Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Mpumalanga teachers learn skills to run coding lessons

SchoolNet SA teamed up with the Mpumalanga ICT Club to run a number of train-the-trainer workshops at different venues across the province. The aim of these sessions was to motivate teachers to learn some basic coding skills, and to then share these with learners by running the Hour of Code at their schools and getting their learners to code something "from scratch" using Scratch programming.


In addition to trying out Scratch and the Minecraft themed Hour of Code tutorials, teachers were given tips on how to facilitate one of these sessions at their schools. Delegates were encouraged to join the Microsoft Educator Community to complete the "Facilitating the Hour of Code" online course, as well as other courses related to using technology in the classroom. Once they had experienced the basics of coding, delegates were introduced to Scratch, and attempted to code their own scene by dropping in pictures, music and movement blocks. 


With Africa Code Week coming up between 5 and 19 October 2018, and the International Computer Science week taking place in the first week of December 2018, the idea behind these sessions was to upskill as many Mpumalanga teachers as possible to be able to run introductory computer science sessions for their learners.


An important part of each session was Nomusa Keninda's presentation about the Mpumalanga ICT Club and the role that this community of practice plays in empowering teachers, learners, community members and youth to develop IT skills. It is hoped that teachers in other districts will be encouraged to start their own communities of practice and that they will establish coding clubs in their schools and communities.


Whilst the workshops followed a similar pattern, here are some of the highlights from each of the recent Train the Trainer Coding workshops:

18 August 2018 - Emalahleni
At this session, the teachers who arrived early were encouraged to do the Google Code Bunny activity whilst they waited for the session to start. This activity was developed as a Google Doodle to celebrate 50 years of kids coding, and it provides a fun way of introducing coding to children who have never coded before, and who can't yet read complicated instructions. Whilst the activity starts off simply, it soon requires some computational thinking to get the bunny to the carrots!


25 August 2018 - Siyabuswa 
The attendance at this session was better than expected - with over 70 teachers heeding the call to learn some basic coding. Unfortunately the internet was down in one of the labs but by using the offline Hour of Code Minecraft Adventurer materials we were able to demonstrate how the lack of connectivity needn't be a barrier to learning some basic coding.


8 September 2018 - Waterval Boven 
After the plenary sessions, the group was split into two with each group taking a turn to do some Scratch programming and to try out the Hour of Code. We were impressed with a number of teachers who easily reached the final level in the Hour of Code Tutorial, earned their certificate and then went on to assist other teachers in the room who needed a bit of support. We know there are definitely some potential facilitators in this group!


27 September 2018 - Kanyamazane
This session, held at the Ehlanzeni offices of the Mpumalanga Department of Education was also the kick-off event for this district's own community of practice championed by Zanele Khumalo. The teachers of Kanyamazane were excited to wear white clothes and flower ribbons - which have become the brand of the Mpumalanga ICT Club. Although we had some challenges getting the materials loaded on to teachers and officials' own laptops, this proved to participants that they can use the equipment they have available to run sessions for their schools. Furthermore, we are hopeful that those who didn't reach the end of the tutorial at the workshop will complete it in their own time. 


How can you get involved?
If you have the opportunity to attend a face to face workshop, please do join us. However, we'd also encourage teachers to check out Nomusa Keninda and Megan Rademeyer discussing how to facilitate the hour of code on the Microsoft Virtual Academy. Finally - the whole idea of attending a training of trainers workshop is to train others - so we do encourage teachers who attended the workshops to train their colleagues and to run basic computer science workshops for their learners. If the teachers got this excited when they coded Steve or Alex to complete a challenge, image how excited learners will be to write their first line of code.


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