Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Check your security status this Safer Internet Day

Chances are you are online every day. However, Safer Internet Day is a good time to reflect on your digital footprint and to take some steps to make yourself safer online:


  • If you have a Google account - take the security check and instantly see which third parties have access to your data, which devices are listed as safe and what your verification details are. Change any details that are out-of-date or suspicious.
  • View your location history in Google maps to see where you (or your mobile phone) were on a particular day - and decide whether you actually want to be tracked. Whilst being able to identify your location allows Google to foreground relevant news and local places to shop, you can turn the tracking off if you would prefer to move around without leaving a digital trail.
  • Consider using DuckDuckGo - a privacy-focused search engine that doesn't track your behaviour. You can continue to use your regular browser with the DuckDuckGo app and browser extension to prevent your online activities from being tracked by third-parties. 
  • Check out the Digital Civility Microsoft Virtual Academy in which SchoolNet SA's Megan Rademeyer and TechTeachers Matthew Hains talk about the darker side of the internet and what teachers can do to make their learners safer online. 
  • Take the Microsoft Digital Citizenship course on the Microsoft Educator Community to teach learners about the benefits and risks of the online world and to learn how to use technology to keep them safer online. Why not get your learners to become more aware of their online presence by investigating the tools mentioned in this post?

Monday, 21 January 2019

Searching for Computational Thinking Talent

Computational thinking is a set of problem-solving methods that involve expressing problems and their solutions in ways that a computer could execute. The ability to break down a problem, recognize patterns, think in abstract ways, and create algorithms to find solutions are valuable thinking skills for computer science, information technology, mathematics and science learners.

At a number of 2018 YouthSpark workshops, we challenged teachers to complete some of the Computer Olympiad Computational Thinking challenges. The teachers agreed that the resources were challenging, but also fun and accessible. We would now like to encourage more teachers to build their learners computational thinking skills by taking part in the Computer Olympiad Talent Search - which will also provide an opportunity for learners who already have great thinking skills to be identified and celebrated.

When does the Talent Search take place?

Teachers should select a time that suits them between Monday 4 March to Friday 8 March 2019 to complete this year's Talent Search question paper. Learners should be given 45 minutes to complete the test. Of course, the practice tests are available all year long and can be attempted at any time to build the computational skills of learners. 

Do you need internet access and computers to participate in the Talent Search? 

The Talent Search is available as an online test for those schools with adequate facilities. For schools lacking facilities, it is available as a pen-and-paper test. If your school is doing the pen and paper version of the test, you will need to arrange for a class set of question papers and one multiple choice question answer sheet to be printed per learner in advance of the test. 

Who is the Talent Search aimed at?

There are two age categories for primary schools and three age categories for high schools (Gr 4 & 5; 6 & 7; 8 & 9; 10 & 11; 12). Grade 4 and 5 learners can complete the challenge as individuals or in pairs, whilst older learners compete as individuals. A school can enter just a few learners or many learners as a teacher wishes to sign up. So, a teacher may want to get all learners in a grade to try out a past paper, and then to select the strongest candidates to represent the school in the 2019 Talent Search. The Talent Search is the South African version of the Bebras Contest which attracts more than two million participants globally each year. The Computer Olympiad team aim to attract over 7 000 entries from no-fee schools in the 2019 Talent Search competition.

How should learners prepare for the Talent Search?

Past Talent Search question papers are available on the Computer Olympiad website. Print out some past pen and paper trials or challenge learners to complete a past online paper. These question papers will give them an idea of what to expect, especially if you go through the answers with your learners so they can see a range of strategies that they can use to approach similar puzzles. Younger learners, who are unfamiliar with multiple choice questions, or learners who have not completed an online test before, will benefit from a practice run where a teacher can assist if required.

At their discretion, teachers may want to let learners tackle a past paper in pairs or groups of three so that learners can "think aloud" and discuss strategies for solving the puzzles. Teachers may also want to consider getting everyone to complete a past paper as a practice exercise and then inviting the top performing learners to enter this year's Talent Search. 


What other competitions are there?

The Applications Olympiad is a challenge for those who take CAT or the ICDL or are otherwise computer literate. The participants have to solve a number of problems using applications like spreadsheets, databases and a wordprocessor and the data provided. 


The Programming Olympiad is a challenge for learners who can use a programming language like Scratch, Python, Java, C++ or Delphi. In the First Round, the participants have to solve a number of problems using the language of their choice. For the Second and Final Rounds, the languages are more restricted. Check out the Computer Olympiad website for more details and dates. 

There is no requirement that Talent Search participants should enter either Olympiad, nor is there a requirement to do the Talent Search before entering either of the Olympiads.

How do I register?

There is no cost to enter the Talent Search competition - however please register your learners here. Registration is important to ensure that top performing learners receive certificates and to enable the Computer Olympiad to keep accurate records of how many learners have completed the challenge.

Please check out the FAQ section of the Computer Olympiad website, or contact them directly should you have further questions.

Please make an effort to stretch and challenge your learners and then share your success stories with us.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Wanted - A New Executive Director for SchoolNet SA

SchoolNet SA's current Executive Director, Janet Thomson, is retiring and the Board of Directors of SchoolNet SA are seeking to appoint a new leader for the organisation. 


What are the key functions of the Executive Director?

The Executive Director of SchoolNet SA, under the governance of the Board of Directors will take overall responsibility for the organisation. Specific responsibilities will include:

  • leading the development of the strategic plan of SchoolNetSA at a national level
  • overseeing the implementation of that plan in a financially sustainable manner
  • establishing and maintaining strategic partnerships
  • managing the assigned human resources and supporting their development in order to deliver on the agreed activities.


What are the requirements for this position?


Applicants for the Executive Director position must:

  • hold a degree in education or equivalent (a relevant postgraduate qualification is a recommendation)
  • have 5-10 years’ experience in ICT education 
  • have a valid driver’s licence and their own vehicle 
  • be competent in the use of ICT 
  • be proficient in the use of English in written and verbal communications
  • have excellent interpersonal skills and proven experience of managing people 

Who is SchoolNet SA's current Executive Director?


janetSchoolNet SA's current Executive Director, Janet Thomson, was seconded to SchoolNet SA from the KwaZulu Natal Department of Education in 2001 and worked full time for SchoolNet SA from 2003 as the Education Manager. Janet was appointed as the Executive Director of SchoolNet SA in 2005 and after fourteen years of leading the organisation, Janet has decided to retire.





Read more about the Executive Director position and how to apply here. Applications close on 28 January 2019.