Helping teachers embrace technology


Pretoria - They can make you feel like a complete klutz, these touch screens. For some it’s a breeze and it doesn’t slow the speed at which they type.

Others prefer the feeling and click sounds of a keyboards as they type.

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Bryanston, Johannesburg, Brescia House, Microsoft mentor. 060214. Brescia House School has been selected as one of 80 outstanding Mentor schools from around the world.  Lyneth Crichton, Head of innovations and staff development, with pupils in the garden. Picture: Etienne RothbartBryanston, Johannesburg, Brescia House, Microsoft mentor. 060214. Brescia House School has been selected as one of 80 outstanding Mentor schools from around the world.  Lyneth Crichton, Head of innovations and staff development,  in the IT class. Picture: Etienne Rothbart

Such is technology – it’s personal.

If you’re a teacher dealing with 30 pupils in a classroom, how do you incorporate technology into your teaching to draw out the best from each of your pupils?

“There is no quick fix, unfortunately. I’ve spent my whole teaching career looking for it,” said Lyneth Crighton, head of innovation and staff development at Brescia House School – an independent girls school in Joburg.

She may have not found a quick fix, but the school’s found a way to make technology work.

Its efforts in incorporating technology and innovation in all aspects of teaching and learning saw the school being chosen as a Microsoft Mentor School.

Brescia House has joined the group of 80 mentor schools around the world, selected from about 250 from 75 countries.

The mentor schools, of which there are 13 in South Africa, keep the title for a year.

They work closely with Microsoft education representatives and participate in mentoring and coaching teams and share their knowledge and experience with other schools.

Much as Brescia House requires that pupils from Grade 7 to 12 each have their own laptop and those in lower grades share tablets, Crighton said incorporating technology into education and being a mentor school was not all about the machines and gadgets.

“It’s all about transformation in education. It’s not as simple as we use computers.

“Are we equipping our girls for the 21st century and giving them the skills they need in the workplace? That’s what Microsoft looks for…

“When they look at a teacher in a classroom they look at what the teacher has done to incorporate technology, not necessarily on the level that Brescia does it – it can be in any form of innovation and technology,” she said.

Crighton, who hosts and trains teachers and principals from around the country, says the tricky part with integrating technology into education is that it challenges fundamental ideas and methods of what schooling is.

“Technology’s individualised, personalised and that’s what we’re trying to do with learning… It’s not a one-size-fits-all any more and teachers are used to a one-size-fits-all.

“You’ve got to find each person’s button and key and turn their key and button and show them that by doing this little bit you open a whole new world.

“Each person finds something else and that’s technology.

“You like Samsung, I like BlackBerry, the other person likes apple iPhone and so we go,” she said.

Crighton said the pace of transformation had been slowed down by the fact that adults were naturally conservative and it’s not easy for teachers to discard their tried and tested methods of teaching and take a gamble with something new.

“It’s human nature, if you say to a teacher who’s taught for years ‘sorry, your formula doesn’t work’, they say ‘no, no, but I get As and all my kids pass…’ They (the teachers) don’t see why they have to change.

“Children on the other hand, because they live in a generation and a world that is instantaneous, they just go with it. They don’t care if it’s going to work or not. They try things until they figure it out. Grown-ups are not like that naturally… we want to know all the (possible outcomes) before we go down that road.”

Crighton said it was not just a South African problem, but one that the education system the world over was grappling with. “The place to fix the problem is in the teachers’ training colleges.

“Don’t teach a new teacher how to do it the old way.

“You’re lucky if you find an overhead projector in the classrooms (where teachers are being taught/trained). Your frame of reference is the classroom you sat in, so every teacher’s frame of reference is the classroom they sat in.

“Until somebody shows them differently, they won’t know because they were never exposed to it.”

Crighton said despite the digital facilities and content that’s available now, teachers weren’t being taught how to teach through these mediums.

“Everyone is very good at creating digital content but the pedagogy – the part that tells you how to translate… the teaching part, the doing part – nobody tells teachers how to do it differently.”


This is where being a mentor school comes in.

Staffers at a mentor school learn from educational and technology experts they’re exposed to and then they pass that knowledge on to other teachers and schools.

As part of the prize of being a mentor school, Crighton will join teachers and principals from mentor schools around the world in Barcelona, Spain, next month at the Partners in Learning Global Forum.

In addition to doing tours of the Brescia House facilities on request and taking part in information exchange sessions with teachers, Crighton said the school would host a teacher conference in September.

Following one that was held last March at which more than 350 teachers gathered at the school to share best practices in using technology in their classes, Crighton said this year’s conference would also be used to share information learnt from the global forum. - Pretoria News

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