Thursday, 29 March 2012

Announcing the finalists in the Microsoft Partners in Learning Forum 2012

Submitted by Fiona Beal
Join us to celebrate with Microsoft Partners in Learning and SchoolNet SA the 20 educators selected to attend the 2012 South African Partners in Learning Forum. (This competition was previously known as the Microsoft Innovative Teachers’ Forum).

2011 winners

Here is a selection of photos of the winners from last year’s Partners in Learning Forum 2011 that was held in Johannesburg. More photos can be found here.

image      image
image   imageimage

This year's finalists

This year’s twenty finalists, educators from all parts of South Africa, will be excitedly winging their way to Durban on Sunday 1st April to present their projects and to show the judges how they have used technology to creatively engage their learners. We wish our twenty finalists well as they get together all their bits and pieces such as evidence of work for this amazing event. Part of the requirement of the day is that the finalists create a poster that illustrates their project. Microsoft certainly puts a huge effort worldwide not only into bringing next-generation ideas, technologies, and 21st century thinking into curricula and classrooms across the world, but also in providing motivational events such as this Forum where teachers can be recognised for their educational efforts. In South Africa Microsoft partners with SchoolNet SA in arranging all the aspects of this Forum.

Children who care-Ngaka
Winners 2010

This Forum is taking place on April 1st and 2nd in Durban KwaZulu-Natal. This year, the twenty finalists are not only invited to attend the Forum, they are also being sponsored by Microsoft to attend the South African Basic Education Conference as part of their prize. The Awards ceremony takes place at 6:30pm on Monday 2nd April at the Conference.Five of these finalists will go through to the next round which is the Middle East and Africa Forum in Morocco in July.
You must be wondering who this year’s finalists are, and what their projects are called? The details follow below.

Watch this space! Next week we will update you on the Partners in Learning Forum South African finals. 
Caroline Adelaar St Mary’s College, Johannesburg
Mabore Lekalakala Toronto Primary School, Polokwane
Lazily Learning
Nkosilathi Dlodlo Batswana Secondary School, Mafikeng
Serving water to save
Michelle Dreyer Courtrai Primary School, Paarl
Riathe Engels Harmonie Primary School, Virginia
Innovative Ways to recycle – Trash Art
Mawell Funo Mkhanyiseli Primary, Cape Town
Our community, our pride
Gilmour Gordon Elkanah House School, Cape Town
Fun with class music
Lisa Gair The Rock Academy, Fish Hoek
Cultural Exchange
Sarah Hanton Victoria Girls High School, Grahamstown
Good Vibrations through Social Networking
Boudina McConnachie Victoria Girls High School, Grahamstown
Good Vibrations through Social Networking
Siobhan Lowe Somerset House, Somerset West
ICT'd!Innovative and creative travel document
Jenny Martin Somerset House, Somerset West
T-ICT 7.0
Joan Martin Durban Girl’s College, Durban
Project Runway
Gaye Pieterse Durban Girl’s College, Durban
Inside Outside
Hafeeza Mayet Marlboro Gardens Secondary School, Johannesburg
Mathe City
Lerato Mazimba St. Bernard's High School, Bloemfontein
From Trash to Couture
Nombuso Mnguni Asithuthuke Combined School, Balgowan
Designing and building a model of a bridge
Neith Moore Durban Girls’ High School, Durban
The Mobile Digital Classroom – ’flipping’ a studio
Anita van Vuuren Primêre Skool Universitas, Bloemfontein
Charli Wiggil Eden College, Durban
Braille Memory Game and Toys for the Blind
Clair Dean Stirling Primary School
Stop, Look, Save the rhino

Monday, 26 March 2012

Our weekly Diigo bookmarks 26 March 2012



How to
Internet safety
News reports


Social Sciences

Posted from Diigo. The rest of SchoolNetSA group favourite links are here.

Monday, 19 March 2012

How to shorten those long web addresses using

There are many url shortening online programmes around, and I could never quite understand the need for them until I started sharing and networking! For example when using Twitter a long web address will use nearly all your 140 characters! The application I have tended to use is, so I thought I would do a quick share on how it all works. Below is a screenshot of the interface.  


Whenever I start communicating with my PLN using Twitter, the first thing I do is open  So let me explain how it all works. 

1. Open and join as a member. You don’t have to join, but if you do you’ll find a record of everything you have shortened! When starts you’ll get this empty blue box at the top. That s where you will paste your web addresses.


2. Copy the web address you wish to shorten and paste the long address into the blue piece. It will immediately shorten it to a new short address. From this...

3. this! The new shortened address happens almost immediately! All you do now is copy it and use it!

So, to summarise. Join and it will keep a record of your shortened addresses for you. The shortened address is easier for people to click on and it works especially well with Twitter and Facebook where you have a restricted number of characters.
Why not give it a go!

Take a look at our weekly Diigo bookmarks

Every week our bookmarks from Diigo arrive on the SchoolNet blog as a draft, posted by Diigo; and I normally just leave them there. But today I thought I would start to publish them weekly.

Social Sciences
  • enigeo: Enigeo is a great way to learn countries, capitals and flags around the world in a fun way.
Virtual tours
Presentations and brochures
Web 2.0 technologies
Project-based learning
Cell phones
Curating the web
Blogs as educational tools
Sites for Foundation Phase teacher
QR Codes
Free audio books
Posted from Diigo. The rest of SchoolNetSA group favourite links are here.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Have you been to a TeachMeet or iPadMeet in South Africa yet?


Recently I attended another of Elkanah House's TeachMeets (Elkanah House is a school in Tableview, Cape Town), and I asked Linda Foulkes if I could use her blog post as a guest post. Linda is responsible for the training and testing of Grade 8 to 10 students on the Microsoft Office Specialist Certification. She is a Microsoft Office Expert and ICDL Advanced Trainer. In addition to her role as Staff Trainer and High School ICT Integration support (ICT Department), she also belongs to the Academic Department as Grade 8 Tutor Teacher. Linda absolutely loves spending her time researching social media and relevant technologies with connections on Twitter (@folklind) and Facebook, as well as her blog at; and she enjoys imparting this knowledge as professional development, enhancing teaching experience for teachers/students or simply just to boost efficiency in the workplace. Apart from that Linda is the person who is running with the TeachMeet idea at Elkanah House. 

On Saturday 25 February 2012, Elkanah House hosted its third TeachMeet, as well as its second iPadMeet. The response and attendance to both meets were extremely rewarding. Forty six dedicated people interested in sharing, presenting and soaking in ways to use ICT in the classroom joined the TeachMeet. During second session, fifty four participants, passionate about using the iPad as a classroom device, attended the iPadMeet. The events were run one after the other to allow participants to enjoy both meets or collaborate with others during the short break between events.


Here is what happened at the Meets?

The meet kicked off with a “welcome housekeeping” presentation, which can be viewed here for those who are not sure how a TeachMeet event is run. Essentially, on signup one would choose one of the following options:
  • Keen Bean – a presenter who shares an idea, lesson, a tool in a timeslIMG_1314ot of 3-5 minutes – presenters receive a gift of jelly beans
  • Enthusiastic Lurker – just there to soak up the environment and enjoy the day!

Di de Villiers from Somerset House seemed to have managed to get a reserved seat! She has attended every Meet we have had so far and always sits on the couch in the same spot…so I decided to reserve it for her!

Open-mouthed smile

The Keen Beans shared a huge range of resources and the number of presenters doubled since the last meet! A huge thank you to Nicole Masureik of Pinelands High as well as Mnr Maree of Bishops who were unable to attend but contributed by sending a virtual presentation for me to share with the audience. So if you are unable to attend a meet…you are always able to contribute and share with others…video yourself or a presentation and send to me. Well done to those who presented on the day – more information about these presentations, as well as photographs, videos and resources can be found on the TeachMeet wiki – – continue reading this post to see what was presented!

  1. Carolynn Bruton [ex Springfield] – presented twice, once on Organising you iPad and iPhone and then Transferring your Pics between Devices.
    Organising iPad TeachMeet.pdf; Transferring pics.pdf

  2. Fiona Beal [SchoolNet] presented on Google Forms – So Easy to Use:
    See this post on the SchoolNet blog
    See this as a Slideshare -

  3. Jenny Martin [Somerset House] on Using Triptico in the Primary School Maths Class Word Magnets.pptx;

  4. Karen Stadler [Elkanah House] took us on a wonderful tour through Epic Citadel during the iPadMeet–KStadler_epic.pps – visit Karen’s blog at or ipad wiki:

  5. Nicole Masureik [Pinelands] – presented on Using Screencast-o-matic This video demonstrated the recording of on screen annotations in PowerPoint for Teacher Professional Development.

  6. Mnr Maree [Bishops] – took audience through Using Tumblr in the Afrikaans Classroom
    tumblr in afrikaans.mp4

  7. Siobhan Louw [Somersert House] – presented her Term Long ICT Project – Planning a Virtual International Holiday
    S Louw TeachMeetFeb2012.pptx

  8. Siobhan Louw [Somersert House] – Shared an App called Boxee during the iPadMeet session
    S Louw boxee.ppsx

  9. Cheryl Douglas [Bishops] – presented on Using OneNote to produce Biology Notes on the Endocrine System

  10. Fiona Beal – [SchoolNet] – showed us How to make a Protopage
    How to make a protopage

  11. Louise Leigh [Herzlia] – shared her Integrated ICT Tasks in Mathematics – Google Docs Grade 9 Data Handling Research Project
    The Environment – Research Topic and Introduction; Design of a Survey/Questionnaire, Administering a Survey, Organizing Data by making tally tables, Double bar graph, calculating averages, writing a report on results and report features of graphs, writing a conclusion with informed opinion and findings, a Bibliography, and finally to present. ICT Integrated Tasks.pptx; ycling Herzlia 2009-2012.pdf;9-Recycling Double Bar Graph 2012.xlsx; 9-Graph Project 2012.pdf

  12. Peter Schutte [Wynberg Girls] – presented on using Edmodo in the Maths Class
    Edmodo_Teacher_Training_Presentation.pptx; Edmodo__a_student_quick_start_guide.pdf; UsesforEdmodoAllgradelevels.pdf

  13. Gilmour Gordon [Elkanah House] – shared his Music with Audacity, Movies with Sound project with the audience
    [email for access to dropbox folder if you would like to view / download this presentation due to size limitations

  14. Alan Goldberg [Digicape] – presented on iBook format / Author, Popplet Lite,and the use of a science iPad app and gadget during the iPadMeet.

  15. Jak Tangkuampien [Elkanah House] presented on Marking with the iPad. 

Without the above Keen Beans as well as the Enthusiastic Lurkers the 2 hour sessions would not be possible. I encourage everyone to continue sharing and collaborating amongst each other, to visit the wiki, interact with others and mail should you have something to share at the next meet. 

A special thank you to:

*Christiaan Vlok – Elkanah student for video footage and photos
*Arthur Preston – Elkanah House Senior Primary Principal for twitter backchannel
*Karen Stadler – Elkanah House ICT Integrator for the twitter backchannel
*Gareth Davies – Business of Teaching – for the donation of magazine prizes
*Bongi Damane – Elkanah staff member for organising the refreshments
*Fiona Beal – SchoolNet for her continued support and encouragement

Continue the collaboration on twitter : #elkteachmeet and #SAipaded

Photographs of our Meets

TeachMeet Photos 25feb2012

TeachMeets in other parts of the world!

*Ireland joins TeachMeets – visit the wiki on
*Australia is having a huge one this Friday evening where they are trying to beat a world record for TeachMeets. Check out the ustream here:
*This Saturday, a big virtual International Teachmeet with 32 presenters from 20 countries (Fiona Beal of SchoolNet is one of the volunteers…go Fiona!) was held. Visit
* Do you listen to blogtalkradio? Lots of great discussions happening here!


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Schoolnet completes a study on the use of Xbox Kinect to improve literacy scores – interesting findings…

This report is given by Janet Thomson the Executive Director of SchoolNetSA in South Africa. The study used Microsoft Xbox Kinect gaming in a primary school in deep rural KwaZulu-Natal to investigate its effect on second language English Literacy. The results are extremely positive. 

Findings of evaluation study released - 'Using gaming to improve second language English Literacy'

Research findings have just been released from a year-long study conducted by Mindset Learn and Verbeeks Education Specialists that investigated the impact that gaming had in improving second language literacy in primary school classrooms in Lakeside Primary in rural KwaZulu Natal. SchoolNet SA was commissioned by Microsoft to install Xbox 360 Kinect technology in each of the Foundation Phase classrooms and to assist teachers to effectively integrate this techology into their lesson plans in order to improve literacy levels. The research supports the premise that the effective use of innovative technology can impact on literacy levels of learners.


Over the December holidays of 2010, Microsoft commissioned SchoolNet to install six fifty-five inch television screens above the traditional chalkboards in six junior primary classrooms at Lakeside Park Primary in KwaZulu-Natal. These television screens were connected to the Xbox 360 Kinect gaming console. Teachers spent their January 2011 holidays becoming familiar with Kinect technology and devising learning experiences that were designed to engage learners and enhance learning.

Teacher training requirements
This Microsoft Xbox pilot project called for the development of specialist training materials for Foundation Phase teachers to focus on second language English acquisition for use with new technologies of this genre. The teacher training workshop that SchoolNet conducted in January 2011 encouraged teachers to mediate learning in relation to the curriculum while learners would be using XBox Kinect gaming technology. Lakeside teachers had already mapped out their schemes of work for the following year so for 2011 the new activities had to be infused into existing lesson plans. The course materials for this workshop were developed by Peter de Lisle of Hliton College, a former winner in the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Forum competition, who deliberately focused on language supportive pedagogy and grounded this within a specific approach to education, the learner-centred approach, which is of particular relevance to gaming because it requires teachers to do the following:

1. Create environments in which learners are encouraged to discover and explore concepts and skills;

2. Adopt an approach which recognises the need for cognitive development, through encouraging thinking, problem solving, fantasy and creativity;

3. Accept that learners are all different, that they prefer a variety of ways of learning and expressing themselves, and that merely listening to the teacher does not work for many learners;

4. Develop ways for learners to be active, physically, cognitively and emotionally by creating activities that are fun, challenging and relevant to their lives in the real world outside of the classroom;

5. Encourage motivation in learners through their own enthusiasm and involvement, and through creating activities which are naturally engaging.


Learning through play

The dedicated teachers at Lakeside guided by their Deputy Head, Karen Kirsten and their Foundation Phase Head, Dian Ogle, readily addressed these challenges throughout the 2011 academic year and found numerous ways of enlivening the learning experiences that they developed for their classrooms. Teachers and senior management reported that learning through play is the most effective for this age group and that, “… this learning increases their intrinsic and cognitive understanding of aspects of the curriculum. The use of this gaming technology has aroused their interest and it has energised the classroom atmosphere.”[1]

The reason why this pilot project chose to focus on improving second language English literacy was because the use of English as the language of teaching and learning (LOTL) is problematic in South Africa, a country with eleven official languages where low levels of English language competence characterise many rural primary schools. SchoolNet SA was commissioned by Microsoft to test the hypothesis that English language skills of primary school learners could improve through exposure to English while using Xbox Kinect gaming technology.

Language concerns at rural schools

There are two language concerns at Lakeside Primary. Firstly there is a dissimilarity between the formal LOTL and the language used for social interaction. In contrast to formal language used in the classroom which in this school is English from Grade 1, the language used in the playground is isiZulu and this is mainly oral and informal. Secondly, and obviously, proficiency in formal cognitive academic language  takes longer to acquire than it does in informal social discourse.



1. The evaluation for this project used a mixed method approach combining quantitive as well as qualitative instruments. One might be forgiven for assuming that the games played by learners could only affect their oral use of English and not impact on levels of reading or other literacies, especially as there is very little reading involved in the playing of most of the Kinect games. On the contrary the evaluators found that the reading age of all learners improved during the course of the year.[2] While this might be expected the study surprisingly found that it was not only the language and literacy skills of learners that improved but numeracy levels as well as their understanding of general knowledge were reported as having also improved. The study noted:
 “There is a marked change in the levels of competency of the foundation phase learners. A comparison between assessment aggregates of 2010 and 2011 shows that there is a distinct movement of learners away from Level 1 (Not Achieved). This concerns both numeracy and literacy irrespective of grade.” [3]
Microsoft’s Xbox used at Lakeside Primary video

2. Teachers who specialise in reading skills readily appreciate that the more opportunities learners have of hearing words and being able to sound them out aloud the more benefit there is for their actual reading skills. The evaluation report notes that some teachers who focused on phonics teaching at Lakeside were able to harness the potential of the technology, and noted that “increased word recognition filters into improved sentence structures which increases their self-confidence and eventually intensifies their willingness to read a book and join the library.” [4]
3. The researchers documented another finding over and above the impact on literacy by reporting that an increase in general knowledge assisted the learners to “unlock the curriculum”. The study found an that an important additional benefit of the Xbox was
“an increase of general knowledge of learners, a very crucial factor taking into account the socio-economic background and the limited access that most of these learners have concerning multi-media…. Through this improved general knowledge, learners gain a better grasp of what the content of the curriculum is trying to teach them.”[5]

4. The evaluation report further documents that teachers detailed “the enthusiasm that learners were showing for the learning process, their eagerness to improve their general knowledge so that they could understand the context within which the curriculum was implemented.”[6]

5. Kinect allows learners to play a variety of sport, “edutainment” and instructive games using body movements and voice. Unlike other gaming consols such as the Nintendo Wii there are no remote controls with Kinect. Instead sensors replicate motions via an on-screen avatar – the player’s ‘mirror image’. Teachers had reported that learners, especially shy learners, normally take many months to speak even in their home language whereas while playing the Xbox games within a short period learners were calling out without inhibition - and in English.

6. If a school has connectivity then the Xbox Kinect console allows the TV screen to become a normal internet browser that can be used for an infinite range of activities of educational value. The cost of an Xbox and a TV is not high when one considers that six classrooms can be equipped with Xbox Kinect technology for the same cost or less than one traditional computer lab.

7. The evaluation study records an overall marked improvement in vocabulary which in turn impacted on comprehension and overal literacy skills,
“The incorporation of the XBOX within the literacy curriculum focuses on improving the vocabulary of the learners. Through this improvement, learners can express themselves better which results in an improved comprehension which in turn influences the grammar and the sentence structure of the learners.”[7]

8. At the end of 2011 there was an announcement that National Geographic, Microsoft and Sesame Street had partnered on creating specifically tailored episodes of Kinect Nat Geo TV, and Kinect Sesame Street TV for Xbox Live. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of these educational games in South Africa as we believe that they could further enhace the use of the Xbox as an educational tool.
Further needs for this project

SchoolNet South Africa believes that a courageous and innovative funder could make a significant impact on the educational environment in some of the poorest and most under resourced primary schools in the country by sponsoring the scaling of this Xbox pilot project to other schools. The impact on teacher and learner morale is immeasurable. 

[1] Mindset Learn and Verbeeks Education Specialists cc Impact Evaluation Report November 2011
[2] Ibid p.6 and p.55
[3] Ibid p.6 and p.55
[4] Ibid p.32
[5] Ibid p.7
[6] Ibid. p.9
[7] Ibid.p.50

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Why not install and use Tweetdeck for Twitter group chats?

Last Monday night from 8:30pm – 9:30pm one of our social media in education activitists in South Africa, Arthur Preston, Head at Elkanah House Primary School in Cape Town, introduced a Twitter chat for South African teachers on the #edchatsa hashtag. It was a wonderfully stimulating chat with many teachers from around the country participating. Teachers only got to know about it via Twitter and had a great chat about the topic, “If there was one piece of technology that could change South African education what would it be?”  You can log in to Arthur Prestons's blog to vote for the topic for this coming Monday night. Here is the list of topics:


To be able to participate properly in this type of Twitter chat one needs to use an application like Tweetdeck where you can see a number of columns of Twitter at the same time. So this post is about Tweetdeck. It is a fantastic application to use. Here is a view of my Tweetdeck interface. This illustrates the columns.


Getting started

Search for Tweetdeck on the Internet and download the free application to your desktop ( It will ask you to set up a Tweetdeck account. One can use the same username and password as one’s Twitter account to simplify matters. Once installed, Tweetdeck looks like you see above arranged in columns. You can now add as many columns as you like.

The columns

The columns work like this.
a) On the very left is your Home section where you receive the tweets of all the people you are following. This is the same as your timeline in Twitter.


b) Next to that you will get your Mentions column where you are notified if anyone retweets one of your tweets or sends you a message.

c)  Next is your Inbox which shows the tweets or direct messages you have just sent to others. In fact this default column (Inbox) could be called the Direct Messages column since it records the direct messages that you send or receive. These do not show up in your All Friends/Home column because they are to or from you personally.

d) After that you can add your favourite # columns. I have #edchatsa, #edtechconf,  #SAipaded#ict4champions and #sateachers. That reminds me to mention that your Tweetdeck interface shows five columns but at the top is a little icon – it's a horizontal scrollbar - where you move across to the next lot of columns. I guess you can have as many columns as you like, with five displaying at a time.


To add a column click on the Add column button and write in your choice of # hashtag.


You can move the columns around

To move a column just check on the little wheel on the top right of each column and a box comes up giving you the arrows to move the column left or right.


For the purposes of the #edchatsa on a Monday night I have moved my #edchatsa column right next to my Mentions columns so that I can write easily and receive any @fibeal messages.

How to create and send a message

To create a message click on the little blue pen icon on the top of the interface.


This will open the box to write and send your messages. When the writing box opens write your message making sure it doesn’t exceed 140 characters, and press Tweet.


How to send a direct message to someone

Hover your mouse over the avatar of the person and the word More will appear on the top right.  click on More and it will take you to another icon with a little dropdown arrow. Click on that and a box will open that says “Send a direct message”.


How to reply or retweet

Hover your mouse over the avatar of the person and a bar comes up containing an arrow, a group of arrows a star and the word more. The single arrow is for Reply and the group of arrows is for Retweet

So, why not give Tweetdeck a try?

Friday, 2 March 2012

Why not become a ‘curator’ with and create your own online magazine?

You have probably heard the word ‘curator’ being bandied around? ‘Curating’ is one of the latest buzzwords and that is what does. (I haven’t yet investigated but it could be similar). So, what happens is you join ( and choose a topic you would like information about. 
what is scoopit then crawls the Internet searching for articles based on the keywords you have given to your search topic.  You then curate by choosing which articles you would like to use in your magazine, and forms it into an attractive easy-to-read online magazine. 
What I LOVE about is that you can also follow topics that interest you. I follow 34 topics that interest me and keeps me informed in much the same way – a magazine type format for me to page through at leisure. Marvelous! When reading a all you do is click on a block and  it takes you to the original artecle.
So for example… this is how keeps me informed about the latest on my topics of choice.

In case you would like to know all the steps on how to work with please view my Slideshare.