Technology motivates learners to be actively engaged during lessons

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Thabo Mohlala

Teachers should embrace technology for not only is it a vital 21st Century skills but also makes learning a pleasurable experience for learners.

This was one of the calls made during Education Conversations on ICT in Education held at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in Auckland Park on Tuesday.

A joint initiative of Kagiso Trust (KT) and UJ, the conversations form part of a series of dialogues aimed at discussing the state of education in the country and propose solutions on how to improve it. The outcomes of the dialogue sessions are collated and send to the department of basic education for consideration.

Three panellists took part in the dialogue – Alexander McLeod, owner and founder of Kreeate, a Cape Town-based online company that uses a range of platforms on how to creatively teach entrepreneurship as content in schools. There was also Jacqueline Batchelor, a senior lecturer in Mobile Learning at UJ, and Kagiso Trust’s education programme manager, Sizakele Mphatsoe.

They highlighted the significance for teachers to get skills on how to innovatively integrate technology into the curriculum. But they also cautioned that the success of ICT should not downplay the role of a teacher.

Batchelor was the first to take to the podium. Having been a teacher before she became an academic, Batchelor believes this afforded her to develop deeper insights regarding challenges and complexities that teachers grapple with on daily basis. She said she works closely with pre and in-service teachers teaching them how to make efficient use of ICT as a teaching tool.

“I must say we have seen a real marked increase in the use of technology since we started interacting with schools,” Batchelor said.

She also highlighted some of the complexities associated with ICT such as rapid increase of knowledge, which presents teachers with endless dilemmas of how to filter the information.

She highlighted some of the complex challenges that accompany the roll out of ICT at schools and these include, among others: demand at policy level but often neglected at operational level, multiple role-players which often result in poor co-ordination; an almost evangelical or utopian belief that ICT is going to solve all the problems if only applied correctly and rapid changes that take place within the system – “just as you have mastered one app or software another one is introduced”.

McLeod said one of the problems today is that most teachers still want to stick to the ‘tried and tested” methodology in the classroom. “Unfortunately, this approach does not appeal to the learners of today and will not appeal to the learners of the future. Educators will not grab learners’ attention and have them focused unless they introduce ICT in the learning experience. Learners these days are after experiences, it is what the digital lifestyle is all about. If you can give them user experiences that they can immerse in, then you should do so and yes you can give them this experience in the classroom,” said McLeod.

He said this is the reason why their focus is on gaming and the role that it can play in educating learners “subliminally”.

“We need to get learners to play the [Kreeate] game and if they play the game they will learn and the only way we can get them to play our game is to deliver a unique, fun and incentivised engagement experience,” he said.

“Developing and delivering content is easy, getting people to use the platform and engage with the content regularly that is where the challenge lies. This is what makes user experience vital to the success of any e-learning platform or broader ICT initiative,” added McLeod.

For her part, Mphatsoe said they introduced ICT as part of their ‘Whole School Development Programme.

“When we introduced ICT in schools our main objective was to enable educators to be competent in an innovate way so that they are able to use technology skills in teaching and make sure they enhance the daily learning and teaching in such a way it is appealing to learners – not your normal way of memorising lessons,” said Mphatsoe.

She said the use of ICT in the classroom also helps unleash the potential of the teacher to make learning a fun experience. Mphatsoe said ICT also reduces teachers’ heavy reliance on textbooks.

She said Kagiso Trust aims to develop models that are scalable and sustainable; adding that they also incentivise schools to reach certain performance benchmarks.

Schools that produce excellent academic results are rewarded with a computer laboratory or any ICT related equipment. Mphatsoe said the introduction of ICT heightens learner classroom participation including even those who are shy to talk freely in class.

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