Monday, 14 May 2018

KZN Subject Advisors get to grips with Using Digital Resources

Subject Advisors are tasked with helping teachers to deliver their content effectively, however many subject advisors last taught before digital resources were widely available at schools, or they support teachers at schools that are new to making use of online resources. In April and May 2018, The  KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education contracted SchoolNet SA to provide professional development to FET subject advisors so that they would be better equipped to support teachers to use digital resources.

Training logistics
Two groups of subject advisors completed the “Using Digital Resources in the Classroom” course. The first workshop, for 36 subject advisors, took place between 16 and 20 April 2018 and the second workshop, for 34 subject advisors, took place 7 and 11 May 2018. Both sessions took place at Ukhahlamba Education Centre in Bergville, where there was good connectivity and a laptop for each participant to use. Hlengiwe Mfeka from SchoolNet SA and Senzo Ngcobo, a SchoolNet consultant, facilitated the sessions.


What does the ‘Using Digital Resources in the Classroom’ course cover? 
This course comprises a number of lessons aimed at integrating digital resources into the classroom including: 
  • What is a digital content resource and how can I most effectively use it in class?
  • Exploring assessment in 2Enable
  • Scenarios for managing digital content resources in the classroom
  • Planning lessons that integrate digital content resources
  • Deeper learning and how to assess it

As this workshop was for subject advisors, as opposed to teachers, the final day of the workshop was used to develop action plans for the subject advisors to share what they had learnt about integrating digital resources with the teachers in their districts. In this way the learnings could be shared, leading to better classroom practice.


Highlights of the workshop
Mr Masondo (Deputy Chief Education Specialist for KwaZulu-Natal) welcomed participants and gave an address highlighting the importance of this professional development to empower and develop subject advisors to efficiently support their teachers.


After the introductory ice-breaker, and an overview of the course objectives, the group compared digital content to textbooks using a Venn diagram and made a decision making grid to explore the role that digital content resources play in teaching and learning. These activities were a success because they not only got the group thinking about incorporating digital resources into lessons, but also using a range of digital tools such as Google collaborative documents to document their findings and the 2Enable platform to access content.


Participants also learnt about the T-PACK model and completed a number of collaborative activities focusing on using digital content resources in different ways in the classroom.

On the second day of training, delegates got to grips with the SAMR model and completed an activity in which they related the transformational impact on learning to their own subjects.  Later the participants played a Kahoot online quiz which helped further reinforce the SAMR model and led to lively discussions. Teachers also had an opportunity to develop their own Kahoot quiz and to test their colleagues – which allowed them to see how teachers could use this fun and easy tool in a classroom.


Delegates tried out some online assessments related to their subjects using the free version of the 2Enable platform. Whilst the group noted some features that they thought could be improved, they were able to see some of the advantages of online assessment including differentiation, instant feedback, and being able to find a range of existing resources related to a range of topics without a teacher having to create these.

Facilitation strategies
One of the aims of the Using Digital Resources course is to not only discuss instructional design but also to model a range of facilitation techniques. In the group-work sessions, subject advisors had an opportunity to experience the jigsaw strategy. Through this they realised that it was possible for members of a group to become experts on one aspect of a topic and to then teach their peers and that it wasn’t always necessary for the facilitator or teacher to be the only source of knowledge in a classroom.

Subject advisors noted learning was seldom differentiated as there was such pressure on teachers to complete the syllabus. The group noted, however, that digital resources could help a teacher to find  appropriate resources for different skill levels within a class and that they could also be effectively deployed in multi-grade classes. Trying out activities that used digital resources, helped subject advisors to realise that teachers should be encouraged to shift from traditional spoon feeding to become facilitators who inculcate deep learning skills.


In the session on planning to integrate digital resources, the facilitators unpacked the ASSURE Lesson Plan Rubric and subject advisors worked first individually and then in pairs to develop and asses one another’s lesson plans. This activity helped to get the subject advisors more comfortable about giving feedback on lesson plans and using Google Drive for online collaboration.

What computer skills are needed for the ‘Using Digital Resources in the Classroom’ course?
Delegates attending this course should ideally already have some digital skills as the aim of the course is to show teachers how to access and use a range of digital tools to enhance their lessons. Of course, any time a teacher uses the computers he or she will continue to develop their digital literacy skills at the same time.


Feedback from participants
77% of subject advisors on this course said that the skills and knowledge gained from this course had exceeded their expectations, with the balance of subject advisors (22%) saying that the course had mostly met their expectations.

Below are some of the comments delegates made about what they had learnt on the course, showing that heaps of learning took place:

“I learnt very important skills that I can use to workshop my teachers on MLIT related matters. However some information will not be as relevant at this stage due to the lack of computers and internet connectivity at most schools in my district. For instance most schools will not be in a position to play Kahoot in the classroom because of a lack of technology.”

“The TPACK concept was further clarified by means of activities and group work. SAMR Model showed us how we can transform our teaching in the classroom, to be able to transform a teacher must be able to create a relevant lesson plan using digital technology to aid the lesson.”


“It makes collaboration, communication & submissions very easy and manageable for us as field workers. It brought awareness of numerous free digital resources and apps, that we can cascade to teachers. Skills of acquiring & utilizing information from digital media were developed. In the process of participating in the workshop, many additional and much needed computer skills were developed.”

Please contact info@schoolnet.org.za if you would like more information about the "Using Digital Resources" course for teachers or subject advisors.

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