Monday, 14 May 2018

SchoolNet SA in the News

April 2018 was a busy media month for SchoolNet - and you may have seen us on TV or heard us talking about our Learning Gains Through Play project on the radio.

The impetus
The need to share important findings from research conducted over four years as part of the DG Murray Trust-funded study on Learning Gains through Play prompted SchoolNet South Africa to issue a press release in April 2018.

This project had shown that exposure to digital educational apps and Xbox Kinect games had significantly improved second language skill in the Foundation Phase. Learners from the 10 project schools had consistently outperformed learners at the 2 control schools in a range of literacies over the previous four years but the improvement in second language English acquisition among the isiZulu and isiXhosa-speaking learners was the most remarkable.

Where did we feature?

Within the week of the media release, several radio stations contacted SchoolNet for interviews about the findings. These included Cape Talk Radio, the 702, Turf Radio, Alex FM, SAfm and RSG. Both Omashani Naidoo and Janet Thomson fielded questions about the research from these radio stations.

Here are the links to some of the interviews and press items:
  • Janet was especially impressed by Azania Mosaka of 702, who was well informed, asked great questions that showed insight into relevant issues related to the project. Listen to the podcast here.
  • For the Afrikaans interview on RSG, Dr Jacqueline Bachelor, the Programme Manager of Initial Teacher Education and Senior Lecturer in mobile and blended learning at the University of Johannesburg, was interviewed. Listen to the podcast here.
  • Omashani was interviewed by Stephen Grootes on SAfm. The podcast can be heard here.
  • Two notable online publications featured the SchoolNet media release; Arthur Goldstuck’s Gadget piece can be viewed here and the IT online item appears here.
SchoolNet SA on Morning Live
On 30 April 2018 Omashani Naidoo was invited by SABC 3 TV to be interviewed by Pearl Shongwe on SABC 3's Morning Live show. Interview can be seen here. Questions centred around the positive research findings that digital learning could have such a profound impact on literacy at a time when the release of the PIRLS results had shown that 78% of Grade 4 learners had not been able to read for meaning. 

Interviewer and listener questions
Interviewers from the different media channels chose different angles to hone in on. Some of them preferred to talk generally about digital learning and what SchoolNet SA does. However, the possibility that exposure to digital apps and games could be the answer to improving South Africa’s reading crisis came up in most of the interviews. A number of the interviewers demonstrated that they had engaged with the detail in the press release and had considerable background knowledge to support their questions. 

SchoolNet SA was grateful for the exposure that our organisation gained from the various interviews. They showed that South Africans are definitely interested in the power of technology to address the reading crisis in South Africa as well as to create more engaging and powerful teaching opportunities. We hope that some of the interest generated by the interviews will lead to future projects where more teachers and learners benefit from projects similar to Learning Gains through Play. 

Friday, 11 May 2018

Get involved in the - My World 360 Degree Global VR Project

Are you looking for a global project to get your learners doing something positive towards tacking the Sustainable Development Goals? 
Do you want to showcase your community and its challenges and solutions on a global stage?
Do you want your learners to make exciting media - but only have access to a Smartphone?

MY World 360° invites youth (ages 5-24) worldwide to create 360° media to share their perspectives and advance positive action toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aim of MY World 360° is to share the stories of the people behind the SDGs including those whose lives are most affected and those who are taking action to make their success a reality.

How can you get started?
Start by exploring the Sustainable Development Goals and how they are relevant to you and your community. Have conversations with people in your community to discover what issues are important to them. The MY World survey can be used as a tool to start the conversation and ask yourself and the people around you what stories need to be told.

What format should be used?
You’ll need to learn a bit about 360° media, a format that captures in every direction at once — up, down, and all around. To participate all you need is a Smartphone. Download a free 360° photo tool like the Google Street View app and get started. Check out these 360° media examples for ideas and inspiration.

What story should you and your learners tell?
Your story should relate to the SDGs and the ideas discussed with your community.

How do I share my work?
Share your 360° work on social media using the hashtags #MYWorld360 and #SDGs. You can also submit your media to MY World 360° by 5 June for July events and by 15 August for September events. 

Where can you get more information about MY World 360°?
Check out the website, FAQs and programme guide here and be sure to complete the online Educator interest form if you would like to get involved. We look forward to seeing some South African entries included in the showcase.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Using Kodu in the Classroom - Watch the Microsoft Virtual Academy and try the tool

Are you keen to try some basic coding in your classroom? Perhaps you have already done the Hour of Code with your learners, and now you are ready to move on to something a bit more challenging?

Why not give Kodu a try?

Kodu lets students create games on Windows computers using a simple visual programming language. Through making games, students also have opportunities to express themselves creatively, solve problems and tell stories.

If you are new to Kodu, check out the Microsoft Virtual Academy in which SchoolNet's Megan Rademeyer discusses Kodu basic's with TechTeachers Matthew Hains. In this session, Matthew gives some good tips for making this free tool work in the South African context and on pretty much any Windows computer that has connectivity. You can also find pointers in the Introduction to Kodu course on the Microsoft Educator Community.

Once you have got the basics down - think of a way of integrating Kodu into a cross-curricular project. There are some inspirational examples on the Kodu website including using Kodu in
  • Maths – for activities involving surface area, volume, working with data
  • Life Science – modeling the water cycle, water in the life of a cybersalmon
  • Science – a Mars Rover simulation, developing and testing theories
  • Language – using Kodu as a storytelling device

Please let us know how you have used Kodu with your learners. We would love to feature South African lesson ideas for other teachers to try.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Physical Computing in the Classroom - watch our Virtual Academy and give it a try

Physical computing involves interactive physical systems or devices that can be programmed through software. That sounds very high-tech - but basically it involves bringing coding to life by programming something that you can touch to do something.

For example, if you have a Microbit you can use a piece of tape to create into a fancy bracelet that flashes a message. Or if two people each have a Microbit - these can be programmed to make a symbol for either rock, paper or scissors so that a digital version of this classic game can be played as the Microbits are shaken.

Physical computing activities for learners have a range of benefits, including:
  • encouraging an holistic view of computer systems across hardware and software
  • encouraging creativity and personalisation of projects
  • promoting learning by doing, trial and error, collaboration
  • engaging the whole learner – mind and body

In our Physical Computing in the Classroom Microsoft Virtual Academy, SchoolNet SA's Megan Rademeyer discusses a range of physical computing ideas with Matthew Hains from TechTeachers.

One of the main points we discussed was how to make physical computing work in schools that don't have access to resources or a computer science teacher. Matthew showed us how you can still try physical computing without tools like Microbits or Adafruit, by going to the Makecode website and coding a virtual Microbit. There are a range of great activities to try that don't require any formal computer science training to follow.

Please check out the course on the Physical Computing for the Non-Computer Science Educator course on the Microsoft Educator Community for some more pointers on this topic. Be sure to send us some pictures of your learners trying out physical computing so that we can share your lesson ideas with other teachers.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Get your learners involved in an international collaborative project

Connecting with students from other countries can provide your learners with a rewarding opportunity to interact with people from other cultures and different backgrounds. Collaborating on a common project provides all participants with a common goal, that each group can contribute towards. Great projects provide all participants with opportunities to work towards addressing a global challenge, whilst bringing their own local knowledge and experiences to the task.

Our friends at iEarn empower teachers and students worldwide to use technology to collaborate on projects designed to make a meaningful contribution to the health and welfare of the planet and its people. Listed below are some of the latest projects that you can join:

STICK Project

iEarn welcomes a new collaborative math project, the STICK Project - Measuring the Circumference of the Earth. This project will connect secondary school students and the main objective is to measure the perimeter of the Earth, in a similar way to that used by Eratosthenes more than 2,200 years ago. For this, each group of students and their teachers around the world will measure the height and shadow of a stick during the solar midday of autumn or September equinox. 

Global Youth Service Day

This April, Join iEARN Moldova and global project participants in the Global Youth Service Day project. The project aims to support a global culture of engaged children and youth committed to a lifetime of meaningful service, learning, and leadership. The Global Youth Service Project will help teachers and students partner with local, state, national, and international organizations committed to engaging children and youth as leaders through volunteering, community service, service-learning, national service, and voting/civic engagement.

Every Day is Earth Day

Celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd with the Every Day is Earth Day project! This year, classes are focusing on Ocean Pollution and Marine Waste Disposal. In the project, students write short essays or poems, take photos, create drawings, or make videos where they share their solutions to help protect the environment.