Thursday, 30 May 2019

Try out Minecraft: Education Edition for Game-Based Learning

Play is a natural human instinct; where we learn communication, interpersonal skills, emotional control, resiliency and persistence, and even the basics of engineering. Game-based learning (GBL) refers to the use of games or game principles to affect positive learning outcomes. Games can offer an engaging, immersive environment for learners to experiment, try and solve challenges, and collaborate with peers in a virtual world.


Many learners are already playing Minecraft, and more and more teachers are using the Minecraft in Education Edition for game-based learning activities, to complement their STEM curriculum, hone learners coding skills and so much more. If you would like to try out Minecraft Education Edition in your classroom, why not access the trial version for free here. All users with a valid Office 365 account can access the trial version with a limited number of logins before you need to subscribe.
If your learners don't already have Office 365 accounts, encourage them to access a Mahala account for free. Mahala is available to South African youth between the ages of 8 to 24 and can be used to  access free Office 365 and the Minecraft Education. Sign up here.


If you are already using Minecraft Education Edition, or if you want to try out a fun lesson using your trial version, access the Subject Kits with pre-built Minecraft worlds and lessons. All subjects are covered from STEM to Languages and the Arts. Access the subject kits here.


Science teachers in particular are encouraged to try out the chemistry experiments in a fail-safe, simulated environment by combining elements into useful compounds and exploring all the elements of the Periodic Table. Access these resources here

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Omshani Naidoo is SchoolNet SA's new Executive Director

Congratulations to Omashani Naidoo on her recent appointment as SchoolNet SA’s Executive Director. Omashani has been an integral part of SchoolNet for the past twelve years and we wish her well in her new role. We have faith that Omashani will continue to build on the successes and history of SchoolNet SA, taking on new challenges and adding her own flair to the organisation. SchoolNet SA’s outgoing Executive Director, Janet Thomson, will remain part of the SchoolNet SA family as a member of the Board. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Janet for her leadership and guidance of SchoolNet SA for the past fourteen years.



Anyone who has had any association with SchoolNet SA over the past decade is sure to already know Omashani. She has represented SchoolNet SA in many capacities; has been an active thought-leader in discussions around technology in education; and has trained and mentored many teachers, school leaders, ICT officials over the years. Here is Omashani's full biography:


Omashani Naidoo



Ms Omashani Naidoo is a qualified, Mathematics and Computer Studies teachers and holds an Honours Degree in Education, Training and Development is currently studying her Masters’ Degree in ICTs in Education.

She started her career as a teacher at Radley College and later Waverley Girls High (JHB). She then became part of the subject matter experts’ team at Mindset network, developed their Grade 10 Information Technology materials for print, video and computer-based multimedia and presented Mathematics lessons on the Mindset Learn channel.

In 2007, she started working at SchoolNet SA, and grew into the role of Operations Manager whose responsibilities included management of project budgets as well as monitoring and evaluating training and consultant trainers across the country. This role expanded to seeking new business relationships and projects, maintaining SchoolNet's presence at National and Provincial events and representing SchoolNet at strategic, thought leadership discussions and policy development. She is a master trainer for Microsoft, Google Education, Adobe and Intel, is the IEARN Country Coordinator and an inaugural Global Intel Visionary.


She has vast experience in the implementation of ICT projects both nationally and provincially, which ensures a strategic skillset that balances practice with sound technological, pedagogical and content knowledge of ICTs in Education. She uses a developmental and mentoring approach to growing staff as well as educators through the various SchoolNet programmes and looks forward to leading the organisation to new heights in her role as the Executive Director.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Calling all potential ISPA SuperTeachers

The ISPA SuperTeachers Competition, which is managed by the Digital Education Institute (DEI), is one of the longest-running annual competitions celebrating South African teachers who are using technology to enhance education.

According to project manager Milford Malunga at DEI, “The ISPA SuperTeacher of the Year Awards are well-respected in education circles, both for their longevity and for the huge role they have played in encouraging teachers to pioneer ICT.”


The SuperTeachers competition offers teachers an opportunity to showcase their skills in using digital resources to enhance classroom teaching and learning. This year, for the first time, competition entries will focus on applying cutting edge ICT thinking to design an innovative and effective ICT-infused lesson plan that is aligned to the curriculum.

Interested teachers need to register for the competition by Monday 13 May 2019 and then their final entry (their lesson plan) must be submitted by Friday 28 June 2019. Between registering and submitting their final entries, teachers will have access to a Facebook community of support to assist them with their entries.


This year prizes will be awarded in two categories in order to accommodate teachers who have access to different levels of resources at their schools. A prize is also being offered to a teacher who is able to recruit ten or more eligible colleagues to participate. Finalists will all be invited to attend iWeek - which is being held in Johannesburg in September, where the ISPA SuperTeacher of the Year Awards will be presented.

Visit www.ispasuperteachers.co.za to register for the competition and for more information.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Could one of your learners be the next Microsoft Office Champion?

Certiport, Microsoft and Netlearn are offering an opportunity for learners who are Microsoft Office whizzes to represent South Africa at the Certiport Office Specialist World Championship.


What is this competition about?

This global competition tests students' skills on Microsoft Office applications. The learners with the highest exam scores and the lowest exam-taking times in the national competition will be invited to represent their country and compete at the World Championships.


When and where do the World Championships take place?

New York, USA between 28 and 31 July 2019. 

How can learners participate?

To be eligible for possible selection, learners should pass one of the following Microsoft Office Specialist exams before 31 May 2019:

  • Word 2013 or 2016
  • Excel 2013 or 2016
  • PowerPoint 2013 or 2016 

To compete in the final round of the competition, learners must be enrolled in an approved, accredited learning institution and must be between the ages of 13 and 22 (as of 31 May 2019)

The learners who represent South Africa at the World Championships stand to win a range of prizes.


For more info and assistance see the Netlearn website and contact details in the image below:


Monday, 25 March 2019

A new computer lab - Lessons from New Nation School

In October 2018, the old Gauteng Online computer room at New Nation School in Vrededorp, Gauteng was equipped with Windows 10 laptops by Microsoft Philanthropies as part of a larger programme of support provided to the school by the Trevor Noah Foundation. SchoolNet SA has conducted the 'Change Leadership for Technology Integration' course for school leaders and the 'Microsoft in the Education' course for educators at the school and has also provided some onsite coaching and support.

Whilst the school has only had a well-equipped computer room for two terms, we've been pleased to see the progress that has been made to date.  This blogpost highlights some of the key successes and learnings of the New Nation journey so far.

Get the policies in place - before the equipment arrives

The delay in installing the computer equipment at New Nations proved to be a blessing in disguise. Through the Change Leadership course, school leaders had time to think about the changes that technology could bring to their school and how they would like to use the equipment as a catalyst for change. An ICT committee was appointed and a school ICT policy was drawn up prior to any devices being installed so that by the time the equipment arrived, teachers and learners knew what to expect and what the systems were for using the equipment. Learners were required to sign an acceptable use policy before being allowed to use the computers - establishing good norms for the equipment from the outset.



Establish a timetable for using the computers - across subjects

When a school has a well-equipped computer room, there is a temptation to use it to use it to offer Computer Applications Technology as a subject. Whilst CAT teaches valuable skills to learners who take the subject, it can mean that other learners don't get a chance to use the computers for other subjects, and learners in lower grades don't have a chance to build computer literacy skills. At New Nation, teachers were consulted about who wanted to use the computers for subject teaching and a timetable was drawn up to give teachers a regular slot in a week. Whilst learners may not use the computer room in every subject, once or twice a week learners will go to the lab to do research or to work on documents for one of their subjects. This is a great start, and hopefully as more teachers build confidence and skills they will ask for slots on the timetable for their subjects.


Have some free slots for the computer room

The New Nation School computer lab timetable ensures that teachers can plan their use of the computers in advance, but the lab is not timetabled for use every period. This means that when a teacher who does not have a regular slot wants to get his class to do an interactive quiz or wants to show a subject-related video he or she has been able to make arrangements to take his or her class to the lab. This arrangement helps to ensure that more teachers and subjects can make use of the lab - even if only occasionally.


Don't be scared of being shown up by the learners

The New Nation teachers had a go at doing the Hour of Code and loved it... but few of the teachers felt confident to run the activity for learners. At one of the coaching sessions, the SchoolNet SA coach helped co-teach a lesson with the teacher - which basically involved showing learners how to access the Minecraft themed tutorials and walking the learners through the first one or two puzzles. After a very brief introduction, learners were largely able to work by themselves, with some learners flying through the full challenge at record speed. After this successful session the Grade 12 First Additional Language teacher said he now felt confident enough to run a session on his own for his other classes and had realized that he does not need to be an expert at everything in the computer room - he just needs to provide the learners with an opportunity to develop their own skills.


Make the computers available for research and lesson preparation

When teachers have free periods at New Nation School, they can often be found in the computer room, working on one of the laptops. Sometimes, even when a class is in session, teachers will find a free computer and will carry on with their own work. It has been a joy to see teachers using Excel to capture their marks, Word to create worksheets and PowerPoint to prepare presentations. Teachers are able to informally help one another and the computer room coordinator assists if she is around, but most teachers are finding that as they use the computers more, their skills improve and they need to ask for help less often. We were excited when we heard that after one teacher used Socrative other teachers asked their colleague to show them how to make their own interactive quiz. This shows that teachers are willing to learn from one another, to seek support and to try new tools.


Use the cloud to have your own files on shared devices

Once teachers had access to school O365 accounts teachers were able to access their accounts from any device. This has been a big help as teachers can now work at any computer in the lab, or from their phones or personal computers at home.This has reduced the risk of viruses from teachers saving their files to flash drives and has also meant that sensitive documents like tests or mark-sheets are not being saved on the hard drives of laptops - where learners using the devices can access them.


Give learners access to computers 

The learners at New Nation are mostly orphans or vulnerable children, with many living in shelters in Johannesburg. This means that for the majority of learners, the school computers are the only devices that they currently have access to. The delight of getting to use the devices is captured in these reports on a Grade 10 Life Orientation lesson:

"My class made a chance to do research about the career that we want to be. I also got a chance to do research about mine. Also touching that laptop even though it was my first time its made me so happy."

"Today I had a nice or enjoyable experience. We went to the computer lab for the first time since grade 8. Yooo! I really enjoyed the computers with touch screens and that was my first time using them. I always hear about it but never experience it. We searched for our future careers and heard some advice from those people who are successful in those careers"




Next steps

Whilst we are excited by the progress made by teachers at New Nation School to integrate some digital tools into their lessons, we'd like to see learners having more access to the computers and more opportunities to build their digital skills. In the new term we hope to see learners getting O365 accounts which will enable them to save their work in their own space on the cloud and we also hope to encourage learners to complete the Digital Literacy Curriculum to further boost their skills.