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Interview: Smart classrooms to bring digital learning to South Africa

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Smart classrooms are the future of education
Smart classrooms are the future of education.

Technological advancements in education can impact the quality of education as well as provide ways in which teachers engage and present lessons. It is clear that the future of education is going to change and schools will soon consist of virtual teachers with learners accessing education via videos, documents, audio podcasts or interactive images, which can be accessed via a student’s computer, smartphone or tablet, obviously, all this requires an internet connection.

In Africa, this trend is increasingly picking up motion. Electronics company, Samsung recently unveiled their latest Smart Classroom in South Africa. Through this initiative, the company aims to improve access to education. The Smart Classroom has Samsung interactive LCD eBoards, which aim to help increase student participation with visual participation.

According to Samsung, the Smart School initiative has seen the company support over 3,000 schools globally, allowing well over 1.4 million bright young minds to learn in fun and interactive environments.

IT News Africa spoke to Pitso Kekana, Head of Public Affairs and Corporate Citizenship at Samsung to discuss the recent Smart Classroom initiative launched in South Africa.

How will the Smart Classroom initiative impact learners?
Seeing as the Smart Classroom initiatives are instituted in lower income areas, children who would not normally have access to tablets and computers can become computer literate from a young age. The tablets being used by the learners come preloaded with educational content and the eBoard the teacher uses, at the front of the class, has touchscreen capabilities to allow for an interactive experience. These schools provide educationally marginalised students with equal access to educational resources on the web. The goal of the initiative is to bridge the IT accessibility gap and improve the quality of students’ education.

The Smart Classroom initiative was launched at a primary school, is Samsung looking to launch the initiative in high schools?
Samsung has installed Smart Classrooms at high schools in the past, but primary school is where the foundation is laid. One example, is Samsung’s Solar-Powered Internet School, Phomolong Secondary School in Tembisa, South Africa.

Why do you think there is a high dropout rate in high schools?
There are various reasons for the high dropout rate amongst high school learners, but one of the major contributors, according to Equal Education, is the lack of a solid foundation in primary school. The way Samsung is addressing this is by installing Smart Classrooms in primary schools to children a better and more comprehensive start.

What role does technology play in enhancing education?
Technology, more specifically electronic devices such as tablets, open a whole new world to learners as it gives them access to interactive learning solutions and technology that can’t be found in books. Children, if they are working on a module which has various levels, can move through the levels at the speed at which they are comfortable, be it faster or slower.

How does the Smart Classroom solution work?
The Smart Classroom helps schools build connected learning environments that empower teachers, and inspire students. The Smart Classroom includes the Samsung School application, a Large Format Display (digital board) and a reliable Wi-Fi support infrastructure. Samsung Smart Education Offerings, include a full, end-to-end suite of offerings, seamlessly integrated solutions, extensive content support and a reliable support infrastructure. The Samsung School application allows the teacher to prepare content easily to deliver dynamic learning materials. With the use of features like Screen Share and Content Sharing; class presentation, material distribution and management are made easier. Teachers can also assign quizzes to check student progress or share content on their screen with the entire class. Giving students individual support and guiding their progress is much easier with the Galaxy Tablet in the Smart Classroom Solution. The tablet also allows for natural handwriting with its S-Pen. The teacher can manage classes using the Lesson Toolbar which includes scheduling, student management, library, and app features along with the ability to check the progress of group activities. If necessary, teachers can digitally control student devices to crackdown on distractions before they get out of hand.

What inspired the start of the Smart Classroom project?
Samsung recognised that educators are finding it increasingly difficult to provide personalised attention to students. As a result, educators are looking for dynamic new ways to engage students in a learning experience that creates new student-centric learning environments. With these radical changes in the education environment, education providers like Samsung need to improve the student-centric learning experience by supporting teachers, students and operations staff.

The Smart Classroom is a fully integrated, real-time digital classroom that creates a simple, interactive and engaging environment for students and teachers. Educators and students can share various, dynamic lesson materials and apply innovative technology to the learning experience through the screen sharing and S-Pen digital handwriting features. It is our hope that the new experience will enhance interactive learning, collaborative teaching with shared best practices and support the development of new teaching methods based on the students’ needs.

By Fundsisiwe Maseko
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