Friday, 16 August 2019

Agnes Rasesemola - Spreading the reach of the SchoolNet Digital Learning Conference

The SchoolNet SA Digital Learning conference attracted almost 500 teachers who enjoyed three days of networking and learning new skills and tools for utilizing digital resources in their classrooms. We often wonder what ideas teachers implement after they have attended a conference; whether they pursue any conference connections; and the extent to which they share what they have learnt with colleagues.

We were delighted to hear from Agnes Rasesemola, the principal of Sunrise View Secondary in Rustenburg, NorthWest who reported on what she has done to make use of digital tools since the conference and who is growing from strength to strength as a facilitator.

Agnes has run three professional development workshops for her colleagues since attending the conference. She is also holding weekly training sessions for her circuit manager and his PA, and she has trained other principals in her circuit.

Agnes says, "My target for the year is to train more than 400 educators. I also trained my husband who is also a High School Principal and he is the one who is now training me with coding and Minecraft badges. I encouraged him to also train his staff on ICT and digital literacy."

Agnes was the National Winner of the National Teaching Awards in the category "Excellence in Secondary Leadership" 2017/2018. She attended the NTA advocacy session as a former NTA winner and also served on the NTA provincial adjudication panel in 2019. 

Agnes continues to show exemplary leadership at her school by making use of digital resources as far as possible and encouraging others to do the same. Sunrise View Secondary School has set up a website, and Agnes is the administrator of her school's Facebook account. Agnes reports that her school governing body has agreed to buy new laptops for half of the staff and they will purchase the remainder of the laptops at the beginning of 2020 to ensure that staff have access to digital tools.

Agnes was encouraged to register for a Skype account by Phuti Ragophala during the SchoolNet SA conference, and her activity map shows that she has already participated in 37 Skype in the Classroom activities. Agnes has also encouraged her teachers to make use of Skype in the Classroom for learning without borders.

All 36 teachers at Sunrise View Secondary School have joined the Microsoft Educator Community so that they can access free online courses and resources. Agnes has already earned 97 badges on the Microsoft Educator Community for the online courses and activities she has completed, and has also earned her trainer badge. Agnes says, "I’m so excited by the rapid migration to the 21st century school".

Agnes met SchoollNet SA's executive director Omashani Naidoo at the conference when Omashani ran a training of trainers session. They have stayed in touch since the conference, and Omashani has continued to encourage Agnes and to answer her questions. Omashani encouraged Agnes to share her learning with she school's management team and ICT committees at Sunrise View Secondary School and to offer professional development workshops in her community.

Teachers and school leaders like Agnes are the reason why we believe that digital learning has the power to be a catalyst for change. If you attended the SchoolNet SA conference, and are using the inspiration, network and ideas that it sparked to make a difference in your classroom, school or community please share your story with us. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

ISPA SuperTeacher Finalists recognized for outstanding uses of technology to enhance education

Ten teachers have been selected as finalists in the Internet Service Providers Association’s (ISPA) SuperTeacher Competition based on a project or lesson that showcases their skills in using digital tools to enhance classroom teaching.

Anel Flack
The following finalists, representing six different provinces, will travel to Johannesburg to be part of iWeek, the Internet industry conference and exhibition which is taking place at the Indaba hotel from 26 - 28 August 2019: 
  • Louise Fullard of Hoerskool Bergvlam - Mpumalanga
  • Fiona Beal of The Rock Academy - Western Cape
  • Peggy Jona of Bakuba Primary - Eastern Cape
  • Lyneth Crighton of Brescia House School - Gauteng
  • Anel Flack of Hoerskool Standerton - Mpumalanga
  • Mabore Lekalakala of Mapudithomo Primary - Limpopo
  • Lady Hadio Mei of Moedi Secondary - Northern Cape
  • Matthew Hains of Saheti Secondary - Gauteng
  • Dimakatso Sefora of Saron Primary - NorthWest
  • Leanne Bishop of Grantleigh School - Eastern Cape
Dimekatso Sefora
The ISPA SuperTeachers competition is managed by the Digital Education Institute (DEI), a non-profit organisation, and is one of South Africa's longest running ICT in education competitions. SchoolNet SA has been proud to have Megan Rademeyer serve on the judging panel for this competition for many years and we are delighted to see a number of teachers who we have worked with over the years, or teachers who have presented at our conferences, being recognized as finalists. 

Lady Hadio Mei
Other SuperTeachers judges include Sarah-Jane Capazario and Dorcas Tabane (ISPA), Shadi Mathosa (ICT in education specialist), Professor Mthulisi Velempini (University of Limpopo), Deon van Vuuren (Branch Co-ordinator for Curriculum at Mpumalanga Provincial Education Department), Moloko Malahlela (Chief Education specialist - Gauteng) and Gerald Roos (Western Cape - Deputy Director in the Directorate: LTSM Policy Development and Innovation).

Fiona Beal
The standard of entries was particularly high this year, with some previous ISPA SuperTeachers winners and finalists submitting an even more creative lesson idea than they submitted in previous years. “The judges have roundly-applauded the talent that has presented itself for adjudication at this year’s ISPA SuperTeacher of the Year awards,” says Milford Malunga of the Digital Education Institute (DEI).

Leanne Bishop
Whilst we look forward to seeing who is announced as the SuperTeacher of the year on 26 August 2019, all ten finalists have reason to be proud of the creative ways that they have used technology as tools of teaching and learning. We know that they are looking forward to being part of iWeek, meeting with delegates from the IT industry and most importantly networking among themselves to each go back to school armed with new ideas. 

Friday, 9 August 2019

Commonwealth of Learning Teacher Futures - Success story from the Eastern Cape

SchoolNet SA is currently running a Commonwealth of Learning Teachers Future project in conjunction with the University of Fort Hare. The programme is aimed at developing digital learning among 10 schools in the Amatole District of the Eastern Cape.  The schools are in the same district as the University of Fort Hare where lecturers in the Faculty of Education are also participating in the Teacher Futures Programme with the intention of improving their digital learning expertise. 

To date teachers have attended a digital skills course and a course aimed at helping them to make effective use of digital resources in the classroom. While the programme aims to support 100 teachers, and their participation in a community of practice, the individual stories of some of the participants illustrate the power of the Teacher Futures to transform education. Here is an example of one teacher who has embraced the opportunity to improve her digital skills to enhance teaching and learning.

Nomalungisa Maxengana - An early digital resources adopter

Nomalungisa Maxengana teaches English and History at Elukhanyisweni High School, located in the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa. She also serves as the head of department for Languages and Social Sciences. She is an older teacher who is readily adapting to new pedagogies. Having been born, bred and schooled in the village of Peddle in the Eastern Cape, she is a village girl and proud of it. 

Elukhanyisweni High School is one of the ten project schools in the ‘Teacher Futures’ programme funded by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL). The programme has made it possible for Nomalungisa to participate in a range of professional development courses. 

“I knew next to nothing about digital learning skills at the start of the programme, apart from typing on my laptop, attaching documents and sending e-mail attachments,” Nomalungisa says. She also recalls that her sons used to tease her about buying smart phones that she doesn’t know how to use. However, Nomalungisa credits the Teacher Futures programme for motivating her to master technology and says that she is now determined not to lag behind. Since the inception of the project, she is more focused on infusing technologies in her teaching and learning to prove that “even old ladies can move with the times when it comes to technology”. 

Whilst she is enthusiastic about applying her learnings, Nomalungisa notes that there have been challenges which require teachers to change their mindset and to work with the resources that are accessible to them. For example, Elukhanyisweni High School was burgled, and all the learner tablets donated by MTN and Vodacom were stolen. As a result of this, teachers only have access to their own laptops for planning and executing lessons. Another challenge is that there is only one data projector at the school, which limits the extent to which teachers can integrate technology. This resource must therefore be used by the teachers in rotation.

At a recent Change Leadership workshop focusing on the culture of collaboration in the workplace, Nomalungisa learnt how to download YouTube videos and create podcasts. Back at school, she used her new skills to create and share podcasts to prepare learners for exams over the weekend. She also downloaded and shared appropriate videos via WhatsApp, a messaging platform, as learners often do not have access to connectivity to search for subject-specific videos. 

“I was amazed by the enthusiasm of the learners in their response to the resources and this positive response prompted me to encourage my colleagues to create learner subject groups on to collaborate among themselves while sharing information,” she says.

Although learners enjoy listening to voice notes and watching videos, there have been challenges including limited access to smartphones. As a solution to this challenge, Nomalungisa bought a set of speakers so that more learners can listen to voice notes while in class. She also encourages learners to share phones to view videos. The messaging platform has had the positive outcome of providing an easy way to motivate learners and to encourage them to participate in knowledge sharing. 

Nomalungisa is, indeed, an inspiration to her colleagues, especially those who resisted technology and were happy with their old ways of doing things. She is a Change Leadership pioneer, an implementer and a credit to the Teacher Futures programme that champions school-based teacher professional development.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Are your learners ready for the Programming Olympiad?

If you haven't already done so, please enter your IT learners with a flair for programming in the Programming Olympiad, taking place between 29 July and 2 August 2019.  It is designed to challenge learners who can use a programming language like Scratch, Python, Java, C++ or Delphi. Whilst individual learners can enter, entire classes are encouraged to take part.

How does the Programming Olympiad work?

In the first round of the challenge, participants have to solve a number of problems using the programming language of their choice. The top 20% of those participating in Round 1 will be invited to take part in Round 2 where the questions become a lot harder. Round 2 problems also make use of common algorithms but include algorithms for more advanced searching, such as breadth-first and depth-first searches, and dynamic programming.

What languages can be used?

All the Round 2 problems can be answered using C++, Java, Pascal and Python. They can, of course, also be answered using Delphi and the various Java IDEs such as Netbeans. There is only one paper for all age groups, with questions available in English and Afrikaans.

What are the prizes?

Selected participants are entered into the International Olympiad in Informatics. Top learners are recognized by the Programming Olympiad, and of course all participants benefit from being exposed to fun and challenging programming opportunities.

Who marks the answers?

Round 2 is going to be marked automatically by an program evaluator.

Where can teachers and learners access resources that will assist with programming? 

It is worth investigating the Goalkicker site that contains free e-books on a variety of different programming languages. Encourage those of your learners that could get into Round 2 to work on the Programming Olympiad site and to try solve the problems. Teachers may also want to use some of the problems as one-off practical questions for their classes. 

How do you register? 

You can still register learners to participate in the 2019 Computer Programming Olympiad here 
If you aren't ready for the Programming Olympiad just yet, it is worth investigating the Talent Search offered by the Computer Olympiad to develop computational thinking skills in your learners.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Access the resources for the SchoolNet SA 2019 Digital Learning Conference

The Royal Bafokeng Institute and the Lebone II College, in partnership with NorthWest Department of Basic Education, hosted the SchoolNet SA 2019 Digital Learning Conference between 26 and 28 June 2019. Four hundred and sixty eight delegates attended the conference, including teachers with a passion for digital learning, ICT coordinators and national and provincial eLearning officials.

Conference attendees enjoyed three days of professional development aligned to the following conference themes: Digital Resources in the Classroom; Cultivating Creativity; Leadership in Digital Education; Gaming, Coding and Makerspaces and eAssessment Strategies and Tools.

We are grateful for contributions from Microsoft Philanthropies and Telkom, whose sponsorship towards the conference made it possible for more teachers from under-resourced schools to attend. We also wish to thank Lego Foundation for sponsoring keynote speaker Ollie Bray to present a range of workshops on Learning Through Play.

Read more about the conference in the SchoolNet SA Digital Learning Conference – Report and access the conference OneNote and session resources to learn more about individual sessions.