Monday, 31 March 2014

SchoolNet and Microsoft are offering a free professional development session at your school in Term 2 (in South Africa)

schoolnetlogo PIL3

Submitted by Megan Rademeyer
Microsoft and SchoolNet are offering your staff members a free professional development face-to-face session in Term 2. We would love to have about an hour of your time to come to talk to your staff about some of the great free digital tools that are available and to give them some ideas for incorporating ICT into teaching and learning. Ideally we would like to run this session in your school's computer room (if it has internet access) so that teachers can register on the spot and see some of what is available. If this is not an option, we can also do a demo in your staff room, but this will mean that teachers won't have the option of working with the tools there and then.

imageWhile we are at your school we would also like to get teachers registered on the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network.  The Partners in Learning Network is a great platform for teachers to stay in touch with trends in education; to get ideas for lessons that use technology; and to complete online courses. This is also a place where teachers can download great tools including Autocollage, Photostory, Microsoft Maths and Photosynth among others - all at no cost! If you are not already a member of the Partners in Learning Network, please join so you can see what is on offer. Joining takes just minutes if you already have a Microsoft, Gmail, Yahoo or Facebook account.
While we are there we would also like to tell your staff members about the SchoolNet SA Membership programme. As you will know - if you are already a member - SchoolNet SA offers free webinars for teachers on using digital tools and access to a blog that collects great ideas and resources for using technology in the classroom. Again - this is free for teachers, and we would like you to know more about it.
Ideally we would like to run this session in your school's computer room (if it has internet access) so that teachers can register on the spot and see some of what is available. If this is not an option, we can also do a demo in your staff room, but this will mean that teachers won't have the option of working with the tools there and then.

Please complete this online form with your details 
In order for us to plan a session for your staff please provide the following information and we will get back to you with confirmation as to when we will be able to send a trainer to your school.
Please send us the following details via this online form here

We look forward to hearing from you so that we can set up this session. We are sure that your staff will find it inspires them to incorporate some technology into their lessons and that it provides them with some easy tools for doing so. Please address any enquiries to

Free online timers that you’ll find very useful in your classroom

Recently a teacher friend asked me if I knew of any free online timers, and this sent me on a bit of a search to see what was ‘out there’ in addition to my old favourite that I always use. What a pleasant surprise I got to see the great options available. 2.

1. Online stopwatch:. (
If ever there was a site with a really good collection of timers it is this one. They have a lot of nice options for the classroom. All of these can be set to countdown any given number of seconds and minutes. They also can be paused and reset. All have a feedback sound when the time has run out.


Here are just a few that I have tried. You’ll find all the links at the above-mentioned site

a) Egg timer b) Clock countdown
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c) Bomb countdown d) Dynamite timer
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e) Candle timer f) Swimming timer
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2. Online egg timer
This timer allows you to set three different timers at the same time should you so wish. . They all have the same alarm ring.


3. Google Chrome Store – Apps
I have two apps installed from the Google Chroie Store on my laptop.

a) Timer-tab b) Task timer
c) Talking of Chrome another very quick way to start a timer running is to simply type timer into the Chrome omnibar and click enter. A timer immediately opens which one can set and use


If you are wanting to work in minutes is an interesting choice with an interesting interface and a gentle once-off bell when the time is reached.


5. Class DojoIf you are a Class Dojo  fan like I am (I love using Class Dojo for classroom motivation) you’ll notice that they have now built in a timer into their interface. They have created a video showing how this works found at


6. The tomato timer  
The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity methodology that helps you to stay focused on a task by breaking up your day into 25-minute work stints followed by five-minute breaks. Here are a selection of free apps that can be used to time your pomodoros. Here is the Tomato timer which is part of this method. 


Read more about timers to use in the Pomodoro Technique on this post – 9 free Pomodora timers

7. iPad and Android apps
 IPad and Android also have useful, free timer apps. For iPad try Best Countdown and for Android try Countdown WidgetCountdown Timer on Android is another good option
a) Best Countdown on iOS b) Countdown Widget on Android
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Do you perhaps have a favourite that is not listed here?

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Join the Partners in Learning Network - free face-to-face professional development sessions on offer for your school

submitted by Megan Rademeyer of SchoolNet
Microsoft's  Partners in Learning Network is a global community of educators dedicated to improving student learning worldwide. It is great place to look for free tools and software; tutorials on how to use technology; and tried and tested lesson plans submitted by teachers from around the world. Teachers who are part of this community use it to find colleagues in other countries for collaborative projects; as a place to read about and contribute to hot educational topics; and as a source of free online professional development. If you already have
Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Office 365 or Gmail account joining the Partners in Learning Network takes just minutes – so sign up now if you are not already a member.

SchoolNet and Microsoft are offering free professional development sessions at your school in South Africa

For a limited time during Term 2  SchoolNet SA is offering demonstrations to schools on how to use the Partners in Learning Network; what resources are available and how to incorporate these in lessons. If you would like a free hour long professional development session for your staff members on the Partners in Learning Network write to

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Highlights from the Microsoft in Education Global Forum - Barcelona 11 – 14 March 2014

Presented by Megan Rademeyer
The Microsoft in Education Global Forum recognizes and celebrates the achievements of educators who are preparing students for life in the 21st century. Each year, the Microsoft in Education Global Forum brings together participants from the Microsoft Innovative Educators Program and the Microsoft Innovative Schools Program for an energetic, collaborative conference. This year the Global Forum took place in Barcelona, Spain between 11 and 14 March 2014. The Forum was attended by more than 1000 of the world’s most innovative educators, school leaders, and education leaders from 75 countries including fourteen delegates from South Africa and Lesotho.


The South African delegation
The South African and Lesotho delegation was made up of the following Innovative School representatives:
· Sue Redelinghuys and Nina Adams represented St Cyprians – a Class of 2014 World Tour School
· Paul Cassar and Jaqueline Truter represented Eunice High School – a Class of 2014 World Tour School
· Ann Owgan and Lyneth Crighton represented Brescia House School – a Class of 2014 Mentor School

The school leaders, ICT coordinators and teachers who participated in this track enjoyed learning more about the innovative teaching practices deployed at the various schools. We were especially proud of Paul Cassar who this year was asked to serve as a mentor to other schools participating in the program for the first time. We believe that Paul’s experiences at Eunice are an example of how much can be achieved at a public African school when there is a committed leader at the helm, supported by passionate staff. An exciting component of this track was the Pitch Competition where schools were invited to pitch their idea for using ICT to enhance education to a panel with a view of possibly being awarded funding to make their dream a reality.

The Microsoft Innovative Expert teachers
The following teachers were each invited to present their projects in the Innovative Teacher Track. To make it to the Global Forum these teachers uploaded a Learning Activity and Innovative Educator Application to the Partners in Learning Network and their projects were judged to be among the best of those submitted by teachers in the Middle East and Africa region:

imageTlali Mabusane of Matikoe High School in Lesotho presented his project entitled “Sustainable Crop Production: Going Green” . In this project, Mabusane’s learners used a variety of ICT tools to study and share ideas for sustainable crop production. Group members played different roles as they collected, analyzed and presented data and made use of a variety of communication methods including a blog and Facebook to collaborate. 

Phuti Ragophala, Principal of Pula Madibogo Primary School in Limpopo presented her project on “Planting Seeds! Changing Lives!”  The goal of this project was for learners to gain life skills and indigenous knowledge that they could use to ensure food security both in their community now and in the future.

imageCheryl Douglas of Bishops and the Teaching Biology Project NGO in the Western Cape presented her project entitled “Human Impact on the Environment” This project involved running a mini conference to introduce 50 teachers to a new section of the curriculum; pairing learners from 12 schools to go on field trips to investigate human impact in various sites in the City of Cape Town; and then creating videos to share findings. At the gala awards evening Cheryl was awarded a prize for being the second runner up in the “Educator as Change Agent and Innovator Category”.

The 24 hour Learn-a-thon
All members of the South Africa and Lesotho delegation agreed that the Global Forum was a once in a lifetime opportunity to network with teachers from around the world, to see cutting edge projects and to be inspired by keynote speeches and the technology showcase. An activity that was especially enjoyed by teachers in the group was getting to work in teams of five or six teachers from around the world to produce a project that would address one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals as part of a 24 hour Learn-a-Thon. Cheryl Douglas was part of a group that came up with an exciting way of collaborating to address the issue of Poverty which received the “Runner-Up Learn-a-Thon Prize” at the gala awards evening. For all though, the real prize was the opportunity to build relationships with teachers from around the world whilst working on a shared challenge. We look forward to seeing some of the exciting ideas that were generated here being implemented.

Judges at the Global Forum
For this Global Forum there were one hundred judges, including the following three judges from South Africa:
· Philip Mnisi – Director: South African Department of Basic Education
· Brian Schreuder - Director-General: Curriculum & Assessment Management: Western Cape Departnemtn of Education
· Megan Rademeyer – Programmes Manager of SchoolNet SA

The judges participated in a Judging Workshop to familiarise themselves with the judging rubric and process for judging as part of the Forum. In addition to reviewing the Learning Activities that were assigned to them on the Partners in Learning Network, judges interviewed each of the teachers that they had been assigned to ask them in-depth questions about their projects. When they weren’t judging projects, the judges were part of the Education Leaders Briefing. This session gave delegates an opportunity to network with key leaders in the field of ICT in Education from a range of countries and to share their experiences.

Also in the South African delegation was Angela Schaerer – Academic Programme Manager for Microsoft South Africa who kept the team together and Theo Garrun – Editor of The Star Workplace who will be covering this conference in the press.

All members of the South African and Lesotho delegation were grateful to Microsoft for the opportunity to attend the Forum – a professional highlight for many in the group. The group was also grateful to SchoolNet SA for making their travel arrangements and assisting in getting their entries ready for judging. Teachers who are interested in being part of the next Microsoft in Education Global Forum should sign up as members of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network ( to find out more details about the next Forum when these are released.

A detailed overview of Cheryl Douglas's project
For more information on Cheryl Douglas’s award winning “Human Impact on the Environment” project please see the detailed overview below:
imageIn her project, Cheryl worked City Of Cape Town to introduce teachers to a new section of the Gr 11 Biology curriculum: Human Impact on the Environment by running a one day mini conference for 50 teachers to explain the new content which looks at human impact on water quality and availability, loss of biodiversity, waste management, food security and atmosphere and climate change. Teachers from 12 schools chose to become involved in a pilot project where their students could research real world issue and come up with recommendations. Schools were partnered and each pair of schools (involving 3-6 students per school) were taken on a different outing to places including a landfill site, urban farm, activities along an urban river, and a nature reserve in the middle of the city. Schools were shown how to share their finding using Skydrive and Facebook groups with the aim of presenting their findings in a video. Schools were encouraged to meet in their groups and to use social media to communicate. Many elected to go on additional field trips to learn more about their topic. At the 2nd Saturday afternoon workshop they were encouraged to write a script, plan a storyboard and name their photos logically and shown how to use Moviemaker. They then went away, made their video and at 3rd workshop finalised their videos and uploaded it onto YouTube at our school as many of the students and schools do not have Internet access. The videos were put onto the Youtube BiologyZA playlist ( please subscribe) and onto a webiste ( and this were shared via listserves and social media to Biology teachers community in SA and via the South African Institute of International Affairs to a more global platform. Groups presented their videos and answered questions about their understanding of the problem and feasible solutions to over 100 parents, teachers and representatives of the City of Cape Town. All students involved went on a one day leadership training day where they looked at systems thinking, worked on an urban farm and in completely mixed groups from all the schools took part in a 'Masterchef challenge" where they made healthy organic sandwiches! The project ran over 6 months."

DBE and DOC partner with Telkom to rollout 2010 FIFA World Cup Legacy E-Connectivity Project in Schools – SchoolNet is Intel’s training partner in the project

Submitted by Omashani Naidoo from SchoolNet
The Department of Communications in partnership with the Department of Basic Education has been rolling out end-to-end ICT solutions to selected schools. The selected schools each receive 20 laptops with sponsored connectivity.  Telkom SA supplied the laptops and the equipment for internet connectivity for each of the 1650 schools.  Intel South Africa is sponsoring teacher training on the provided equipment and SchoolNet as Intel's training partner, will provide this training. 

The seven launch schools
The seven launch schools were the first to receive training. SchoolNet has completed the Intel Teach Getting Started training sponsored by Intel SA in these launch schools. The seven schools received 20 laptops each with wifi internet access across the entire school and they also have access to the DBE's educloud portal which is continually being updated. The schools are all prepped for the launch of this programme known as the Schools Connectivity programme which is a part the FIFA legacy schools project
The launch event took place today in various parts of the country. SchoolNet' s Operations Manager, Ms Omashani Naidoo attended the Free State launch at Senakangwedi Secondary School and sent some tweets. 

The launch at Senakangwedi as highlighted on Twitter.







The remaining schools in the project have received their equipment and SchoolNet, together will Telkom, will ensure that schools receive training once all the equipment is fully installed. This training will commence in the second quarter. Three ICT champions per school will be trained as master trainers who will then implement an internal professional development plan for teachers at their respective schools. All teachers will be offered webinar support as well as competitions for teachers to showcase how their teaching practice is evolving as a result of ICTs

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Isibonelo Secondary School in KwaMashu Opens New Computer Lab

submitted by Hlengiwer Mfeka
clip_image002KwaMashu, KZN: Isibonelo Secondary School opened their new fully fledged-computer lab that may be used to preparing learners for the 21st century economy on 21 February 2014. The lab resulted from the efforts between giveITback and EasyPay. The effort is an example of how public-private partnerships are still a viable option to mobilize resources and enhance efforts to bridge a digital divide. 

The lab include 36 new modern computers equipped with educational software and connected to a wireless internet. The computer lab is expected to benefit more than 1200 learners and 47 educators including four non-educator staff at the school. The Grade 10 Computer Applications Technology (CAT) 2014 learners were delighted to be part of this memorable occasion.

Mrs Mbanjwa welcomes the guests

clip_image003Isibonelo Secondary School is one of the best performing public schools in the region, so it is no wonder most of the learners in the township wish to enrol there. Ms TJ Mbanjwa, the Deputy Principal who welcomed the guests described the school using the word “WELCOME” as an acronym for – “Welcoming, Enthusiastic, Loving, Caring, Organized, Motivated and Excel” These attributes were confirmed by Mr J Michael, giveITback founder who appreciated the cooperation since the conceptualization of the lab. He expressed his astonishment of how the school had excellently organized the computer lab’s opening function.
“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” said Madiba quoted by Mr Ravi, EasyPay Provincial Manager. He believes that their contribution will also benefit the wider community.

South African National Civic Organization (SANCO) representative, Mr Shange, assured sponsors that the computer lab is in safe hands.  Mrs Sokhela from the Community Councillor office expressed her gratitude to the sponsors for ploughing back to the community.

A wonderful and jolly afternoon
The school principal, Mr MM Khalala, the staff members and the learners were in a jolly mood throughout the occasion and this was expressed by their smiles and positive energy. It was clear that the event had been awaited with great anticipation. Teachers at the school are eager to take on a Teacher Professional Development course that will capacitate them to effectively use the technology in their hands. It has been confirmed that teachers at this school will receive the Intel Teach Getting Started Training Course offered and this will be conducted by SchoolNet SA.

It is hoped that teachers and learners at the school will make best use of the technology offered and continue to excel and innovate.

Monday, 24 March 2014

The first group of Commonwealth certificate students in the Caribbeangraduate–SchoolNet attends graduation virtually

SchoolNet has been providing the training to various countries in the Caribbean as part of the The Commonwealth Certificate for Teacher ICT Integration (CCTI), an online course that SchoolNet developed for the Commonwealth of Learning. The course comprises four core modules and six electives and it takes place over a two year period.

At SchoolNet we were absolutely delighted when we received an invitation to attend a graduation virtually! The first Caribbean country to complete the full qualification of all modules in The Commonwealth Certificate for Teacher ICT Integration is Antigua and Barbuda, and they held a grand graduation ceremony on March 24th 2014. The Minister of Education and much of the senior ministry staff were present and the Director and the SchoolNet tutor team were invited to attend the ceremony virtually via the streaming facility of a live Google Hangout.

From here… 

image graduation on 24th March 2014

The Director of SchoolNet and the SchoolNet tutors and staff members responsible for mentoring in this course were invited to send MP3s or videos of congratulations to the students and these were presented during the graduation ceremony. These were also uploaded to YouTube by one of the graduation committee members.

Janet Thomson, our SchoolNet Director says, “Learning on your own via distance is never easy. Staying committed is the difficulty, with little to keep one focused and nobody forcing you to complete the work. I am amazed at their dedication especially as this course is rigorous with LOTS of reading. They are definitely the most dedicated teachers we have ever worked with.”

A devastating hurricane took place during the time period of this course and many of these students experienced extreme hardships as a result. Nevertheless they continued with great perseverance and determination to finish what they had started. We admire them immensely. Many of these graduates have been selected as future tutors in this course and they will now pass on the baton and train other teachers in the Carribean.

The full graduation (lasting nearly two hours) can be viewed on YouTube.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Results are in…The 2014 National Teaching Awards Winners


Submitted by Omashani Naidoo of SchoolNet
The National Teaching Awards has, since 2000, sought to pay tribute to South African teachers who work daily miracles at their schools. The 2014 National Teaching Awards was held on the 6th March at the Birchwood Hotel in Gauteng. The awards culminated in a night of wonder for finalists who were celebrated by the President, Mr. Jacob Zuma, his Education Ministers Ms Angie Motshekga, and Enver Surty; the Director General, Mr. Bobby Soobrayan, the MECs for Education and a host of South African musical talents.


The following teachers were crowned winners in their categories:

  • Mrs JaanĂ© Roodt (Laerskool Proteapark, North West Province) for her Excellence in Primary School Teaching
  • Mr Adonis Vassos Antoniou (Mondeor High School, Gauteng) for his Excellence in Secondary School Teaching
  • Dr Fannie Sebolela (Khensani Primary School, Gauteng) for his Excellence in Primary School Leadership
  • Mr Tebogo John Maponya (Millennium Combined School, Limpopo) for his Excellence in Secondary School Leadership
  • Ms Abegail Nodumiso Makumela (Hopewell Primary School, KwaZulu-Natal) for her Excellence in Grade R Teaching
  • Ms Wendy Horn (The Settlers High School, Western Cape) for her Excellence in Science Teaching
  • Mr Mashudu Freddy Marubini (Tengwe High School, Limpopo) for his Excellence in Mathematics Teaching
  • Mr Rametsi Senoamadi (Randfontein High School, Gauteng) for his Excellence in ICT - Enhanced Teaching
  • Ms Colleen Smit (ES Le Grange, North West) for her Excellence in Special Needs Teaching
  • The People’s Choice Award was awarded to Mrs Alison Bastable (Durban Girls High School, KwaZulu-Natal)

The Lifetime Achievement Award
This was won by Mr. Marthinus Coetzee (The West Rand School, Gauteng). The 2nd Place winner was Mrs. Kebadirileng Angeline Mogotsi (Ntsweletsoku Primary School, North West) and the 3rd Place winner – Mr. Mbongeleni Mdaka (Lugebhuta High School, Mpumalanga).

Special Awards winners were:

  • The Professor Kader Asmal Award to Mr Andrew Taylor
  • The Via Afrika Publishers choice award to Ms Emily Monolela
  • The Kha Ri Gud e Mass Literacy Volunteer Teacher Award to Ms Ntesang McClean

All winners and runners-up won cash prizes and twelve teachers won a Telkom sponsored computer lab with full internet access and training to the value of over R 200 000. The Winners for the Maths and Science teaching award won two return flights to visit a Maths and Science Academy in Seattle, USA.

Although the awards have a selection of teachers, all teachers need to be reminded of their value and Paulo Freire, in his Conversations on Education and Social Change says.
“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Twitter story #4 - For English Language teachers - Different ways of saying…

The Internet is amazing! I saw one of these word lists that primary school teachers love on Twitter and that sent me exploring for more! I  started off by looking up a list of alternative words for ‘nice’, as one always needs that at school, and came across all these lists of alternatives in different locations. Take a look! There’s no doubt - teachers of English can find some amazing stuff when they surf the Internet…or use Twitter!

Alternative words for ‘nice’ from






Word lists like these displayed on a classroom wall could be an excellent way for any teacher to help the students develop and reinforce their vocabulary.