to try out these free resources with their learners to give them a taste of computer science and to create an imagination for the possibilities of pursuing a career in STEM.

For access to more free resources and ideas please see the Microsoft YouthSpark hub.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Cape Town Teachers - learn coding basics to share with your learners

Digital skills are often out of reach for the young people who need them most. In a world being transformed by technology, all youth should have the opportunity to develop the creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills gained by learning computer science. 

SchoolNet SA is delighted to offer teachers an opportunity to attend a free YouthSpark Workshop, sponsored by Microsoft Philanthropies. The aim of these workshops is to equip teachers with some skills and free tools that they can use to introduce their learners to computer science concepts - even if they don't have a computer science background. 

Who should attend?
We are looking for computer literate teachers (preferably from under-resourced schools) who are keen to introduce their learners to basic computer science concepts. If you are a computer literacy teacher or are running a computer club, or if you are a grade 4 - 9 teacher with access to devices then this workshop is for you.

This workshop is not aimed at CAT or IT teachers - nor is it computer literacy training for teachers. We are expecting teachers who have fairly good computer skills to come and learn how to do basic coding and computational thinking activities with learners.

Dates and Venues:
Register to attend ONE of the following sessions. The content presented at each workshop will be the same - with each session able to accommodate up to 25 teachers on a first-come-first-served basis. 
Cape Town Science Centre                                             I-CAN Centre
Dates: 25 August and 1 September                                Dates: 11 August and 18 August
Times: 10am - 2pm                                                         Times: 9am - 1pm
Address: 370B Main Road,                                             Address: 268 I-CAN Centre, 
Observatory, Cape Town                                                Old Multi-Purpose Building, 
                                                                                        Halt Road, Elsies River

There is no cost to attend the workshops however places are limited. Register here to secure your place today. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Calling Mpumalanga teachers who want to learn coding

The Mpumalanga ICT Club is a community of practice established by teachers to empower other teachers, learners and the community of Mpumalanga to develop their digital skills.

SchoolNet SA has worked closely with the club to present a range of opportunities for teachers to learn basic computer science skills that they can pass on to their learners. We look forward to co-hosing three Train the Trainer Coding Workshops which will be taking place as follows:
  • 11 August 2018 at Waterfal Boven TVET Campus
  • 18 August 2018 at Witbank TVET Campus and 
  • 25 August 2018 at CN Mahlangu Campus -Siyabuswa
Ice breaker activities will start at 8am - with the workshops starting promptly at 10am.

At the workshops, teachers will learn how to facilitate an Hour of Code with Megan Rademeyer and they will try out Scratch programming with Nomusa Keninda. We then hope that teachers will go on to run these coding activities as part of #AfricaCodeWeek and the #HourofCode so that learners from under-resourced schools can still have a taste of coding and computer science.

Places are limited to 60 teachers per workshop so sign up here as soon as possible.
Also ensure that you have joined the Microsoft Educator Community prior to the workshops so that you can earn some badges during the workshop.

Up-skill yourself - so that you can give your learners a chance to build their skills!

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Matthew Hains - a candidate for the Global Teacher Prize

Matthew Hains has entered the "Global Teacher Prize" - which annually presents a one million dollar award from the Varkey Foundation to recognise an exceptional teacher. We are happy to support Matt's nomination for this award as he is always willing to share his expertise on using digital tools effectively in the classroom with other teachers.

You may have seen Matt in action at the 2017 SchoolNet SA ICT in the Classroom conference where he presented a session on "The Digital Frontier - A Paperless Classroom?". Matt also conducted a session on using Microbits at the Brescia House CuriosITy workshops to encourage Grade 11 CAT and IT girls to bring code to life. 

In 2017, Matthew was selected to represent South Africa at the Microsoft E2 Education Exchange in Toronto, Canada. At this conference, Matthew explained that whilst he needs to ensure that his students know how to use Office applications, he aims to  provide opportunities for students to challenge themselves and to develop logical thinking skills at the same time. You can read the case study about Matt and his work here

Matthew has co-presented a number of Microsoft Virtual Academies for SchoolNet SA covering topics such as Using Kodu in the Classroom and Physical Computing. In these webinars, he talks teachers through various online courses and resources and gives tips for using them in South African classrooms.

If you are a CAT teacher, you are probably familiar with the Tech Teachers blog which Matt runs. This blog, along with the CAT and IT Teachers - South Africa Facebook group is a lifeline to teachers looking for resources or advice from other teachers. 

If you would like to support Matt's nomination for the Global Teacher Prize you can do so here.

If you would like to nominate yourself, or another exceptional teacher in your network, for the Global Teacher Prize, read more about the nomination process and eligibility criteria here.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Access free productivity tool training from ThintiMillion

Many employers expect employees to have some basic knowledge of Word, PowerPoint and Excel, yet many school leavers have not had an opportunity to acquire these skills. Microsoft, in partnership with the Gauteng Department of eGovernment, is on a mission to train one million young people with basic Microsoft Office skills to increase their chances of finding employment and to upskill workers and learners.

In a previous post we encouraged youth to access ThintiMillion and to complete the free online training - however many young people don't have access to computers and can't easily get to a Gauteng library or community centre where they can complete the course at no cost. To spread the reach of ThintiMillion, Microsoft recently released an app version of the materials so that youth with no access to a computer can still learn more about basic productivity tools using a smart phone.

If you are interested in boosting your own digital skills or looking for a way to get a Microsoft branded certificate that certifies you have basic computer skills, download the ThintiMillion app from the Google Playstore to try out the materials on an Android phone. As a teacher, you may also want to encourage your learners to work thorough the materials in their computer literacy lessons so that they will have proof of basic computer skills before heading for the workplace or tertiary institutions.

Whilst the ThintiMillion app and training materials provide a good introduction to key productivity programmes, and let users take a quiz and print a certificate to show that they know the basics, they do not actually provide opportunities to use Word, PowerPoint or Excel. The best way to master using digital tools is to actually use them - so in addition to downloading the app, please encourage young people to register for Mahala Microsoft Office and register for a free Microsoft account if you are a teacher. We then hope that you will practice using the productivity tools to type documents that you may need. You can find out more about this in our previous post