Thursday, 28 July 2011

Interesting links from Blog readers

Submitted by Deb Avery
From one of our members, Arthur Preston, comes news of a conference on 21st Century Learning in Port Elizabeth this weekend.
The No Limits to learning conference will be held at Elsen Academy on Friday(Cyber-bullying) and Saturday (21st Century Classrooms.)

The Conference home page sets this challenge:

“Technology – we have it, so why aren’t we using it?”

The aim of this conference is to expose teachers to what’s out there in terms of interactive technologies, hardware and software that SHOULD be used in classrooms today and then how to use it and why we should use technology to be effective educators, considering the learners we are trying to teach (learning styles, genders differences, etc.)

Sign up for the conference at
if you are interested.

The other interesting link is from Carol Brown who writes for Her article "50 Reasons to invite facebook into your Classroom" makes interesting reading.

Find the link on our Facebook Page

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Empower a teacher, and you empower tomorrow’s leaders

A news report from IT Web 
Johannesburg, 6 July 2011 – In today’s challenging classroom contexts, effective education hinges on the vigour and dedication of educators – not their qualifications or number of years spent teaching.

A sense of community – in their education streams and subject areas – is what spurs today’s educators to rise beyond the substantial hurdles presented in their workplace, and technology is providing a bridge to unlocking their potential, and that of their learners, levelling the playing field.

“Given the great need to empower South Africa’s 18 million children – nearly 40 percent of our population – today with the skills they need to enter a workforce characterised by fast-changing technology and skills advances,” says Reza Bardien, Education Lead at Microsoft South Africa, “corporations are increasingly involved in assisting governments achieve this survival task.”

To this end, Microsoft South Africa in partnership with the Department of Basic Education annually hosts a series of Innovative Teacher Forum (ITF) workshops for primary and secondary schools across the country. This culminates in an awards initiative that highlights the unique ways in which teachers and learners collaborate to bring classroom learning to life and into context with their immediate environments.

“By learning to employ modern-day technologies such as mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras and desktop computers in their classroom projects, teachers rising to the ITF challenge not only enrich their own pedagogical skills, but they bring subjects to life and practical focus for their learners,” says Phil Mnisi, Director Curriculum Innovation and e-Learning at the National Department of Basic Education and forerunner of technology evangelism.

“The ITF awards each year challenge teachers to enter projects, which employ technology to explore real-world problems, which at the same time bearing relevance to their curriculum requirements.”

By participating in the types of projects these teachers run, learners are given the opportunity to develop critical thinking, collaboration, communication, research and problem solving skills.

The winners, announced last night during an awards ceremony at St Johns College in Johannesburg, are:

§ Louise Clarke and Kim Jackson of St Cyprians College in Cape Town for their class project “Tollbooth Movie Maker”;

§ Natalie Meerholz of Holy Rosary School in Edenvale for her class project “E-Waste Away”;

§ Lyneth Crighton of Brescia House in Bryanston for her class project “DigiGirlz puzzle IT out”;

§ Wessel Theron of Bishops Diocesan College in Cape Town for his class project “School of Rock”;

§ Ryan Galvin of St Nicholas Diocesan School in Pietermaritzburg for his class project “R and J in R and B”.

The five winners will go on to participate in the Middle East Africa Innovative Education Forum in September, with winners of this event afforded the unforgettable opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. in November for the Worldwide awards and a rare networking opportunity with teachers from around the globe. They each also receive a Netbook from Dell.

Dalene Thuynsma, a teacher at Carpe Diem School in George, wins a Sangari portable interactive whiteboard and response system in recognition of the innovative work she is doing in the challenging context of working with special needs learners in an under-resourced school.

“This year is the 6th annual Microsoft Innovative Teacher Forum being held in South Africa,” says Bardien. “In the past, South African and Lesotho teachers have been enormously successful in their participation at the regional and worldwide events and we have had a global award winner each year since the inception of the awards.”

The teachers that have participated regionally and globally have returned to South Africa and each year they run Innovation Workshops in order to share their skills and experiences with other teachers to encourage participation in this Forum.

“The judges were really impressed by the depth of the projects this year, and with the creative and exciting ideas that our teachers have come up with,” adds Bardien.

This year’s local finalists mirrored a renewed focus worldwide on providing learners with a well-rounded education, and entries ranged from computer-aided cover design, creative cinematography, podcasting and Wikipedia entries, to environmental activism and fundraising, responsible e-waste disposal, online learning resource creation and importantly, social entrepreneurship. All finalists receive an Encyclopedia Britannica and digital curriculum content from Learnthings.

“The Department, partnering with Microsoft and SchoolNet SA, annually trains thousands of teachers in the basic integration of ICT in teaching. In fact, since the beginning of the year, 14,000 teachers have been trained,” says Mnisi.

“This does not mean that all trained teachers go on to use this technology in their daily teaching to become what we call innovative teachers. Less than a thousand of these educators enter into the ITF awards following their training. We have to ask ourselves the question: are we providing them with enough support after training?”

ITF information and background can be accessed on

Monday, 25 July 2011

Southern Stars

SchoolnetSA has encouraged some superstars to shine over the past few years. With support through training and access to innovative practices, several teachers have had the opportunity to shine on the international stage.
At the moment, there are 5 such “Southern Stars”
Hlengiwe Mfeka’s story is found on the Case Studies page of the Blog. She and 2 learners are off to Santa Clara, California on the 2 August to attend the Adobe Youth Voices Summit. Hlengiwe’s mentorship has helped learners at Mconjwana High School in rural KZN to produce a very thought provoking and moving movie on Street Children.

Another Southern Star who has just returned from dazzling teachers in the Northern Hemisphere is Warren Sparrow.
Warren is a previous Microsoft Innovative Teachers Forum winner. His “Veggie Man” media project has been selected to be showcased as part of the Adobe Youth Voices Festival. This project will be screened with other projects during the International Education and Resource Network (IEARN) Conference in Taiwan. This conference was held in Kaohsiung City (2nd Largest city in Taiwan) and the theme was Green Tech, Green Life, Green Era. SchoolNetSA staff felt it was a bit sad for his media piece to go to Taiwan without him, and managed to find a sponsor so that he could accompany it! We look forward to hearing Warren’s reflections on the IEARN conference. You can see his video at

The other three “Southern Stars” are on their way to Washington USA right now.
Fiona Beal, Ngaka Ralekoala and Cheryl Douglas. They have been selected to be part of the inaugural Microsoft Partners-in-Learning Institute week at MS Headquarters in USA. The Partners in learning Network has identified the top innovative teachers in the World, and Fiona, Cheryl and Ngaka are amongst the less that 500 teachers globally who have been invited to join the circle and the even more exclusive group who have been invited to attend the workshop. All three have been winners in the South African Microsoft Innovative Teachers Forum in the past. We look forward to profiling them and their excellent work soon.

These are all exceptional teachers – but all Premium Members have the opportunity of becoming exceptional. SchoolnetSA is committed to helping all teachers grow to new levels of innovation. Being involved in PM interventions and entering the Innovative Educators Forum competition next year is a good place to start.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

What sort of things would you like to learn?

submitted by Deb Avery
The ICT in the classroom conference is over, and for most of us, it’s back to school. There were so many good ideas, so many interesting tools, so many things we could use in the classroom – if we had time, if we knew how to use them better, if we were able to change the plans we have already made for the term, if we could persuade the school management to allow us to use social networking .... I’m sure you have a whole bunch of barriers of your own.

I find that my list of 50 things I learnt is well populated but I often don’t get to follow through on them because I need just a bit more motivation.

This is something the Premium Member plan hopes to address – providing some additional Professional Development so that members can see how others have used ICTs in their classrooms, learn the “how to” of some of the topics touched on, find a kindred spirit who can give advice, encouragement and maybe even another class to collaborate with, build a Personal Learning Network and take some of the impetus of the conference forward into the classroom.

But to make this work, we need to know what you want to learn – is it more about social networking tools, is it about collaboration, is it attending a course Schoolnet already offers, is it joining a community of practice?

We would like to offer webinars, provide some videos and resources, organise on-line discussion groups, maybe even have a full day on-line “un-conference” – but we need to know what your needs are. So this is a request – a one-line comment saying what YOU would like to have some PD on.

Please join in – it will be worthwhile.

PS What I really wish I had been able to learn at the conference - how to create my own 1 CLICK DIGITAL MASH UP so I could find all the things that come into my computer all in one place - that's what I'd like a webinar on!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Reflections on the ICT in the Classroom Conference

Submitted by Deb Avery
Sitting in a conference in Botswana this week, I can’t help reflecting on the ICT in the Classroom Conference last week.
The conference I am at is packed with huge numbers of workshops, papers and colloquia. Two or three presentations take place one after the other in the same venues – ½ hour or an hour at a time. Nothing is running on time – so people walk in and out all the time. Many of the presentations are being read straight from Academic papers. There is 5 minutes for questioning at the end of each presentation – but no real interaction. And some of the topics are very academic.

I’ve met some great people – people who really know what they are talking about, people who have a great heart for reading, people who really want to make a difference to education in Africa.
But, like the Botswana landscape, this conference feels dry. I miss the Twitter backchannel – even the critical comments from some of the conference delegates. I miss the chance to really get my teeth into some new and different tools and methods. I miss the interactivity of most of the presentations – the chance to try and talk and wrestle and learn from colleagues.

I also miss the amazing networking – meeting people who I have only known on facebook or twitter, introducing people who have something to offer one another, just chatting and laughing and dancing – brainstorming new ideas, seeing new ways of doing old tasks, being offered new resources freely and sharing my own ideas even when they seem small and insignificant.

What significant things came out for me from the conference?
• The power of social networking in the hands of responsible people can be hugely beneficial – being a twitterer doesn’t mean you have to be a twit. Twitter is not just gossip or narcissistic self reflection – it’s a way to keep all your knowledge in one place and connected.
• There are a lot of new tools out there – tools that aren’t all about bells and whistles, but are there to make us more productive and give our learners a chance to think a bit more deeply. Some of them are about new ways of doing old things more effectively.
• Sharing is what it’s all about. The generosity of people at the conference – from the keynote presenters to the technicians in the labs - is what makes being a teacher so worthwhile. No one ever needs to struggle on alone, because there is always someone to share with, someone’s ideas to build on and someone’s help readily available.
• The “T” in ICT is really not “Technology” but “Thinking.” All the things I learnt were about building deeper thinking – for learners, but also for ourselves. Getting hung up on pedagogy and standards is less important than guiding our learners to be critical and creative thinkers and problem solvers. And there’s a lot that we as teachers can learn about thinking, too.
• Once every two years is not enough. We need to be engaging in “un-conferences” on a regular basis – discussing, meeting (on line or face to face), challenging, looking for new ways, thinking deeply, collaborating, sharing. And the joy of Web 2.0 tools is that we can do it for the cost of our bandwidth.
So let’s join up as Premium Members and reflect on what we learnt at the Conference – just add a comment to this post – and make sure we keep on developing.
This is not a dry or dusty academic place to be – it’s vibrant and growing. Let’s make it blossom.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Interesting links

Submitted by Brenda Hallowes 2011
Five Reasons why Video Games Power up Learning.  The mention of video games and children can bring on some strong negative reactions from those who believe they are a waste of time and brain power in the young. But are they? This article by Mind/Shift gives some good reasons why they are beneficial.

 You are into social networking? Or you'd like to be but not sure how to begin "tweeting"? Tom Barrett gives some ideas for getting your Twitter experience off the ground in his article "5 Things To Get Your Twitter Network Off the Ground".  Once you get tweeting Tom is an excellent person to follow @tombarrett

This site is appealing and inspiring for busy teachers - Under Ten Minutes.  There are quick video tutorials for 8 web-based programs to get you started introducing your learners to technology integration.  The Pivot Stick Man is fun and easy for even young children (grades 2 to 4)  to learn animation whilst Scratch is useful for older children - grades 5 up.

These three links are just a small sample of the links on our Facebook page at SchoolNet SA. They are also captured and tweeted from our Twitter account @schoolnetsa. If you don't do social networking you might consider a bookmarking site like Diigo. All our sites are captured in our Diigo group at SchoolNetSA.