Local teacher wins prestigious national award for innovative teaching

2009-07-22 00:00

A LOCAL teacher has won a national award for innovative teaching and been chosen to represent South Africa in an Africa-wide competition on the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in the classroom.

Hlengiwe Mfeka of Mconjwana High in KwaHaza near Mpophomeni won the award for innovative teaching in “challenging contexts” at the recent Microsoft Innovate Teachers Forum in Johannesburg. The annual event is sponsored by Microsoft to promote the use of ICT in teaching and learning.

She was one of four participants chosen to attend the pan African Forum in Mauritius in September, where representatives will be selected to represent Africa at the Worldwide Forum in Brazil in November.

Mfeka and the three other category winners each received a laptop. The other categories recognised innovative use of ICT in collaboration, community and content.

Mfeka presented a grade 10 life orientation project called My community, my place, my pride — can I make a difference? It encouraged pupils to identify socio-economic problems in their own communities and seek solutions using various technological tools like GPRS, computers and cellphones.

The pupils identified access to health care; lack of infrastructure; agriculture and the environment and substance abuse as the most pressing problems in their communities. They presented strategies to address these problems to local community and government leaders, community members, educators and pupils from other schools. Several of the suggestions are being implemented by local authorities.

Mfeka said “This project was important as it encouraged learners to use technological tools to develop the skills they need for the workplace of the 21st century. These include managing information, analysing data, solving problems and working in a team.”

Now in its fourth year, the Microsoft Forum awards are a joint initiative between Microsoft South Africa and the national Education Department. Twenty teachers were selected to attend the event and present their projects.

KZN had several other teachers in the finals, including Deb Avery of St Nicholas Diocesan School in the city and Zwelihle Ndovela of Somashi High in Greytown. Avery’s project allowed grade 8 pupils to use the social networking programme, Facebook, “for good rather than for gossip” by gathering information on energy efficiency and disseminating it to others in the school.

Ndovela’s project was aimed at preserving biodiversity by making pupils search for possible causes of the extinction of species in the area. They then made the information available to others via cell phones and computers.

Trudi van Wyk, the Education Department’s national director of curriculum innovation said: “The awards represent the pinnacle of work done to create local communities of teachers who can share challenges, ideas and best practice solutions with their peers, supported by ICT.

“They are doing great work to give the future leaders of this country the skills they will need for future employability — and to become productive citizens of our knowledge economy and information society.”

Microsoft South Africa’s education head Reza Bardien echoed this.

“South African teachers are increasingly embracing technology as a tool to enliven and enrich their teaching environments … to give their students the best possible education,” he said.

juliadd@witness.co.za

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