'Education needs technology'

2010-04-15 12:00

Cape Town - A global technology in education conference is underway in Cape Town and organisers want more teachers to have access to new technology.

"The history of South Africa has created a lack of access in education, and particularly, low quality of education," organiser Nancy Knowlton of Smart Technologies told News24.

She said the conference was organised in SA because individual countries had regional differences and "people further down the adoption line" could show how technology had impacted in classrooms in other parts of the world.

"Before you can implement technology in classrooms, you need basic pre-conditions and a level of infrastructure to facilitate it," she said.

"There are people in Mexico who use our smart boards under a tree. They store it in a shed and use it with a generator during the day."

Economic driver

She dismissed suggestions the interactive boards were a bridge too far for most South African schools.

"I'd like to ask the question: How could you not use it? People say that education is an economic driver, but I would like to say that education is the economic driver and the biggest resource in a country is its people," she said.

She added that it wasn't only the responsibility of the government to drive technology in education, but that entire communities needed to get involved.

"For too long education has been left to the educationalists, and they do a good job, but people need to get involved. The worst thing you can do is appropriate money and say, 'There, we’ve done it'."

"There has to be a natural process and teachers need to be supported over a period of time. And that's good because the technology will change," said Knowlton.

"The Western Cape with the Khanya project and Gauteng with Gauteng Online are the leaders in the country because there's a recognition of the process, there's a business plan in place and a sense of accountability," said Johann Strauss managing director of VastraTech, South African distributors of Smart Technologies.

But while he was positive that the country was headed in the correct direction, he lamented that the programme could be rolled out throughout SA.

Teacher development

"Projects like Khanya are important because they take one step at a time," said Knowlton.

Strauss said that adoption of technology was slow among South Africa's teachers because they needed to be taken out of a "comfort zone", but Knowlton was more direct.

"Teachers feel underpaid, under-respected and they've seen several initiatives come and go. They are sceptical and need to be shown why they have to adopt technology," she said.

Knowlton was positive about the response of some teachers to the technology, saying that currently, there are more teachers who would adopt technology than can be afforded.

"The cost is related to infrastructure, but just the hardware alone is up to R35 000 per class and when you compare that to a computer lab which can cost up to R500 000 per class, it's more affordable," said Strauss.

Knowlton added that continued teacher development was key to success with technology in education.

"About 25% to 33% of your budget should go to sustained professional development," she said.

She said one of the main problems was schools didn't have enough resources to ensure that each class had the technological facilities as children progressed through the system.

"You have a class with great engagement with the interactive white board and in the next grade, there's no product and they go back to the old method. Sometimes kids quit. Money is the big issue."

  • HVR - 2010-04-15 14:26

    Is this an article or an sales pitch. What does the interactive whiteboard bring to the table that a normal R3000 does not? The main purpose of an computer lab is to create access to information and not interactivity. Two of main problems of a computer lab is maintenance and it is soft target for crime. Imagine what a sweet target a R35K board in a shed will be.

  • Michael - 2010-04-15 16:53

    Children with access to the internet, have the worlds collective knowledge, indexed and at there fingertips. Anybody without this, has a huge disadvantage.

  • Ikabot - 2010-05-04 08:03

    Michael, I say this with love. You mean "world's", not "worlds" and you mean "their", not "there". The comma after "this" is also inappropriate. I agree with your sentiment though. Access is essential.

  • Robert - 2010-05-04 12:03

    Anyone considering spending R30 000 on a smartboard should pause and consider that you can achieve practically the same thing with a R3 000 laptop, a R5 000 projector and a R350 Wii-remote. See for some awesome demonstrations.

  • omashani naidoo - 2010-05-21 07:35

    Good point Robert. Knowlton also fails to explain what SUSTAINED professional development is offered as part of this package. Where there are Smart boards and teachers use them effectively; it is great. The problem as you have highlighted is why pay R 35000 when a laptop and projector connected to internet will be more effective. At least these are mobile devices (internet incl) that could be shared amongst for example a Maths department within a school. R 35000 could buy 1 projector & 5 laptops.

  • Virtual Kid - 2010-07-08 16:55

    we used Visualization technology at R690 a student with NComputing.... NOW thats a GREAT saving!

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