Independent thinking now part of education

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Copy of ST DainfernCollege426 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS STEP AHEAD: Dainfern College pupils work on their iPads during a lesson. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg - Teaching has hit YouTube and it is creating a better understanding in the classroom.

This is the changing face of education in the digital age and while it might be easy for tech-savvy pupils, the challenge is for their teachers who sometimes find it difficult to let go of their older, tried and tested methods of teaching.

But there are a growing number of teachers who have taken this challenge head on and are discovering new possibilities and learning to navigate through the pitfalls of technology in the classroom.

Rametsi Senoamadi, a natural sciences teacher at Randfontein High School, says his classroom is “chalk-dust free”. He uploads the study material onto a website which he created (www.naturalsciences grade9.weebly.com) and posts notes on Facebook.

He not only trains and gives one-on-one crash courses to teachers at his school about using technology in the classroom, he also conducts training workshops at surrounding schools.

His creative ways of incorporating technology in teaching and his contribution to his colleagues’ professional development gained him a victory at this year’s National Teaching Awards where he won in the excellence in technology-enhanced teaching category.

Copy of ST DainfernCollege373 NEW WAYS: Dainfern College history teacher Danielle Rowe speaks about a program called Edmodo. Its an online classroom and is similar to Facebook. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

The Department of Basic Education lauded Senoamadi, who has been teaching for 15 years, for enabling his pupils to not only work independently on their devices, but to also collaborate with pupils from other schools through the website.

He said that while teachers often needed guidance on using devices and apps to teach, pupils were usually eager to use their cellphones for school work.

“The children were excited because they’re always on their cellphones. I found a way of utilising what they love, for school work.”

That’s exactly what Danielle Rowe, a history teacher at Dainfern College, has done.

She uses Edmodo, an “online classroom” programme which operates like a simplified version of Facebook, to post notes and additional information through videos and images to help her pupils better understand their school work.

She also uses the programme to do polls and mini quizzes to ensure that they understand the school work.

Rowe said as much as these new mediums can enhance teaching and learning, they also come with their own challenges.

“I find that children do get distracted… I have to ensure that this one is not playing a game and that that one is not watching a different video or scrolling through old posts.

“I have to constantly ensure that they’re looking at me and concentrating on what I’m saying.”

Rowe said the addition of these devices in the classroom have also somewhat limited interpersonal interaction among the pupils themselves.

She said even though it’s compulsory for some grades to bring their iPads to school, she’d give her pupils work where they’d have to write in their books and interact with one another.

Rowe said the upside of having the pupils posting their answers though, instead of speaking out in class, was that she’s gotten to know some of her shy pupils, who were hesitant to speak out in class.

“For a kid who doesn’t like it, who can’t talk in front of people, this is now a forum where they might be able to (engage) and express an opinion and they may never have been able to say in class because they’re intimidated, but for some reason online, they’re completely different.

“They can literally give me the most stunning opinion and I think ‘I’ve never heard you speak’.

“It’s been lovely, I’ve gotten to know some of my quieter students.”

Rowe said opening up the classroom to the internet has also prompted pupils to be more informed about determining the reliability of the information they find.

“We’ve had to do entire lessons on how relevant Wikipedia is, who posted the info, who edited it, who put that video up? Is it National Geographic or is it your neighbour?”

“The kids are now having to differentiate in a whole new way about reliability, where it used to be you got the book from the school library so you surely trusted that information.”

Pupils are now learning about plagiarism while still in school, instead of only being taught about it when reaching tertiary level, as was normally the case, she said. - The Star

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