Are SA schools keeping up with information technology?


Information Technology has always been one of the fastest growing industries and it is important that schools, despite obvious constraints, keep their learners engaged with the latest trends and technology innovations to help our youth become creative thinkers and problem solvers.  Worldwide trends show that technology learning is becoming increasingly important.  Statistics released by The Department of Basic Education, indicated that less than 35% of the country’s almost 30,000 schools were utilising IT learning tools.  The Gauteng Education Department is planning to introduce electronic devices such as tablets, in all classrooms by the end of the 2017/2018 financial year.  Embracing technology-enhanced learning in South African schools calls for an integrated sustainable approach to curriculum development, teachers and learners should be sufficiently equipped and trained in order to embrace 21st century learning opportunities.

The ideal classroom technology:
Electronic devices – schools should equip learners with either an iPad or Android tablet.  This not only changes the way teachers and learners approach instruction, but enables teachers to assign computerized homework, use interactive apps and web sites to create collaborative lessons as well as online content and interactive e-books.  Learners prefer using these devices for learning, which means more attentiveness and better results.

E-text books and digital revision study guides – companies like ZA books offers access to over 2,500 SA text book titles in a format compatible for iPad, on all subjects ranging from grade 1 to grade 12, making it possible to carry all text books on a single device.  Additional features of the e-books include adding drawings, highlighting text, making notes, bookmarks and updates.

Smart boards – will take the place of a traditional chalk board, it is essentially a white board with technology capabilities that allow teachers to interact with their learners, by creating engaging active lessons using the many tools.  Educators can transpose diagrams, charts and video’s to ensure learners actively participate in the lesson, connect with the learner’s electronic devices and even print notes that were completed on a particular day and given to the learners as a handout. Teachers who prefer to combine lecture style with interactive learning will enjoy this technology.  The smart boards encourage group activities and learner collaboration within all teaching spaces.  The visual and audio learning increases the pupils’ ability to grasp, understand and recall information, to enhance learner engagement in an easy and visually stimulating way.  Learner participation is also increased in the classroom, which allows the learners to make use of active and group thinking.

Social media platforms - YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest – by bringing these mediums into the classroom where appropriate, teachers will encourage kids to collaborate and work together.   Social media fulfils an extremely important skill in being an effective communicator and while our millennials are familiar with these platforms, they need ethical guidance to focus the content and filter their profile information to protect them from inappropriate material to ensure their privacy is respected.  While learning is in communication and facilitating the conversation is facilitating learning, the equally important lesson is to protect the kids and make them aware of the risks of unsuitable conversations on these platforms.

Interactive software programmes and Apps - simulation games can help learners to practise solving problems, encourage planning and making decisions; while Apps can offer learning in new and fun ways – this is an example of an App to learn about the body in 3D:  http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/11/7-wonderful-ipad-apps-to-learn-about.html

3D printing – is a technology that will enable learners to turn any digital file into a 3 dimensional physical product.  While in schools this innovative technology is still in the early stage of adoption, 3D printing provides features that can revolutionise education by hands-on learning. Using this technology, learners will be able to produce realistic mini-models.  In biology, teachers can create a 3D model of the human heart, head or skeleton, to teach their kids about the human body; in History, teachers and pupils can print out historical artifacts for examination - how much more exciting would a lesson be for the kids when using 3D printing to design an object and then product it?

3 reasons our schools should implement technology in their classrooms:
1. Integrating technology in education ensures learners stay engaged - today’s kids are excited about being able to use technology and therefore are more enthusiastic to learn.

2. The traditional passive learning mould is broken, with technology in the classroom the teacher becomes the encourager, adviser, and coach.

3. Learners become more responsible, as technology helps them take more control over their own learning - they learn how to make their own decisions and think for themselves.

If a school is still debating using the latest technology, they need to consider that this is the inevitable future of education - from the ease of communicating with teachers and work, study or project groups, to quickly accessing information online about a particular topic learned about in class, technology is needed in today's classroom for our kids!

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