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Hello!

 In this blog I would like to explore the past, ponder about the present and envision the future of ICT and Technology in education.

As well as share best practices from teachers in the ICT and Technology implementation.

 

Yours in technology

Ariellah

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Looking beyond the #metoo campaign

My thinking about women’s achievements  in society…

The #metoo campaign in social media and broadcast channels has raised awareness about women who have been sexually abused and marginalised. This campaign, at times, has been controversial due to the magnitude that it has reached. Nevertheless, it is an important movement for women suffering in silence.

The #metoo movement has become more than women expressing their frustration about malicious sexism; it is becoming a roar for acknowledgment of women’s place in society and for the contribution women make to universal progress and growth.

Considering the advancement of human being on this earth, one is in awe of what we have achieved. We have found ways to defeat hunger, disease and pandemics and even strive for immortality. According to Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Homo Deus, the source of human power is continued growth and subsequent technological improvements.

When thinking of innovators who have contributed to technological advancement and innovations, who comes to mind first? Thomas Edison, Bill Gates? How about Marie Curie who won the Noble Prize twice for the work she did on radioactivity? How about our own Joan Joffe, known as the first lady of ICT in South Africa?

For decades, women were denied education and opportunities to be able to achieve as much as their male counterparts and in some countries we still need to fight for the rights of women to education and employment.

Over the past years, more and more women are contributing massively to economic and entrepreneurship innovation. But do we hear about them?

The book Innovating Women by Vivek Wadhwa and Farai Chideya, asks this question and provides examples of tech women we rarely hear about. Such is the case with Kay Koplowitz who founded the USA Network. She developed the novel idea of using satellite for commercial use and brought sport to cable television; she is also the first woman to serve as a network president in television history.

The book also makes references to research which shows that businesses run by women tend to be highly successful and consistently out-perform their male-owned counterparts. A study by American Express found that among businesses with revenue greater than $10 million, women-owned business experienced a 47% higher rate of growth. Between 2002 and 2012 female-owned business grew 28.6% compared to 24.4% owned by men, putting women-led companies in the lead.

The book notes that despite the success shown above, businesses led by women often struggle to get funding. The Centre for Business Women Research discovered that a significant reason for this can be directly tied to gender bias.

Social change enables more women to innovate, make a difference and impact our environment. More work is needed to be done if we, as a society, are to maintain our power and continue growing to ensure women have their rightful place to contribute but also to be acknowledged.

And this has to start early, by promoting STEM education for girls from an early age as well as ensuring that the workplace gets rid of gender discrepancies and adopts policies that empower women.

Just as we managed to defeat some biases and diseases and dominate earth with our advancement, so it is our obligation to fight gender biases and discrepancies and create space for women in STEM careers, innovation and entrepreneurship.

 

Growing a generation of innovators


‘South Africa belongs to all its people

We, the people, belong to one another

Our homes, neighborhoods, villages, towns, and cities are safe and filled with laughter

The faces of our children tell of the future we have crafted’ … South Africa’s national development plan 2030;  

The National Development Plan aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. According to the plan, South Africa can accomplish these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.

The ORT end – year event which was held in November 2017, was inspired by the theme of “ growing a generation of innovators”. The event showed the faces of our children,the stories they tell, the challenges they face in their communities, their incredible energy  and the solutions they have come up with. And the future does seem brighter.

The showcase of the children presenting their completed coding projects is an example of how we, as a society can make a difference through education. The late Nelson Mandela, who was CRT’s first keynote speaker in the first ORT inauguration of technology teachers in 1994, is known for his passion for education and how he saw it as a powerful tool that can change the world.

ORT SA, is affiliated to World ORT with operations in over 40 countries spearheading cutting edge education.  ORT’s vision of educating for life and mission of making people employable and creating employment opportunities is the core of its work in the outreach communities. ORT  SA works very closely in partnerships with the corporates, government and stakeholders to combat poverty and unemployment through education and skills development.

Delegates, attending the event, have observed the capabilities of children once the tools and knowledge-transfer are provided to them and have also witnessed capacity building at schools through equipping the teachers  to teach Math and run the coding clubs  

The coding projects presented by the children have shown more than just programming and computational skills. The projects presented, revealed curiosity and imagination which drives innovation, analytical thinking and problem solving as the children ask the right questions and get to the bottom of the problem. Working in collaboration and team work,  as well as communication and presentation skills. All this skills gained is to ensure that we grow generation of innovators that will craft our future. 

 

You burn you build!

This article was written in response to the recent incidences in Limpopo, Vuwani

Burning schools? Is this your last choice to get heard people? What is this protest culture of resorting to hitting the soft spot of the community? Bargaining your children is bargaining your future!  Nearly 50% of the schools in the district of Vuwani were burnt down in protest against the decision to create a new municipality. No one should be interested in why you are protesting when you burn and degrade the one thing that will take your next generation out of their current situation. Yes I’m talking about education. Education is the tool, the means, the biggest investment you can put into your next generation. And what do you do? Destroy it! Abolish the only hope you have for getting out of poverty, unemployment and misery!

You burn you build!??? All the culprits that to be jailed should become the labor force to rebuild the destruction that they have caused! The communities need to wake up and stand up against those bullies otherwise there is no hope! Whether it’s Limpopo or other province whether it’s a promising district, the communities must take accountability for education in their areas and stop pointing blaming fingers to government officials. Enough is enough and if the current leaders, unions and kings don’t stand up and say enough then someone in the community must do that.

More than fifty thousand children have been affected, thousands of children who have nowhere to go and study and no hope for the future. Thirty years’ worth of academic records and paperwork lost at just one school; it is hard to imagine the full impact on all 24 schools. Setting ransom on your children is erroneous, immoral and counterproductive. Stop this culture of burning libraries and schools because soon you’d be digging a grave for yourselves no matter what race, no matter what tribe.

 

Ariellah Rosenberg, CEO of ORT SA, an Educational NGO affiliated to World ORT, one of the biggest Educational NGOs in the world.

Its all about ANA

19 September 2015

This article was written in response to the news re postponement of the ANA (Annual National Assessment)

“In a last-minute move, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on Friday announced that the 2015 Annual National Assessment (ANA), which was scheduled to start on Tuesday and be written by 8.6 million pupils, has been postponed until February next year,” News24 reported on 13th September: This news raises some questions and controversy regarding the DBE allegedly giving in to pressure by teachers’ unions: the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) and the South African Onderwysersunie (SAOU).

There is a sense reflected in the media of the discontent from this decision, although it was clear from previous reports that academics, schools and teachers’ unions were dissatisfied with the standards of the ANA and there was a need to re-examine and review the benchmark testing model.  Why the disappointment?  I think it is based on three main elements:

Leadership (or lack thereof) – the announcement was originated two days before the ANA exams were supposed to be administered. Some schools testified that they had already collected the exam papers and were prepared for the 15th of September. Why did negotiations between the two parties break down at the very last minute? And why were sms’s sent from the unions notifying schools of the expected cancellation while no notification from the Department of Basic Education was sent or received? This government body, whose role, according to its mission is  “ to provide leadership with respect to provinces, districts and schools in the establishment of a South African education system for the 21st century”, should be calling the shots, not the unions.

Accountability (or lack thereof) – the announcement by some of the teachers’ unions demanding that the assessments be done in three-year cycles in order to create time for remedial action, as published by IOL on the 14th of September, is worrying. If this statement is any indication of what is expected ahead, the purpose of administrating such benchmarking assessments collapses.  A period of three years for remedial action is excessive, unnecessary and defeats the role of assessment in education.

Opportunity (or missed one) – ANA caused tremendous debate in the scholar, academic and political world and many agreed that the way ANA is designed, administered and checked is not credible, not-authentic and not valid. The energy and efforts should focus on improving this benchmark assessment in order to use it as information for improving rather than auditing performance.

According to Grant Wiggins, an assessment expert, we must recapture the primary aim of assessment; to help students better learn and teachers to better instruct.  Teachers’ job is to teach to the outcomes, not to the test.

Students deserve a credible, relevant and user friendly assessment, they deserve timeous feedback and opportunities to practice and improve.

To achieve this, I believe that the DBE should focus also on teachers’ professional development, incorporating assessment.

In the ORT SA-Bidvest Math ICT programme, we include in a teachers professional development programme, the practice of planning, scoring, analysis and recording of pupils’ assessments on an on-going basis. Feedback to pupils and parents is practiced as well as adjusting teaching in alignment with the analysis of results. Assessments have the power to improve teaching and learning and teachers must be empowered to utilise it rather than be intimidated from it.

Albert Einstein reportedly had a sign on his office wall that stated: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Tests don’t just measure; they teach what we value.

Innovation in schools

This article was published in The Jewish Life Magazine August 2015

In the past few months worldwide, the broadcast and print media have covered taxi driver protests objecting to the operations of Uber. Uber is an online taxi application which allows one to order a taxi using a mobile device. You are given the name of the driver who is collecting you, the registration number and type of car, the time you will be picked up and all this is done at a very competitive rate. This innovation has created huge resistance from taxi drivers in countries where Uber operates, as their livelihood is threatened by this system.
However, Uber may not be the ultimate disruption in public/ private transportation. We may find that another innovation such as the driver-less car will soon take precedence over both Uber and Taxis. Fantasy? Google, Volvo and other well-known car brands have already produced the first prototype of cars that cruise the road without a driver! One can only imagine the implications of such innovation, not only on our own lives, but also on the lives of the future workforce.
Globalization, skills shortage, escalation in the unemployment rate, leadership crisis, the need for a sustained plan to look after our natural resources and the climate crisis are all challenges that motivate us to transform education. The perception is that any future growth and prosperity will depend upon the education system -systems that theoretically are meant to provide our students with 21st century skills that will equip them to adapt to an uncertain future.
This requires schools to become leaders in innovation and to embrace and adapt it as part of their values and culture. I believe the three main components to drive innovative leadership in education are curriculum, pedagogy and leadership. What we teach, how we teach it and the leadership to do so in an innovative manner.

“If you are not changing your curriculum, you are saying that nothing is changing” Heidi Hayes Jacobs.
ORT Argentina realised the importance of entrepreneurship for the future of the economy and incorporated it as a part of their school curriculum. They have adopted the approach that although entrepreneurship can be taught, they do not guarantee to produce a Bill Gates or a Donna Karan, any more than a physic professor can guarantee to produce an Albert Einstein, or a tennis coach to produce a Venus Williams. However, by getting students with a suitable aptitude to start a business, ORT Argentina guaranteed to make them better entrepreneurs.

“If we teach today’s students, as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow” – John Dewey
How we teach must echo how our students learn and it must also prepare them for the future. Education systems are more and more adopting an approach to teaching that takes into consideration the learning and teaching that will be required in the 21st Century.
In Israel, Kadima Mada has implemented Smart Classrooms in schools at the periphery of the country, simultaneously training the teachers on the new pedagogy. The Smart Classrooms are technology enhanced classrooms that foster opportunities for teaching and learning by integrating learning technology, such as computers, specialized software and audio/visual resources.

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and follower” Steve Jobs
Becoming innovative schools leaders, who promote innovative teaching and stimulates innovation amongst students and teachers, requires a proactive approach from school principals and school management teams. Innovation cannot be delegated and has to be modeled by the leaders of the schools. This can be done, by embedding it into schools’ values, promoting programmes such as exchanges students/ teachers with other schools to learn and explore other successful models, by continuous learning of future trends and by modelling creative thinking and communicating.
The World ORT ICT Seminars are held globally. In South Africa it is hosted by the South African Board of Jewish Education (SABJE) and driven by ORT SA. They assist Jewish Schools to learn about cutting edge technologies and trends and to actively learn about new pedagogies which support 21st century learning.

We all need to be able to learn to operate in a challenging, unpredictable environment. Change cannot be avoided and unfortunately cannot be predicted either. We therefore need to adopt an approach of innovation and leadership that will assist us with adopting change and gaining skills to help us cope effectively in unfamiliar and complex situations.

Grade 9 exit plan is not enough

(This article was published at the Saturday Star, 16th May 2015)

The Minister of Education Mrs. Angie Motshekga, when delivering her budget to Parliament last week, announced the Grade 9 School Exit Plan, which introduces a school leaving certificate for Grade 9 pupils. Motshekga anticipates that this “Grade 9 School Exit Level Certificate would address unemployment and the country’s skills shortages.”

Surely something is missing in this plan! How can nine years of schooling help with reducing unemployment when we are still producing school leavers who are mathematically and language illiterate? This has been substantiated over the past few years by the Grade 9 ANA results. In 2014 Grade 9 pupils achieved on average 10.8% in Math, 48,3% in Home Language and 34,4% in First Additional Language.

How will the issuing of this certificate yield any better results than what we currently have?

I am not totally against the Minister’s announcement, but I’d like to elaborate on some points that I feel should be taken into consideration in regard to the “Grade 9 Exit Plan”. Since 1994, The Department of Education has implemented many new changes e.g. they have managed to increase the Grade 1 enrolment to nearly 100%, which is a remarkable achievement. However, the QUALITY of schooling is very poor, as reflected by the ANA results, by international benchmarking and by our matric results. SA is placed last in math education in the world. The 2008 plan to increase the number of teachers has been successfully implemented BUT the QUALITY of entrants to the teaching profession is a cause for concern, as was pointed out in recent research published by the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE); Teachers in South Africa: Supply and Demand 2013-2025 If we keep compromising on the QUALITY of education in this country we will continue getting mediocre and below average outputs.

There is no doubt that the Department of Education has to first and foremost ensure that these first nine years of schooling will be of a HIGH QUALITY, providing good resources and sound teacher training.

But let’s take it one step further. When looking at top performing countries in the world in the field of education, Finland ranks as one of the best. Finland has only nine compulsory years of schooling, but has been one of the role models for QUALITY in education, placed top in international benchmarking assessments such as the TIMSS and the PISA. This, however, is not where it ends. In Finland, after nine years of basic education a pupil, at the age of 16, can select from two paths, either to continue their secondary education on an academic track, or choose a vocational track.

Many countries in the world, where ORT schools operate successfully, implement this type of system and are able to offer vocational routes to their pupils. ORT High Schools in France, for example, meet the dynamic needs of the job market by offering optics, banking, informatics and other qualifications. In the Former Soviet Union (FSU), more than 20 vocational training schools and colleges have been established by ORT in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. This places ORT as a leader in delivering career-oriented training in this region.

In December2014 CDE published a presentation by Ricardo Hausmann, a Harvard economist, who has been leading an intensive study of the South Africa economy. One of the recommendations Prof. Hausmann makes is for a higher rate of job creation in SA. He suggests that due to SA’s significant skills constraints, the country should aim to shift from non-tradable sectors, such as tourism, finance, construction, retail, wholesale and transportation, which require highly skilled professionals, to tradable sectors, producing things that are exportable, such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing.

If we were to adopt this recommendation, we would develop a vocational path that would focus on the needs of the market and it would also improve the South African economy. It would be a win- win situation for the country, as it would also reduce the rate of unemployment and increase the labour force. The exit plan presented by the Minister means that those Grade 9 pupils that exit the system at this level will not follow the academic stream for the National Senior Certificate. These pupils could then choose from among 26 skills and vocational subjects offered by technical schools that have been upgraded or technical and vocational education colleges. Maybe, we should look at this proposal by the Minister in a different light; maybe the approach to this plan should be different.

In my view, any Grade 9 pupil, from whatever social background, should be able to make this choice, based on his/her competency and interest, as to whether they follow the academic or vocational route. If a pupil chooses a vocational path it should not be perceived as a poor choice. This requires a change in the mind-set of the nation!

Most South Africans perceive the academic route as the most prestigious and fulfilling path to follow. We should all respect the opportunities that lie within the vocational route. The vocational path should also be appreciated and advocated, as South Africa has a huge shortage of people with these specialized skills. Both routes should be valued and therefore invested in.

Vocational Training providers should also be upgraded so that they are able to offer top quality education and training. As the CDE report concludes “SA needs skills, and it needs a clear strategy, coordinated across many sectors of the state and the economy. Only then will the country grow and create jobs that will reduce inequality and eradicate poverty” Prof. Ricardo Hausmann Education is the most important vehicle to reduce poverty and unemployment. It will grow the labour force and provide equality.

If we want to improve the economy and enhance education in this country there should be a common vision, by all stakeholders, and not silo –policies declared sporadically. So to ensure that immaterial of the school exit level of a pupil, that he/she receives QUALITY education, thus ensuring they leave the system both literate and numerate.

Written by Ariellah Rosenberg, CEO, ORT SA. ORT SA is an NGO in education, vocational and enterprise development training. http://www.ortsa.org.za , Twitter: @ORT_SA , @Ariellah

Building a strong and inspired teaching force in South Africa

I have worked in the educational field for more than 20 years, mainly working with teachers, offering them professional development and training, and giving them classroom-based support. One of the main things I have learnt is that teaching is tough!

The longer I am involved in teaching, the more I realise that teaching is Art and Science combined, as it is such a complex and intricate profession.

Teachers are required to be ‘on top’ in regard to their area of speciality, and they must also be able to adapt to imparting this knowledge, at different depths and levels, to various age groups.  Simultaneously teachers need to take into consideration differentiation, classroom management and assessment tools, while always keeping in mind the home backgrounds and emotional states of the learners, and at the end of all this they must remain well-balanced and sane!  With all the talks on technological trends in education, the one role, I have no doubt will remain is that of the teacher. No sophisticated online, e-learning cloud can replace the physical and mental human being that’s called a teacher.

We therefore need to invest in our teachers, by treating them as professionals and prioritising their status to one of the top ranks on the professional scale.  No other entity has the most impact on the future of education in the country than the teacher. Mckinsey reports, James Stronge’s research and the findings by Harry Wong all conclude that the single greatest effect on student achievement is the effectiveness of the teacher. If students’ achievements eventually determine the number of critical thinkers, the level of Science Literacy, and the number of future innovators and entrepreneurs the country produces, then the link of teachers to the future economy of the country is non-negotiable.

In order to raise the professional standards of teachers, some major steps need to be taken in South Africa. There is a need to raise the quality of pre-service teacher training offered by universities, especially in the field of Math, Science and Technology (MST) Education, where the MST Task team, nominated by the DBE Minister, found that the Higher Education Institutes are failing to deliver new adequately qualified MST teachers.
NewTeacherOnce teachers are in the system, a proper induction programme has to be implemented to support them and to prevent them dropping out early in their career. In countries like Singapore, a new teacher is assigned a mentor for a minimum period of 2-3 years.
Continuous and appropriate professional development needs to be implemented throughout a teacher’s career.  “Unless we continue to grow and learn as teachers after we graduate, within 3 to 5 years we will revert to teaching in ways we remember being taught…” Dr Dennis Rose.
So far ad-hock training has been provided to teachers without any Professional Development Plan and reporting system being put in place to monitor growth, relevancy and implementation.

Another important element, which must not be neglected, in applying any educational interventions, is to involve the teacher in the conceptualisation of reforms, or interventions.
The shift begins with the teachers and it will happen if there is buy-in from them. So far educational reforms have been done top-down, without much consultation with teachers. There is a major need to look at a bottom-up approach and get teachers to become proactive from the commencement of a reform, and therefore to become responsible and accountable professionals.

Giving teacher’s prestigious professional ranking, will also require that they are attractively compensated financially.   Another consideration is linking teachers’ performance to pay.

Another challenge that needs to be overcome is the generally negative perception that people have of teachers. How can we change this? That remains a challenge!

Lee Iacocca, an American businessman had this to say about teachers:

“In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something else”.