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.

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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.

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

The Digital Classroom

This is the full version for the article published in Jewish life.  

To understand the need for a change from the conventional type of classroom to a digital age classroom, the following question needs to be asked:

“What do our pupils need to learn today to be prepared for tomorrow?”

“We are currently preparing pupils for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t yet been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t know yet are problems” Richard Riley US Former Secretary of Education

Technology is affecting our lives endlessly; education experts, principals and teachers acknowledge the potential of Technology or ICT (Information, Communication and Technology) in teaching and learning. Most teachers wonder what gadgets/ skills/ qualities are required in order to establish digital age classrooms.

There are three main fundamentals to consider when schools want to establish a digital classroom.  These are:

  1. Technical – Infrastructure, connectivity, software , hardware and gadgets
  2. HR -Teachers’ skills
  3. HR – Maintenance and technical support

One must begin the journey by doing the appropriate planning and preparation, as one of the biggest obstacles experienced by schools when starting to implement digital classrooms is lack of a strategy. Schools should begin with a strategy that addresses technical issues and plans to upgrade the teachers’ ICT skills.  Ensuring proper technical support is also essential. Schools need to have a vision of where they want to go. They need to assess where they are now, and then they need to strategise how they are going to reach their vision of the “digital age classroom”.

Education experts note that pupils need to be equipped with the following skills:

1.  Basic technical skills

1.1   Use of internet (Search, Social Networking, implication of digital footprints, Safety)

2.1   Proficiency in the use of Microsoft applications

3.1   Typing skills

4.1   Internet Copyright

5.1   Citing resources from the net

6.1   Apps on mobile phones and tablets (search, use, develop)

2.  Critical thinking skills – pupils need to be equipped with the skills of life-long learning. This is a self disciplined and self directed skill that enables pupils to adapt to change throughout their lives.

3. Analytical thinking skills – pupils are “bombarded” with information that is at their finger tips, but they need to be able to sift through the information and use only what is needed

4. Communication skills – on a personal to virtual level, peoples’ relationships are based on  communication skills.

5. Creativity and innovation – our pupils need to be able to think creatively to cope with the constant changes occurring in their lives. These skills are useful in every sphere including entrepreneurship and in the business world.

What does the Digital age classroom entail?

The roles of the teachers in a digital classroom remain the same as in an ordinary classroom, i.e, facilitating learning, assessing, correcting, reinforcing and management, but the tools required for the teacher to fulfil her roles differ.

What skills do teachers need to ensure they impart the required ICT skills to students? I believe that teachers need to be lifelong learners and that they continuously need to develop themselves professionally. Teachers need to be adventurous and use pupils’ digital skills while facilitating learning.

Gadgets / tools for the digital teacher:

When considering the introduction of tools and gadgets into the digital classroom the following characteristics of the learning environments should be considered (based on Florida Centre for instructional technology Matrix)

1.Active – Active use of the tool and not passively receiving information

2.Collaborative -Pupils use technology to collaborate with others rather than working individually at all times

3.Constructive -Pupils use technological tools to build understanding rather than simply receive information

4.Authentic- Pupils use technological tools to solve real-world problems

5.Goal Directed -Pupils use technological tools to set goals, plan activities, monitor progress, and evaluate results, rather than simply completing assignments without reflection.

Minimal requirement for the digital classroom:

A teacher must have a laptop and a data projector in her/ his classroom. Later on, this can be upgraded to include Interactive Whiteboards, Tablets/ iPads. Connectivity to Internet is essential in order for teachers to source information and to be able to communicate with pupils and parents. Use of emails is a basic skill and can be used for communicating with parents and for sending homework, assignments or catch-up work to sick pupils. With more advanced technologies, teachers, parents and pupils access a portal, which is a special website designed by the school, to retrieve information and to communicate.

No more chalk and talk – Take out your cell phones and let’s start learning!!

Yes, mobile phones can be used to:

1. Take photos/ videos as part of a HW assignment / portfolio

2. Use cell phones as Clickers. Clickers or classroom performance systems (CPS) are remote control- like gadgets that are used in an interactive way. Teacher can pose questions to the pupils and receive an immediate response which can be viewed, saved, analysed and displayed.  Buying these clickers may be an unnecessary expense which can be avoided by using the following website http://www.polleverywhere.com/

Using Technology for consolidation and differentiation

One of the biggest challenges a teacher has is to accommodate both strong and weak learners. By creating tutorials teachers can provide revision tasks and visualise a concept for children to review at any time.  This is especially useful when pupils have missed a lesson or misunderstood a concept.

The following technology can be used for consolidation and differentiation:

1. Recording a lesson using a  video camera, edit the movie using Microsoft Live Movie Maker on PC or iMovies on Mac

2. Screen casting – simple and user-friendly (Khan Style), recording of the tutorial is done on your laptop using slides or images and your voice. This requires some preparation and the following sites with free downloads can be used as your resource – (http://www.screencast.com/ or Jing – http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html )

3.Create a YouTube channel and post all your videos and Screen casting. No need to re-invent a lesson every year if it is available on the channel

4. Podcasting – voice recording of a lesson with Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) for example and sharing via Voicethread http://ed.voicethread.com/

How do schools achieve their vision of establishing digital classrooms?

Schools must have a Professional Development Plan for teachers to ensure that they can meet the demands of the digital age classroom, and so that they can gradually progress from basic integration of ICT to a total transformation where the learning is in the hands of the teachers and the pupils.

ORT SA has been at the forefront of technology integration in education for many years. It has recently been accredited as a Microsoft IT Academy and is running Computer training offering  basic to advanced courses.  For more information about ORT SA and these courses contact: ariellah@ortsa.org.za

“Technology will never replace teachers however teachers who don’t know how to use them will be replaced by those who do” (Unknown)

Reflections on visit to a school in Singapore

The following video was taken at Holy Innocents Primary school in Singapore. This visit was one of the highlights of the Global Math Forum held in Singapore in September. Marshall and Cavendish organised a most valuable and professional forum as  discussed in my previous posts. Enjoy the video and feel free to comment.

Reflections from Google Academy 2010

Going to the Google Teachers Academy (GTA) in London this year, somehow felt as if I was on a missionary task, representing South Africa and ORT SA, the NGO I work for, may have added to this sense of feeling.  Back from London, this missionary sentiment has shifted to recovering from the intense overload of information experienced, the overwhelming experience of meeting the most amazing and remarkable people – teachers from all over the world that share the same passion in ICT integration  and education.  This year, I was also privileged to take part in “Feuerstein Training” and the “Leader in Me” (based on Covey’s 7 habits) which has now given me the desire to share the knowledge I have gained.

“Google”, a word that has become a vocabulary terminology to the word “Search” is more than a “Search engine company”.

Most of us have become accustomed to going straight to our handhelds devices to “Google” for terms, information, definitions, prices, locations … you name it! So what else can we learn about this search engine?  The answer is – – – there is more than meets the eye.

First, take some time to check the extra features offered when searching. This appears on the left hand side of Google’s page after you have clicked on the term you have searched for.

 Some examples:

  • Latest – provides immediate results for the term
  • Timeline – Your term appears in timeline
  •  Wonder wheel – a great tool that outlines your term in a sort of “mind map” and therefore helps to eliminate what you don’t need.  This is great to enhance keywords skills
  • The images section is mind-blowing;  you can select images similar to a specific one, select images according to a colour, and more and more to suit the creative amongst us

As said previously, Google is more than a “search engine”. It is a platform to create, share and collaborate.  Google Documents (similar to Word, Excel and Power Point Presentations) has the unique feature of working on a document in a collaborative way.  You can count on Google to go a step ahead.  For example, “Google Moderator” is a tool designed to get people’s feedback, questions, and requests on a specific issue. What a great way to collect queries from participants before your seminar.

Since very young, I hated roller coasters and avoided going on them with various excuses. GTA was like a rollercoaster (Anaconda type).  Especially since the climb and anticipation for the event took longer than the exhilarating ride itself.  The feeling of dizziness when getting off the rollercoaster is similar to the feeling when the seminar ended.  Now with the Adrenalin being felt, there is that addictive feeling of wanting more.  I guess it’s up to each individual to recreate this type of ride in their own niche of work and life.

ORT SA will be offering Workshops on Google Applications in business and in teaching. Workshops will be offered in Johannesburg in October and November.

Happy Mother’s Day

 Happy and Blessed Supermom’s Day