Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Educator Spotlight #2: Sarietjie Musgrave – Peer Coaching for Staff Development

This is the second post in a new series called ‘Educator Spotlight’ highlighting South African educators encouraging the effective using ICT Technology in a school setting. In this post we focus on Sarietjie Musgrave, Head of head of ICTISE at the University of Free State. The link to this series of posts can be found at http://bit.ly/2cSfEwG


Sarietjie Musgrave has had a long association with Microsoft. Whilst still teaching at Eunice High School for Girls, a Microsoft Showcase School, Sarietjie won the national and regional Microsoft Innovative Teachers competition in 2008 for her “Spread the Sunshine” project which she presented at Microsoft Forums in Ghana and Hong Kong. Now a Microsoft Mentor, Sarietjie has continued to attend Microsoft Global Forums, frequently as a judge or a presenter. “These global forums always influence my thinking in the local context. They give one a bench mark. It’s about broadening your own horizon and your own thinking. You meet people who are passionate about learning and who makes things happen through integrating technology in the classroom. This helps you to get away from an island existence.”

Whilst she is no longer a school teacher, as the head of ICTISE (ICT Innovation in School Education), a unit of the University of the Free State, Sarietjie continues to encourage and mentor teachers to use technology in the classroom. One of the ways that Sarietjie acheives this is by running the Microsoft Peer Coaching Program which is designed to train teacher leaders to serve as peer coaches for their colleagues. Sarijetjie feels that peer coaching plays a vital role in getting teachers excited about technology and that it can have a positive effect on university faculty too. At the time of being interviewed Saarietjie said, “We’re in our sixth round of the Peer Coaching course now in the Free State, and I have also done it with the different faculties in the University of the Free State”.


What is Peer Coaching?
Peer Coaching can be offered as a face-to-face course, comprising eight workshops over a nine month period or as a blended course with online interaction and activities – depending on the needs of the participating teachers. Both versions of the course require the principals of participating schools to attend some sessions to see what the program is about. Sarietjie says, “In our last group we had 24 schools attending, and 21 of the principals attended session one. The moment a principal attends session one we know that this will be a principal who will support the teacher who attends the eight sessions."

Teachers who have been identified as their school’s peer coaches are encouraged to focus on themselves and then to take what they have learned and share it with three others. “The important thing is to get the right people attending the course so as to impact the next generation of schools. In a Peer Coaching course one finds all the different types of schools – High Schools, Primary Schools and Special Needs Schools and this adds to the depth of the conversation.”


Showcasing how tools can be used
Sarietjie likes to use as many Microsoft applications as possible in a Peer Coaching course because of the flexibility of using applications offline and online. In sessions they focus on OneNote and OneDrive to start with, but also have opportunities to use other tools so that peer coaches see how easy these are to use and gather ideas for incorporating them into their own lessons. “We ask the teachers to create a Sway to share with their principals on what Peer Coaching is and what it can do for the school. They all create PowerPoints and use Movie Maker. We also use other applications such as Doodle, Today’s Meet and Kahoot to get the teachers excited about technology. We hold QR scavenger hunts. Our idea is to give teachers hooks to take back to the schools to catch the staff and draw them in.”

OneNote
One of Sarietjie’s favourite applications is OneNote which she uses every day in different ways: to take notes in meetings, to reflect on and record ideas and to communicate with schools. “I love One Note but I actually love all the Microsoft tools and I am always looking for ways to use them with learners.”


Getting (and staying) inspired
Sarietjie loves the way Microsoft listens to teachers, providing professional development and taking note of their needs in the classroom. She appreciates their free offline offerings for teachers in a country such as South Africa where connectivity is not always available. “I’d like to see Microsoft continuing to listen to teachers and to continue offering as much as possible free of charge to teachers.”

As someone who continually encourages and inspires others to use technology in new and exciting ways Sarietjie finds it important to stay up to date with new tools and trends and to also be inspired by others. “Social media is the river that fills my dam enabling me to go and give to others,” she says.


Aspirations for ITC technology use in South African schools
Sarietjie has many aspirations for the spread of the use ICT technology in South African schools. “ I would love for schools to have good connectivity at a low rate so that all learners can have access to technology and information to bridge the digital divide. I would love to see teachers being proud of what they are doing and being willing to share. I would like to see a bigger focus on ICT skills in early childhood learners. Schools need to do their homework well and think it through to avoid expensive mistakes. Training is vital. “

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