Cape classrooms set to go hi-tech

By Ilse Fredericks Time of article published Jul 16, 2015

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Cape Town - From chalkboards to touch-screens. From next month, Western Cape teachers will be taught how to produce their own e-lessons. The new course, which forms part of the Western Cape Education Department’s R273 million investment in e-learning this financial year, is aimed at providing teachers with “a deep understanding of the nature of e-learning and e-teaching and the role that technology can play”, said Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer.

“It will focus on teachers producing e-lessons, and will be applicable to all subjects.”

She said that while all schools didn’t yet have all the necessary resources, technology was being increasingly introduced in education and teachers had to be prepared to incorporate it into their lessons.

Shelver said broadband infrastructure had already been provided to 344 schools across the city, in Stellenbosch, Paarl, Worcester and George, and the installations were scheduled to be completed soon.

“Schools will no longer be required to procure their own internet services, and will have access to a high speed internet service on the Western Cape government broadband network.”

Old and defunct equipment at the computer laboratories of 126 schools had been replaced and the laboratories were fully functional again.

More than 3 300 classrooms at 248 schools were also scheduled to be converted into smart classrooms this financial year, and Shelver said the plan was going according to schedule.

“A smart classroom is a classroom that is technology-enabled and is fitted with a whiteboard with a device that renders it interactive, a projector, a teacher laptop and with every fifth classroom fitted with an interactive visualiser.”

Over the past few years more than 26 000 teachers in the province have had some information communications technology (ICT) training, including basic training on how smart classroom technology works.

Moses Standaar, provincial chairman of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), said e-learning was the way of the future and there was no other option but to embrace it.

He said the union had also presented its own professional growth workshops on e-learning, adding that teaching graduates came to school already equipped with the skills to use technology in the classroom.

“We are positive about it. We should, however, keep in mind that technology can’t replace expertise and experience. Also, what happens in cases where schools don’t have the resources?”

At a press conference in February, Schäfer said the Western Cape Education Department would, over the next five years, invest “heavily” in the e-learning project, which would help to equip pupils with “skills of the future and had the potential to make a major contribution to improving the quality of teaching and learning”.

R1.2 billion will be invested into the project over a five-year period.

At the time, Premier Helen Zille said the plan was primarily aimed at poorer schools.

She said best international practice was based on children bringing their own devices to schools but many children locally would not be able to afford it.

“We are going to have to look at ensuring that the kids who really can’t afford devices are given devices, but then we need to look carefully at how we ensure that there is the least possible incentive to steal them,” she said.

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Cape Argus

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