Thursday, 19 September 2019

Community Support for Amathole Teacher Futures School

Elukhanyisweni Secondary School, situated in the Amathole District of the Eastern Cape, is one of the schools participating in the Commonwealth of Learning Teacher Futures programme. The programme aims to support teachers in developing digital skills and creating communities of practice so that they can provide better teaching and learning opportunities for rural learners.

Whilst Elukhanyisweni had computers and received a donation of tablets from MTN, the school has been burgled a number of times and a lot of the digital tools have been stolen.  At the Change Leadership for Digital Learning course, facilitated by SchoolNet SA, Mr Ayanda Oliphant, principal of the school and Ms NomaLungisa Maxengana, Head of Department reported that the burglaries have been worrying and demotivating for both teachers and learners. They were advised that getting the support of the community for the school's vision may help to keep the school's equipment safe.

On 16 September 2019, Mr Oliphant and Ms Maxengana attended a community executive meeting and appealed for community assistance in preventing burglaries at their school. In a moving speech (that can be viewed here) Nomalungisa explained that the school aims to produce learners who are competent globally, and learners who will not look down upon themselves because they are products of a village school. She noted that "we don’t wish our learners to have an inferiority complex when among their Johannesburg and American counterparts."

Maxengana informed the meeting about the Teacher Futures programme facilitated by SchoolNet explaining that "SchoolNet started by training a few teachers in our school, then we will train our colleagues, so that at the end of the day we all teach the modern way, infusing technology in our teaching." The community agreed with the vision shared by Maxengana that "teaching with technology will not only benefit learners, but the whole Msobomvu community will be enlightened". 

After getting the buy-in of the group the school leaders said that the success of the programme would require community cooperation to make sure that the sponsored technology is valued and protected for the whole school community to benefit. The community was deeply moved by her speech and unanimously voiced their willingness to prioritize ensuring the security of the school. Furthermore, the provincial Department of Education plans to fence the school.

Hlengiwe Mfeka, who manages the Teacher Future programme for SchoolNet SA, says that Mr Oliphant and Ms Nomalungisa from Elukhanyisweni Secondary school have consistently attended all scheduled workshops. They were one of the first schools to submit the required documents to earn various badges and they try their best to implement what's been learnt in the workshops. These school leaders also share their best practices and learnings with the rest of the Teacher Futures Community of Practice via the project WhatsApp group. We are hopeful that now that the community knows more about the vision of the school that they will help to protect the digital tools so that they can be fully used to benefit teaching and learning. 

Commonwealth of Learning Teacher Futures: Success Stories from Amathole

SchoolNet SA has been working with teachers and school leaders from ten schools in the Amathole District in the Eastern Cape as part of the Commonwealth of Learning Teacher Futures programme. Teacher Futures strives to develop teaching and learning communities of practice (COP) for the purpose of scaling up in-service teachers' digital knowledge and skills and to assist them in providing quality and sustainable education in the Eastern Cape schools.

With these goal in mind, teachers from the participating schools have attended the following professional development workshops offered by SchoolNet SA facilitators:

  • Learning Design Workshop
  • Change Leadership for Digital Learning
  • Digital Literacy and Initiating Community of Practice
  • Using Digital Resources in the Classroom

We were delighted to hear from Phelela Mqhiki, a teacher from Nzululwazi High School and Charmaine Nel, a Head of Department from Ntabenkonyana High School who consistently attended the workshops who shared some of their experiences and the benefits of participating in the Teacher Futures project. (Please click on the teacher's names to see the videos that they shared).

Community of Practice at Ntabenkonyana

Charmaine reported that after ten teachers from her school attended the Digital Literacy workshop she saw a lot of changes, noting, that as HODs "we expect teachers to submit their work typed.... we expect them to be more professional. And I must admit that now they are very professional". 

The Change Leadership course has also bought about changes such as "the school's new vision also includes technology now whereas in the past it was silent when it comes to technology". Charmaine notes that,  "when it comes to lesson assessment and lesson planning there is a big change. Because in lesson plans we now incorporate visuals that we download from different apps. The lesson becomes more stimulating and the learners enjoy them more." 

Better digital literacy skills have also made it easier for teachers to join and actively participate in their community of practice. Charmaine says that "when it comes to sharing information we do that with some teachers in the neighborhood. Almost all of us have laptops so it becomes easy to share, comment and edit information that you have presented to them. That is also quite exciting. You don't have to travel to the next school to get information - we just share that on our laptops. Even when it comes to saving work. It doesn't get lost easily now that we are using Google Drive." 

Nzululwazi prepares for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Phelela Mqhiki says that the most valuable and positive workshop for her was Using Digital Resources in the Classroom course, as she notes that "in the Eastern Cape we are very rural and we have been using chalk in our classrooms". She said that the workshop helped her and her colleagues to see how the computers can be used in their classrooms and how to go about introducing learners to the technology. Phelela believes that the workshops will help them to be ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. She regards herself as fortunate among teachers in the Eastern Cape because now her classroom performance is improved and her learners are also doing better.  

As the Teacher Futures project continues we look forward to hearing more about how teachers and school leaders are applying what they are learning to developing their community of practice and sharing more ideas and resources for improving teaching and learning at the participating schools. 

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.