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.

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.


Friday, 9 November 2018

SchoolNet nominated for UNESCO ICT in Education Prize

SchoolNet SA is proud to announce that the 'Learning Gains Through Play' project, funded by the DG Murray Trust, has been nominated by the South African National Commission to be considered for the UNESCO ICT in Education Prize.

What is the UNESCO ICT in Education prize?  

The UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa ICT in Education Prize was established in 2005 and is funded by the Kingdom of Bahrain. The prize aligns with the Education 2030 agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 4 and recognizes innovative approaches in leveraging new technologies to expand educational opportunities. The awards recognize teachers and organisations who are executing excellent models, best practices and creative uses of ICTs to enhance overall education performance. From the various national nominations, an international jury selects the two best projects to be acknowledged during a ceremony at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.


What was the aim of the Learning Gains Through Play project?

The vision of the 'Learning Gains through Play' programme was to transform learning environments by placing digital resources in the hands of learners, making the learning personalized, learner-driven, and resulting in students becoming skilled, excited and motivated life-long learners.


How was the project executed?

Twelve under-resourced schools (and two control schools) were selected from the areas around Howick in KwaZulu-Natal and Somerset West in the Western Cape to be part of this pilot project. Whilst the number of schools was small, the intention of the project was to provide intensive professional development and support to teachers, an array of resources to Foundation Phase classrooms, and to monitor the progress made by the learners. It was hoped that as a result of this research project that conclusive findings could be made as to the value of play in promoting learning gains, which will hopefully lead to other, similar projects being rolled out.


Each of the project schools were given tablets for teachers and learners as well as an Xbox Kinect (with games) and a large TV. Knowing that technology alone is unlikely to lead to significant changes to teaching and learning, the main focus of the project was on intensive teacher professional development in games-based learning and the value of digital learning when taught effectively. A range of educational apps and games were evaluated and analysed in terms of the national curriculum and teachers shared ideas and strategies for using digital tools in their classrooms. Workshops on Peer Coaching and Change Leadership were also provided to ensure buy-in from principals and school leaders, and also to ensure that teachers would be able to provide sustainable support to one another once the project is complete.


In what way are the beneficiaries vulnerable?

If there is a lack of meaningful learning in the Foundation Phase, learners fail to master foundational literacies such as visual literacy skills, fine-motor skills, literacy and numeracy. Without a good foundation, the conceptual gaps widen with each successive year, preventing progress later in primary school and beyond. If learners fail to grasp the basics of reading and numeracy in the Foundation Phase, when they are still taught in their mother-tongue, the deficits are only likely to  worsen when the learners move to grade four and the medium of instruction changes to English.


How has the use of digital tools enhanced the education of the participants?

The Learning Gains programme explored how visual literacy, fine-motor skills, literacy and numeracy can be enhanced through play and importantly, through the innovative use of tablet apps and games and the Xbox Kinect. Teacher development was designed to guide teachers on how to mediate learning in relation to the curriculum while learners were using the technology and resulted in confident use by both teachers and learners.


What have been some of the findings of the project?

We have tracked the performance of learners at the project schools who have been part of this project since grade one, testing them regularly in terms of literacy, numeracy, fine-motor skills and English acquisition. On the whole, we have been incredibly pleased with their progress, which has been better than that of learners in the control schools. Here are some of our key findings:
  • The 2017 study indicated that exposure to digital games had significantly improved a range of literacies of learners in project schools and most notably that of oral English acquisition
  • The 2018 study of project learners in Grade 4 indicated that as the learners' acquired language stages improved, there was a positive overall improvement in all subjects
  • Exposure to digital tools and resources that use the medium of English in Foundation Phase, impacts significantly on Oral English Acquisition and thus overall academic performance by Grade 4
  • Wherever there is a low level of second language English,  digital tools and particularly digital games can be used to fast track progress. 

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Memorable professional development for KZN Subject Advisors

In October 2018, SchoolNet SA facilitators Hlengiwe Mfeka and Senzo Ngcobo completed the Intel Tablets in the Classroom for 28 GET subject advisors from Kwa-Zulu Natal at the Bergville Education Centre. These subject advisors had already attended two previous courses namely; ICT Skills for Teachers and Using Digital Resources in the Classroom. The Tablets course, which formed the final step in their professional development pathway, aimed to provide subject advisors with tools and strategies for integrating tablets into the classroom.


In addition to the standard modules covered in this course, subject advisors completed a range of  activities that introduced them to additional tools and collaborative strategies for teaching and learning in mobile environments.


The subject advisors who attended the workshop were drawn from a range of districts across the province, including Umgungundlovu, Ilembe, Harry Gwala, Ugu, Amajuba, Umzinyathi and Uthukela. The group was described as “enthusiastic, jubilant and receptive throughout the week” and whilst most delegates had attended previous sessions, the four new delegates fitted into the group well.

The workshop was opened by Mr R Masondo the MST & ICT Deputy Director. He warmly welcomed everyone and highlighted the technological knowledge gap which the department was trying to bridge through this professional development. After a second ice-breaker, a course overview was provided. Delegates learnt that across the week’s activities they would be covering the 6 C’s of the 21st century skills (critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, citizenship and character) and that they would also be introduced to coding – whilst trying out different activities that would build these skills whilst using tablets.


With the introductory plenary complete, participants were split into two computer labs to begin the hands-on sessions with the same facilitator they had worked with at previous workshops. On the first day subject advisors learnt about the jigsaw teaching strategy.  Nomvuyo Thobela noted “This strategy ensures understanding of the content because each expert group member knows that he has to pay attention because he would have to teach his home group members later on”.


On the second day the group completed the Hour of Code Minecraft Adventurer Tutorial. The facilitators noted that  “at first, they thought it was just an easy game, that they’d cruise to the finish, but as they progressed, they realized that they had to apply their minds to move on to the next level of each puzzle. They agreed that coding does enhance creativity, collaboration and problem solving skills.” A further highlight of the day was using the tablets to create videos outside and then  uploading these to YouTube.


The third day of training involved a discussions about selecting quality educational apps and some hands on activities using a range of apps that are available on tablets. Mfeka reported that “delegates found these computational thinking activities very thought provoking and said this is what their learners needed to improve their performance, especially in the STEM subjects”. The fourth day of training involved groups learning about effective tablet management and internet safety by watching videos and sharing personal stories.


Whilst other groups of subject advisors who have attended similar workshops have also enjoyed a Gala Dinner, this group showcased their talents in a range of performances that made the evening especially memorable. All delegates received certificates at the Gala Dinner, and delegates who had excelled in various activities across the week were recognised for their achievements.


The course ended with subject advisors finalizing their action plans to ensure that their learnings would be shared across their districts, wrapping up their video uploads, thanking interns, and completing the course evaluation. Delegates expressed gratitude to the SchoolNet SA facilitators, with one subject advisor commenting that “This course has equipped me to contribute meaningfully to teaching and learning”.