Technology trends are not only disrupting the business environment of today, but is also shaping the way in which business will be conducted in future, as technology is destined to play a bigger role in the workplace of the future.
The learners of today, therefore have to be properly prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow, and provided with the right educational base to be empowered to become tomorrow’s business and political leaders, innovators and inventors. Education together with job opportunities, is a large part of government’s poverty alleviation plans within the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030. For this plan to be realised, government needs to partner with public, private and non-governmental sectors.
Simply providing low-cost mobile devices to schools is not going to solve the local educational system problems, improve graduation levels or boost job placement rates. While technology can play a profound role in teaching and learning and can have a direct impact on student outcomes, it needs to be applied correctly, with proper training, connections and integration.
A three pillar model for success: Pillar 1 – devices & services
Putting technology in the classroom alone rarely bears any fruit and what educational institutions need for success is a three pronged approach to their digital transition. Firstly, learners need to be provided with affordable devices together with the right tools and services to overcome challenges and assist learners in being productive anywhere, anytime, using any of their devices.
Brescia House School for instance rates the use of technology as a high priority for all learners at the school. The girls use different devices to suit the needs to the various age groups, for example iPads are used in the Foundation Phase; Windows-powered tablets are used in the Intermediate Phase and touch screen laptops are used in the High School. Even with their fast Internet speeds, their varied devices, and their carefully-managed Office 365 programme, Brescia House School faces regular challenges from load-shedding and occasional connectivity glitches.
Whilst these challenges may stifle the Internet use for a while, Microsoft’s offline applications enable the school to continue with their curriculum until the power and connectivity are restored and the teachers and headmistresses agree that the innovation, organisation and improvement that ultimately come from the innovative use of technology in the classroom compensates for the minor challenges faced from time to time.
Pillar 2 – Trained teachers
Secondly, for learners to excel and continually develop with the help of technology, their teachers need to be trained since the educator is the delta between the devices, existing content, and traditional means of education. In order to effectively use technology to amplify or bolster student learning and outcomes, the teacher must be properly trained to weave technology into classroom curriculum for their overall advantage.
Phuti Ragophala, the principal of Pula Madibogo Primary School in Limpopo uses technology to enhance teaching and learning despite the challenges of limited resources and overpopulated classrooms. This Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert not only sets up projects for her learners to develop 21st century skills she also trains teachers in her community to access Microsoft online courses and tools so that they can also engage their learners using technology.
Pillar 3 – Innovative content to bring lesson plans to life
As technology evolves, teachers must become more innovative with the content they teach. These teachers need to adopt solutions that not only ensure that they get the content from the lesson plans across, but get to do so without having to sacrifice creativity that enable learners to benefit more from their lessons. Products such as Minecraft: Education Edition, Sway, and Skype help educators bring new creativity and engagement to the classroom.
One such tool – Microsoft OneNote – is currently being underused according to Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Linda Foulkes. Foulkes asserts that OneNote is a powerful tool for connected classrooms because it can be used to provide tutorials for subjects in and out of the classroom, and can also be put to use as a multimedia note taker and as a subject resource to share live with both teachers and learners.
In addition to showing teachers how they can use OneNote as a tool to organise lessons, collect resources and set up class activities, Linda actively uses OneNote to curate and share resources that teachers can use to integrate technology into their lessons.
Microsoft supports teachers through learning communities that offer resources and peer connections by way of programs like the Microsoft Innovative Educators, which enables teachers to connect, share best practices, and help break down barriers together. The company is creating immersive and inclusive experiences that inspire lifelong learning, stimulate development of essential life skills – communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, character, citizenship and computational thinking – and supports educators in guiding and nurturing learner passions.
“The success of the digital transition of education depends on more than devices and connectivity,” says Claudia Johnston Education Sector Lead at Microsoft South Africa. “It also requires that learners have access to tools and creative content to get the most out of their lessons while teachers have the support they need to make classes and sessions more memorable, interactive, and relevant for their learners. Doing so will allow Microsoft to play a key role in imparting the youth of today with the hard and soft skillsets they require to be successful in the workplaces and boardrooms of tomorrow.”