Technology should enhance teaching

2015-07-29 06:00

DIGITAL education and technology in schools entail more than just equipment. Devices such as tablet computers, networks and technical infrastructure merely create a platform for digital education to be used as an element of the curriculum.

The Gauteng Education Department’s plan to distribute devices to the value of R17 billion to schools until 2019 is therefore a case of putting the cart before the horse.

“While education technology should by no means be neglected, judicious implementation is necessary,” says Dr Jaco Deacon, deputy chief executive officer (CEO) of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas).

“Gauteng is one of the provinces with a critical shortage of schools. How many schools could be built with R17 billion? According to reports, some 88 000 tablets are to be distributed in the province. However, schools should have a technology plan in place before equipment can be used,” says Deacon.

Recently, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi announced that smartboards would be used specifically for matriculants. However, there are very few schools were classrooms are exclusively utilised for matriculants.

“The most important aspect to keep in mind is that technology should enhance teaching and learning. A device is not enough – the question is what that device is used for,” says Deacon.

Not only are most learners not able to use the equipment, but teachers are also not trained in using technology as education medium in the classroom.

“Most tertiary institutions in South Africa do not focus on digital education as a key element in training teachers. At best devices are used for support. If new teachers cannot utilise education technology effectively, what about older teachers? Developing education material is a technical process. A short course during the school holiday will not enable teachers to develop their own education material and education technology and cannot replace classroom education,” says Prof. Rika Joubert, researcher at Fedsas.

Joubert says an additional problem is that the current education curriculum, Caps, is based on textbooks.

“Print textbooks to the value of millions of rands are still distributed – where do the electronic devices fit into this curriculum? There are numerous other questions, including theft, the management of internet access and the serious aspect of cyber-bullying which has already received extensive news coverage. Has this been taken into account in the ill-considered distribution of devices?” asks Joubert.

Fedsas recently launched its intensive digital citizenship campaign. As part of the campaign Fedsas will be presenting a series of technology seminars during the third term. “With these seminars we want to equip school governing bodies with practical advice and information on how technology can function in a school. This is a step-by-step process and Fedsas aims to make education technology accessible to all learners in public schools.”

The technology seminars are aimed at assisting schools in creating a blueprint for a proper long-term technology plan, determining how far a school has travelled along the technology road and what the possible next steps could be as well as introducing schools to products and services in the market.

) Information regarding the digital citizenship campaign and the technology seminars is available on the Fedsas website at www.fedsas.org.za. Schools that are not members of Fedsas are also welcome

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