Monday, 21 January 2019

Searching for Computational Thinking Talent

Computational thinking is a set of problem-solving methods that involve expressing problems and their solutions in ways that a computer could execute. The ability to break down a problem, recognize patterns, think in abstract ways, and create algorithms to find solutions are valuable thinking skills for computer science, information technology, mathematics and science learners.

At a number of 2018 YouthSpark workshops, we challenged teachers to complete some of the Computer Olympiad Computational Thinking challenges. The teachers agreed that the resources were challenging, but also fun and accessible. We would now like to encourage more teachers to build their learners computational thinking skills by taking part in the Computer Olympiad Talent Search - which will also provide an opportunity for learners who already have great thinking skills to be identified and celebrated.

When does the Talent Search take place?

Teachers should select a time that suits them between Monday 4 March to Friday 8 March 2019 to complete this year's Talent Search question paper. Learners should be given 45 minutes to complete the test. Of course, the practice tests are available all year long and can be attempted at any time to build the computational skills of learners. 


Do you need internet access and computers to participate in the Talent Search? 

The Talent Search is available as an online test for those schools with adequate facilities. For schools lacking facilities, it is available as a pen-and-paper test. If your school is doing the pen and paper version of the test, you will need to arrange for a class set of question papers and one multiple choice question answer sheet to be printed per learner in advance of the test. 

Who is the Talent Search aimed at?

There are two age categories for primary schools and three age categories for high schools (Gr 4&5; 6&7; 8&9; 10&11; 12). Learners can complete the challenge as individuals or in pairs, with as many or as few learners from a school participating as the teacher enters. The Talent Search is the South African version of the Bebras Contest which attracts more than two million participants globally each year. The Computer Olympiad team aim to attract over 7 000 entries from no-fee schools in the 2019 Talent Search competition.

How should learners prepare for the Talent Search?

Past Talent Search question papers are available on the Computer Olympiad website. Print out some past pen and paper trials or challenge learners to complete a past online paper. These question papers will give them an idea of what to expect, especially if you go through the answers with your learners so they can see a range of strategies that they can use to approach similar puzzles. Younger learners, who are unfamiliar with multiple choice questions, or learners who have not completed an online test before, will benefit from a practice run where a teacher can assist if required.

At their discretion, teachers may want to let learners tackle a past paper in pairs or groups of three so that learners can "think aloud" and discuss strategies for solving the puzzles. Teachers may also want to consider getting everyone to complete a past paper as a practice exercise and then inviting the top performing learners to enter this year's Talent Search. 


What other competitions are there?

The Applications Olympiad is a challenge for those who take CAT or the ICDL or are otherwise computer literate. The participants have to solve a number of problems using applications like spreadsheets, databases and a wordprocessor and the data provided. 


The Programming Olympiad is a challenge for learners who can use a programming language like Scratch, Python, Java, C++ or Delphi. In the First Round, the participants have to solve a number of problems using the language of their choice. For the Second and Final Rounds, the languages are more restricted. Check out the Computer Olympiad website for more details and dates. 

There is no requirement that Talent Search participants should enter either Olympiad, nor is there a requirement to do the Talent Search before entering either of the Olympiads.


How do I register?

There is no cost to enter the Talent Search competition - however please register your learners here. Registration is important to ensure that top performing learners receive certificates and to enable the Computer Olympiad to keep accurate records of how many learners have completed the challenge.

Please check out the FAQ section of the Computer Olympiad website, or contact them directly should you have further questions.

Please make an effort to stretch and challenge your learners and then share your success stories with us.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Wanted - A New Executive Director for SchoolNet SA

SchoolNet SA's current Executive Director, Janet Thomson, is retiring and the Board of Directors of SchoolNet SA are seeking to appoint a new leader for the organisation. 


What are the key functions of the Executive Director?

The Executive Director of SchoolNet SA, under the governance of the Board of Directors will take overall responsibility for the organisation. Specific responsibilities will include:

  • leading the development of the strategic plan of SchoolNetSA at a national level
  • overseeing the implementation of that plan in a financially sustainable manner
  • establishing and maintaining strategic partnerships
  • managing the assigned human resources and supporting their development in order to deliver on the agreed activities.


What are the requirements for this position?


Applicants for the Executive Director position must:

  • hold a degree in education or equivalent (a relevant postgraduate qualification is a recommendation)
  • have 5-10 years’ experience in ICT education 
  • have a valid driver’s licence and their own vehicle 
  • be competent in the use of ICT 
  • be proficient in the use of English in written and verbal communications
  • have excellent interpersonal skills and proven experience of managing people 

Who is SchoolNet SA's current Executive Director?


janetSchoolNet SA's current Executive Director, Janet Thomson, was seconded to SchoolNet SA from the KwaZulu Natal Department of Education in 2001 and worked full time for SchoolNet SA from 2003 as the Education Manager. Janet was appointed as the Executive Director of SchoolNet SA in 2005 and after fourteen years of leading the organisation, Janet has decided to retire.





Read more about the Executive Director position and how to apply here. Applications close on 28 January 2019.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Make your swipes count - with a My School card

SchoolNet SA has officially been listed as a beneficiary of the "My School My Village My Planet" programme. This means that every time one of our supporters shops at a partner store, and swipes his or her "My School" card, we get a small contribution - without our supporters spending a cent more.


The MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet fundraising programme is one of South Africa’s biggest community programmes. It raises more than R6 million rand a month for schools, charities and organisations, by partner stores making a contribution, on behalf of the supporter, towards the beneficiary they have selected.

SchoolNet SA already offers professional development and support to teachers and learners from under-resourced schools to help them make better use of digital tools to enhance education. Our plan is to put the money we raise through the My School programme towards supporting the professional development of additional teachers, who are not currently supported through one of our projects. 

How can you help?

  • If you don't already have a My School Card - sign up online here. It is easy and free.
  • If you are already a My School Card holder - you can change your beneficiary to be SchoolNet SA, or you can add SchoolNet SA to your current beneficiaries by updating your details here (you can support up to three beneficiaries).
  • Go cardless! Support your beneficiaries without having an actual "My School Card" by downloading the My School Card app here
  • Remember to tap, swipe and support every time you shop at a My School Card partner.


Monday, 10 December 2018

MIE Exerts - Have you completed the missions to attend the Global E2 in Paris?


The Microsoft Global E2 event is taking place in Paris, France in April 2019. This week the South African/ Lesotho Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts will be selected to attend this prestigious Forum based on having completed certain missions over the past few months.


We have been impressed to see how many MIE Experts have taken up the challenge of sharing learning activities on the Microsoft Educator Community; participating in the #Skypeathon and running #HourofCode sessions for their learners. It has been great to see teachers sharing what they are doing in their classrooms on Twitter and Facebook.

In order for the team for Paris to be selected, MIE Experts from South Africa and Lesotho who have completed the missions are requested to apply here by midnight on Wednesday 12 December 2018. As part of this form you will be required to include a link to either a Sway or a video that includes your evidence of having completed the missions.


Please note: 
  • The E2 Paris opportunity is only available to MIE Experts who have NOT attended a previous Global E2 Event. 
  • There is no field in the application form for the link to the Sway or video that contains your evidence of completing the missions - so please insert the link in the same field as your name. 
  • Ensure that the sharing permission for your Sway or video is set to allow "anyone with a link" to view it. If we can't view your evidence - we can't consider your entry for the E2 Paris opportunity.
Well done to all of the MIE Experts who have taken on the challenge of completing the E2 Missions. We look forward to Microsoft announcing  the South African/ Lesotho team to attend the Global E2 in Paris on Friday 14 December 2018.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Telkom Connected Schools complete an Hour of Code

Many schools have finished exams and learners are waiting to get their reports. Technical Support Specialists based at Telkom Connected Schools in Zwide Township near Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape and Garankuwa, Gauteng have been using this time productively to provide learners with the opportunity to try their hand at basic coding.


Brenda Mohale, based at NM Tsuene Secondary School and Mapfumo Mashau, based at Winterveldt Secondary School challenged their learners to complete the Minecraft themed Hour of Code tutorial. Even if learners had no prior experience of coding, they soon were using the simple drag and drop interface to solve puzzles, whilst learning basic computer science principles at the same time.


At Ruabohlale Secondary School learners the learners completed the Hour of Code outside so that they could use the Gauteng Broadband Network to access the online materials at code.org/minecraft. The ICT Support Specialist based at this school in Soshanguve, Thabang Tshabalala, encouraged learners to come to school and learn some basic coding instead of staying at home after exams were complete.


At Khwezi Lomso Secondary School in Zwide, the Hour of Code sessions proved to be so popular that the Technical Support Specialist based at this school, Ambesiwe Madolwane, ran two sessions so that more learners could have an opportunity to learn basic coding principles. In some cases, learners have caught on to the coding activities so quickly that they have ended up guiding their teachers through the tutorials.


Siyanda Williams, the Technical Support Specialist at Ndzondelelo Secondary School, also in Zwide near Port Elizabeth, was delighted to be able to give learners who completed the Hour of Code a memento of the occasion. Microsoft Philanthropies generously sponsored Hour of Code branded goodies to give to learners at all of the Telkom Connected Schools who participated in these Hour of Code sessions as part of the Computer Science week.