SA needs 'urgent' digital teacher training

Digital education programme. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Digital education programme. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town – South Africa needs to urgently increase the rate of teacher training for digital education programmes if e-learning is to succeed, says an industry insider.

“At a national level, only 26% of teachers have basic ICT skills and only 7% have intermediate skills in using ICTs for teaching and learning, according to the department of basic education,” Micheal Goodman, group content manager at Via Afrika told Fin24.

Digital education is a national priority in SA as the country heads toward a “paperless” classroom.

“Programme Director; we must admit that the transformation of our education system into 21st century learning environments that provide our learners with the skills they need to succeed in today's information age economy is long overdue,” Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said at the second phase of the “Big Switch On” Paperless Classrooms Programme in Gauteng recently.

Digital education requires adequately trained teachers capable of delivering content matched to new learning techniques.

Digital skills

READ: Teachers must get comfortable with tech - expert

“For e-learning to become a reality, teachers need to integrate ICTs into their teaching practices to transform the learning process. This requires a paradigm shift to see the role of the teacher as a provider of a learning experience customised to each learner’s needs,” said Goodman.

However, there is an uneven national distribution of teachers equipped to deliver a comprehensive digital education programme.

“Most of these teachers are in Western Cape and Gauteng. This is a worrying picture because well-trained teachers are indispensable in running successful e-learning programmes,” said Goodman.

Motshekga said that school learners would be encouraged to produce assignments using digital skills as well as develop research skills and a culture of “independent learning”.

In March, Motshekga expanded on the government’s plan for digital education.

“We have provided approximately 92% of our schools with at least one computer for administrative purposes and with 28% of schools using computers or other devices to enhance teaching and learning; as well as ensuring that 49% of our schools are reported to having access to connectivity.”

Face-to-face training

READ: SA schools falling off the e-learning deep end

However, Goodman said that programmes that employ computers or tablet in schools are not necessarily e-learning in nature.

“At present, many of the programmes that purport to be e-learning just use ICTs such as tablets and apps to substitute or augment previous teaching practices. They are not e-learning.

“The reality is that it’s only a tiny proportion of public schools at present that run true e-learning programmes,” he added.

Via Afrika has recently partnered with the department of basic education to deliver Android-based training courses focused on teachers in a programme dubbed “Via Afrika Digital Education Academy” (Vadea).

“Training at the Vadea combines face-to-face, webinar and online recorded instruction. There’s a minimum of 20 participants required for the face-to-face and webinar sessions,” Goodman said.

“The Academy offers beginner, intermediate and advanced sessions, making it accessible for teachers of any skill level. At the end of the training, teachers will feel confident in using their tablet devices and will know how the software on it can be used in teaching,” he added.

* Fin24 is part of 24.com, a subsidiary of Media24, which is in the Naspers stable. Via Afrika is a subsidiary of Naspers.

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