Friday, 13 July 2018

Step Ahead Primary steps up their teachers' coding skills

Step Ahead Primary School, situated in Tsomo in rural Eastern Cape, used its own funds to establish a 30-seater computer lab and WIFI zone. This ICT resource centre is made available to learners from the school as well as the education community at large who benefit from its resources. Step Ahead’s mission is to join hands with other computational thinkers in the world in promoting the use of ICTs in imparting the 21st Century Skills to learners. With this mission in mind, Elfas Mcloud, the Step Ahead ICT Program Coordinator, thought that the YouthSpark training would provide the Step Ahead teachers with additonal tools and resources to use with learners.


Elfas attended the SchoolNet SA Conference in 2017 at Brescia House School and signed up as a SchoolNet SA member. After seeing posts about other YouthSpark training sessions that SchoolNet SA conducted, he approached SchoolNet SA about running Microsoft funded workshops for teachers so that they could run introductory coding and computational thinking activities for learners. 


Thirty teachers from Step Ahead Primary School and other schools in the area attended the workshop which took place on 25 and 26 June 2018. At the start of the workshop, all teachers were encouraged to register on the Microsoft Educator Community. They then completed the Hour of Code as participants before learning how to facilitate a session using these resources for their learners. 


According to Elfas, “The beginning of the training was not easy as teachers did not understand what they would get from it. Also, being the start of their holiday, some teachers were not happy to be present. They were proved wrong as the energetic SchoolNet SA trainer Sandile Maliwa took them from ground zero to cloud nine in the two days. Sandile made the day exciting and within a few hours teachers were refusing to go for lunch and asking for an extension of the training into other areas on how to integrate ICTs into their teaching areas.”


The master trainer for this course noted that the training venue was “superb” with enough PCs for all the teachers. The only technical challenge was accessing some sites on the Internet which were a bit slow which affected the timely registration teachers on the Microsoft Educators Community Platform. To mitigate this, for some activities teachers worked together - which also provided them with an opportunity to collaborate.


In addition to completing the Hour of Code, the group also completed a workshop on Computational Thinking and Physical Computing and they learnt how to access free Microsoft software for learners through the Mahala program. (we encourage teachers to click on the links to access these free resources for themselves!)


Elfas thanked Microsoft and SchoolNet SA for making the training available to teachers.
“It was an eye opener! It left our teachers and those invited from surrounding schools with a hunger for similar trainings that with the school’s digital leaning program. We are eager to disseminate and instill the leaned skills to out learners.”

The gratitude for the workshop was shared by other teachers who attended:

“This course has absolutely broadened my knowledge. Our facilitator has made us clearer on how to do coding”

“It was a fruitful session, I have gained more than I have expected. I’m now familiar with scenarios in coding and will now take it to my class”

“It will be highly appreciated if the training is expanded into all areas in ICT integration into our teaching areas. To Microsoft and SchoolNet you are really doing a great job keep it up. My skills have been sharpened and I am going to impart what was taught to me to my learners”

Following on from the YouthSpark training Step Ahead will now move onto launching its digital leaning platform which will see 400 learners accessing digital tools and resources via tablets. We are thrilled that they will be able to include some basic coding, computational thinking and physical computing activities as part of the program for learners. 

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