Do we have a feel for the balance between operational and instructional ICT training? On one hand, there are certain practical things that schools need to know and do in order to get the most from their technology. Sharon has mentioned things like caching to preserve bandwidth, and there are also issues of troubleshooting, basic networking, software installation/configuration, etc.

On the other hand, none of this is worth the time or effort unless they're doing useful things with it. If all they're doing is practicing multiplication tables, we can get them some flashcards and save everyone a lot of time. So the instructional piece -- "now that we have it, how do we make the best possible use of it?" -- also has to play a big role.

I think there was a needs assessment last year. What were the major needs identified? Maybe we can get started on this soon. July seems to be awfully close.

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Hi John,
Yes, it is almost like the chicken/egg question? There are three main levels of need that was identified: 1. basic computer skill training, 2. whole school ict implementation planning (includes operational) and 3. curriculum integration at micro and macro levels.

We found most needed #1, all needed #2 and some were capable of #3. All knew that they wanted to have computers--some to entice enrollment, some because they were already behind the rest of the world, some because it would provide students with the skills necessary to compete, and many had no idea why.

As you can tell by our workshop outline/content (see link on SA project page), we addressed all three levels of need in our workshops. What we found would work best was to concentrate on #1 and #2 with an introduction to #3 so they have a vision and which could be the topic of successive workshops.

I have included below the questions that we sent and the answers we received. As you can see we barely scratched the surface and, therefore, had to assess while we were there. We realized that perhaps they didn't know what some question meant or how to answer them. Feel free to add any questions that you feel might be helpful.
Here's what I see, just based on these documents and other conversations with those involved. This is the key:

"If I am a teacher, how and when can I/do I use the ICT facilities for my particular lesson? How do I make the judgement about whether I keep my learners in the classroom or take them to the computer labs to do a piece of work? Many of these types of questions need addressing in your workshops. Implementation issues regarding organisation would be well received – how is best to organise my class work on the school network? Can it be easily retrieved and printed/viewed? How can I create resources simply and quickly?"

That is, what is it we're trying to accomplish with this technology? We see that technology is important. They see that technology is important. But being on the same page about WHY it's important is key. I'm hearing a lot about using computers to provide basic skills instruction, and to use the Internet as an information resource. Those are fine, but they're not game-changing. We have to get them connected to other people. We have to give teachers and students voices and audiences. And we have to do it in a way that's not overwhelming for them.

The basic computer skills training is needed, but also needs to not be the focus. We have to address it as the means to the end. Show the goal -- here's what we want to do. Then incorporate the skills training in the process of reaching that goal.

On the implementation side, it's encouraging to read about networks and file servers and so forth. I'm not sure the extent to which they're using these technologies, but it does look like the NGOs have done a tremendous amount of work on the support side. Bandwidth is probably the biggest problem. We may want to investigate caching technologies and tools for saving resources for offline use.

I wonder if it makes sense to think about collaborative/social networking within the schools. If we set up something like Mahara, for example, each student could have a portfolio, blog, showplace for work, etc. They could comment on one another's work, supporting and critiquing each other. I don't know, though, if that would be good enough. Without a decent net connection (not to mention a static IP), they wouldn't be able to share this with people outside the school. It also introduces the burden of running a server.

Another key, as hard as it is, will be to foster the creation of professional learning networks. These people are going to need to rely on one another once August comes. While there will hopefully be followup opportunities online, they're really the ones who are going to need to support one another. We need to create that "we're in this together" feeling among them.
I agree with much of what you are saying. Simply putting technology in their hands for the sake of technology isn't "game changing". At the end of the day, there has to be a reason to use technology. Using the model of backward planning, where planning with the end in mind helps you focus on why you are teaching a unit/lesson and will help with the question of why are we using technology and not pen and paper for this unit. But as always, if you don't know what technology can do for you, how can you possibly plan to use it, so what comes first?
I think one of the most effective ways to teach teachers to use technology is not to teach ICT skills, but model examples of lessons that have been created using technology, whether it be using word, excel, photostory, animation, etc. When someone sees a concrete example, it is easier to put it into context with their own subject area, than it is to say here's how to use excel, now go and find a way to use it.
The virus/pirating is a major concern for the core software and something to be addressed. It would also be great to show the free downloadable software that can be used for communication and collaboration such as Photostory, Google Docs, Google Notebook, the unlimited animation packages, and so on.
Does South Africa have a Partners in Learning agreement with Microsoft....if so, they provide teacher training materials and software....

Just some thoughts.....

My two cents' worth.... When we arrived last year, I think we had ambitions of tackling exactly what Lois and John S. have stated. But the reality was that many of the teachers had not even used email! Many do not have access to a computer at all and tended to think that the computer was the domain of those who taught computer science and maths related courses. We spent a good deal of time adjusting our workshops down to that level. I am pretty amazed that we were able to get teachers from basic file management on a computer to using blogs and wikis in just four short days!
The reality of most schools is one of accessibility. One or two labs with 20-25 (mostly working) computers to serve a population of about 1500 is typical. And these are not students who have access to computers at home. The issue then becomes one of who has access and how often? It is up to the leaders of the school to decide whether to focus accessibility to a core group of teachers or to spread access over the entire school for every subject. There are arguments for both approaches and it is really a matter for the school leadership to decide. All we can do is provide models, tips and strategies.
This year we will be working alongside more South African teachers who will be facilitating workshops with us. This will promote long-term sustainability and capacity-building.
I can't wait to get going on planning! It sounds as though we have some good thinkers to help us along!
Sharon, did I read somewhere on this site about your use with the XO laptops? Can you tell me more...what kinds of apps did your students create? I like this idea and have a few thoughts about things my students can do to contribute to the development of resources needed.




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