Local teacher off to Mombasa to do battle in ITF competition

2010-08-13 00:00

HILTON College teacher Peter de Lisle has proved that teaching outside the box definitely has it perks. His savvy and creative teaching style recently earned him recognition in the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Forum (ITF) awards.

De Lisle and four other South Africa­n teachers, coming from different­ parts of the country, won in their categories at the ITF award ceremony­ held in Johannesburg last week.

They will be off to Mombasa in Kenya at the end of the month, where they will each battle it out for the number-one spot of the Pan-African leg of the competition. For the qualifiers, this will then be a step closer to what should be a stiffer competition at the finals where about 500 teachers from across the globe will be competing. The finals are expected to be held in Cape Town in October for the first time on African soil.

“I am excited about representing South Africa and Hilton College in Mombasa. I’m also excited about the prospects of learning from everyone else,” said De Lisle.

In an information and communication technology assignment, De Lisle’s winning project took a biological­ approach. It required of his pupils the understanding of biomes­, the creatures that live in them and the conditions that are necessary to adapt within that environment, while using hi-tech computer research tools to get this done.

“I conform to the 21st-century skills of the national education standards, which affirms a teaching that is able to collaborate, which allows for the use of technology and creativity and allows children to think, which is what the project was about,” said De Lisle.

Using a learning management system, which acted as a shell to set up project accounts for each group, the pupils had to go on the website to get their task descriptions. Through links and online information, the pupils could come up with a description and make use of online spreadsheets where groups could work on the different parts of the project at the same time.

The thinking and creativity came in when pupils were required to try their hand as computer-game designers. They had to create a hostile biome and a creature­ that would be perfectly suited for that environment. The choice of biome and creature had to be justified before the college’s biology teachers in an exhibition.

The last stages of the assignment entailed writing a story line for that computer game. The project culminated in the pupils’ visit to Karkloof with Hilton College’s environmental officer to explore a real-life biome.

“I know nothing about biology, but I subscribe to the teaching style that gives a blend of activities so that different children with different strengths can further flourish those gifts. I have always preferred a teaching style using group work and children doing the work themselves because I believe that learning happens when people figure things out themselves,” De Lisle said.

Having been in the profession for 22 years, 11 of which have been spent at Hilton College, De Lisle believes that some of the teachers who stick with one way of doing things are fearful of losing control.

“I would say it comes with confidence. Allow children to teach you something that you don’t know. It doesn’t matter if you come not knowing something. The beauty of a computer is that children have a relationship with them and you provide the resources to help them along.”

While De Lisle agreed this did not mean that pupils should be left to themselves, he said teachers should also remember that at the end of the day, they are no longer the centre of the universe.

This is also why, in De Lisle’s books, a good examination should not depend on what you remember or whether you can write it down in a hour, but rather about problem solving by using skills that have been learnt and provide the resources­ for something that one has never before seen.

According to De Lisle, that is how we learn for the rest of our lives.

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