Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Our ICT4RED champions in the news

This article was published in the September issue of The Teacher and feature 2 of our Phase 2 teachers and ICT4RED Champions.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mind mapping as a teaching strategy (Module 5)

During the last week of September, the ICT4RED teachers in Cofimvaba explored how to use Mind mapping as a teaching strategy in the classroom. The weather was foul and cold with hail and the #ICT4RED team feared that the teachers would not be able to get to the training centres, knowing in what bad condition the roads are even when it is not raining! But as per usual, the teachers showed us how dedicated they are to their professional development! They were there!

In Module 5 we stopped for a while and explored what is hidden on our tablets. Up to now, the teachers have not focused on technology at all, but has acquired mobile skills seamlessly embedded within the different classroom strategies and content. In other words, they learned how to use their tablets in classroom scenarios without having to learn how their tablets worked exactly. Within each activity there where some mobile skills that had to be mastered, but as they were doing it as part of the content, they did not really focus on the "howto" part of technology. This Module was therefore designed to take a good look at what the tablet can do by investigating apps.

Most of the teachers did not realize how many educational apps were installed on their tablets. They were just using the apps referred to in the activities. Quite a few of the teachers expressed surprise at what the tablet could do and they were eager to go and try out more of the apps in their classrooms. Most of the apps were chosen for offline use as connectivity has been a problem in this rural district and the schools have not yet been connected to the internet. A list of the apps initially installed on the teacher tables can be found here.

We started off by doing a fun icebreaker where the teachers had to do various app activities as a collaborative inter group competition. During this activity they learned how to manage their apps and how to help one another in achieving the outcomes. Every teacher had to master the mobile skill and this forced everybody to REALLY work together. As per usual there were lots of incentive prizes to keep the game based atmosphere alive with laughter!

Another useful activity to entice people to share what they really are feeling is to let them draw what they feel. In the next activity the teachers had to express what they felt at the start of their mobile journey. They could choose between using "old" technology (crayons and paper) or "new" technology (a drawing app on their tablet). Both methods had to be presented in digital format which meant that the paper version had to be captured using the tablet camera or a handy little scanner app called Camscanner. This also showed them that learners could still use old ways to do things and it can be captured digitally. (for instance -they can do maths calculations on paper and you can scan it with your tablet and project it for everybody to see)

We then proceeded to look at what mind mapping is and how we can use it in the classroom, They had to explore all the apps on their tablets, see what the various apps can do and how they can use them in the classroom. They had to create a mind map categorizing the apps, first in paper format and then using an offline mind mapping app called Simplemind.

After 4 modules most of the teacher tablet home screens looked quite busy and they struggled to find the various apps. In the last activity, they could use their app mind maps to create folders for their apps on their home screens. They now were gurus in tablet and app management.

As always, the teachers have to go and implement what they have learned during the session, in their classrooms and the two badges up for grabs in Module 5 are the compulsory Mind Mapping badge and the optional App evaluation badge. The app evaluation questionnaire can be downloaded here. The session was concluded with brainstorming some ideas around how mind mapping can be used in the teachers' classrooms with specific emphasis on what they are doing within their CAPS framework. We are looking forward to seeing the innovative implementations. Cofimvaba teachers rocks!

The sessions photographs can be viewed here:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The train has left the station!

This week we were back in Cofimvaba for Module 4 of our #ICT4RED  Teachers professional development training course! The teaching strategy that we tackled is called Learning stations. The idea is to set up specific places in your classroom where the learners can learn a few new concepts or skills at a time. They then rotate from station to station and get a short period of time to explore, create or learn something new.

We used Learning stations to get a better understanding of what a digital library is. At each of the stations the teachers explored the different elements of what a digital library entails.

At the first station they were introduced to different kinds of ebooks. They had to  look at  the differences between the various book formats like pdf's, epubs and mobi formats as well as ebook apps. They also used various ebook platforms to open the books. Quite a few remarked that they were not aware that their tablets have such a rich amount of different books on it. Some of the advantages mentioned was that the learners could have access to a whole world of books within the confines of a handy mobile device.

The next station stop dealt with tutorials. In this case we used an origami tutorial to explore how a step by step instruction sheet "under glass" can teach learners how to follow instructions. There were a great deal of collaboration to make sure that all members complete their shapes in the short time allocated. The importance of good instructions were highlighted. We also discussed the value of tutorials in our classrooms.

Simulations are great tools to use when you don't have access to the real thing, or it might to be too expensive or dangerous to do the real activity. For instance, science experiments lend itself to using simulations as not all schools have laboratories or access to expensive chemicals. In our session, however, we chose something that is universally loved, namely baking and eating, cupcakes. The teachers were excited about how their learners will enjoy interacting with life like simulations.

Our learners always have their earphones ready to listen to something on their mobile devices which brings us to the next digital library tool, namely podcasts. We explored how handy it is to learn something using simple audio files. At this station the teachers learned how to say hello and goodbye in Irish. Creating simple lessons for the students to listen to in their own time is effortless and the end result is always positive.

The last station showed how videos can be used to demonstrate skills. The teachers had to build water pumps by watching a handsome Russian take them through the steps. You can find instructions for almost anything on Youtube. Teaching with videos can be very effective and the teachers also had to think about how they could create their won videos for their learners. It is also important to mention that videos should not be a passive learning tool, but should engage the learners in active participation. For instance they must start, stop and do, start, stop and do.

The teachers now have to go back to their classrooms and come up with CAPS aligned learning stations of their own in order to earn their badges from this session. There are 2 compulsory badges up for grabs from this session namely the Learning Station Badge as well as the Content Creation Badge. We are looking forward to sharing some of the lovely Digital Library artifacts shared by our teachers!

We want to thank our great team of facilitators who went the extra mile to make sure that the sessions are fun and engaging.

The photos of our sessions can be found here:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Role play as a teaching strategy

During the week of 12-14 of August,  the ICT4RED Phase 3 teachers gathered to investigate Role Play as a teaching strategy in their classrooms. This time round we could not do the training at the various schools as most of the schools were to remote and we opted for schools that we could reach. The schools were clustered together and as per usual, great fun was had by all!

Role play, our third teaching strategy, aims to address issues that may arise when implementing mobile devices in the classroom. It is a great strategy to unpack possible problems and we have added the condition that the role play has to include innovative solutions. The teachers were randomly given scenarios that they had to brainstorm and find solutions to. They then had to "act it out" while one of the group members video the role play.

The process
In putting together the role play, we followed a process that resulted in the teachers anticipating issues and finding solutions. The scenarios were designed to help teachers and schools cope with change management when implementing tablets into the classroom e.g. 
  • Should learners be able to take the tablets home as they may lose or damage it?
  • How do you manage resources like mobikits within a school scenario?
  • Parent's fear of their childrens' safety when taking devices home.
  • Teacher's struggling to deal with the demands of implementing devices into their classrooms 
We used peer assessment to evaluate if the teachers succeeded in unpacking their scenarios. They swapped devices and used a scoring sheet to find a "winning team". This resulted in an animated discussions of how fair peer assessment really is and in one instance we had to do a role play to defuse a potential riot situation! 

Some problems
There is never a dull moment to be had in Cofimvaba.. On the first day of training, our generator did not want to work and we proved that we could use tablets in not only a non connected environment, but also without any electricity! As most of the training were held at primary school venues, we struggled to get our slightly larger bodies to fit into the tiny desk spaces! We also had trouble blue-toothing all the videos to each other as it is a time consuming process and you can only do one video at a time. 

But despite some minor challenges, great fun was had by all and role play as a teaching and learning strategy got the thumbs up from all the teachers. We are looking forward to seeing how it will be implemented in our teachers' classrooms!

We want to thank the whole #ict4red team present who helped to bluetooth, install apps and offer encouragement. ICT4RED rocks!

All the photos from our Role play module can be found here:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

ICT4RED Champions go Google!

In the first week of July four of our ICT4RED Cofimvaba champion teachers, Mandlakazi Bikitsha, Sindiswa  Mwanda, Nomonde Tyembile, Wisiwe Mvandaba and 1 district e-learning facilitator, Sindi Sibawu, were invited by the Google Edtechteam to attend the Google Summit at Dainfern College in Johannesburg.

Here are some thoughts from our champions:

Sindiswa Sibawu
Cofimvaba ICT Champions were honoured to be invited to Google Summit by ICT4RED, CSIR & SCHOOLNET teams. The event was well organised especially the presenters in every session were well prepared.  We are looking forward to keep in touch with every one we met in Google Summit for professional development especially Karen who was kind to E.C. delegates in all aspects.  We're willing to share the ideas and information with all our educators in the Eastern Cape.

Nomonde Tyembile
The summit was an activity that was well organised and we thank the Edtech team, Schoolnet and all other stakeholders who made the summit a success.As the team Cofimvaba ict4red champs, we had a great time in learning that teaching and learning can be a fun, great and also be a success for the learners in South Africa, through the use of technology and the internet. We wish, as the Cofimvaba team,  that the summit we attended, be organised locally so that all the educators out there are well informed of how teaching and learning can be enjoyed by learners and how it can change their attitudes towards their everyday teaching.

We are prepared to change the situation at our schools through the information we got at the summit to produce "LIFE LONG LEARNERS WHO WILL BE ABLE TO COMPETE WITH THE REST OF THE LEARNERS WORLD WIDE"

Mandlakazi Bikitsha

Wow! The 2nd Annual Google Summit was another round of professional development for 5 delegates from the Cofimvaba education district. It was a huge success, for we came back capacitated and ready for action! It was so uplifting.

The sessions I attended were awesome. I saw how social media in my class can impact on learning, for it is also another platform where writing and collaboration takes place- a way to engage learners. I came back empowered and motivated to use social media as one of the effective tools to facilitate learning. Problem based strategies really make learners think out of the box. It makes them own their learning as they explore solutions to the problem. However, Chrome books, Netbooks and Tablets are just technological tools invented to bridge the gap in the digital divide and teachers need not shift their focus, for the integration of technology in teaching and learning is part of preparing our learners for a socially networked workplace.

When defining the word` TECHNOLOGY ‘we say, it is the use of knowledge, skills and resources…The knowledge I gained from the summit when shared with learners will unleash ideas on the learners, for they can also be the source of information. We need to get them exposed to google apps, for they need to acquire skills in preparation for the workplace tomorrow and use the resources at their disposal which in our case as Cofimvaba Education District, is mobile tablets. Attending the Google summit has made me foresee the attainment of the 21st century goals in education whereby teachers and learners are to be technological savvy. I HAVE GONE GOOGLE!!!

Some fun learning moments: