Over two weekends in June 2018, two hundred Eastern Cape teachers attended professional development workshops to build digital skills. These eight training sessions were sponsored by Microsoft, in collaboration with the Eastern Cape Department of Education, to assist teachers to make better use of their Office 365 accounts and the Windows 10 laptops to enhance teaching and learning.
Whilst the Eastern Cape Department of Education eLearning team had already conducted a number of training sessions around the province, the following eight rural locations were selected for these sessions as these districts tend to have few professional development opportunities for teachers:
- Alfred Nzo East - Bizana District Offices
- Alfred Nzo West - Maluti ICT Centre
- OR Tambo Coastal - Lusikiski ICT Centre - Old Lusikisiki College
- Amathole East - Butterworth ICT Centre – Mission Location
- Chris Hani West - Lady Frere ICT Centre
- Chris Hani East - Ngcobo Resource Centre
- Joe Gqabi - Sterkspruit ICT Centre – Bensonvale College
- Sarah Baartman - Graaff Reinet ICT Centre
The workshops aimed to introduce teachers to the Microsoft Educator Community and how this platform can be used to access anywhere, anytime professional development. Teachers were also shown some of the features of their Windows 10 laptops and learnt to navigate around their Office 365 accounts. It is hoped that having had some introductory training, that teachers will become more confident about using their devices, and that they will seek out additional online professional development that best suits their needs as teachers.
Almost every trainer reported that their major challenge was connectivity. This was unfortunate, but as it was expected given the rural venues, delegates were able to use an offline version of the ICT Skills for Teachers course. At most venues a technical support official was available for at least some sessions, and most sessions were attended by an eLearning official. This meant that questions around the devices and O365 accounts could be addressed by an official with knowledge of these.
This project underscores the importance of professional development as part of any device roll out to ensure that teachers actually make use of the equipment and tools they have been given. Ideally training should not be a once off event but rather part of an ongoing intervention with continuous support and monitoring. We hope that teachers will continue to complete online courses through the Microsoft Educator Community and that the Eastern Cape Department of Education eLearning officials will continue to provide additional training.