This week I attended the Internet Service Providers Association’s (ISPA) Super Teachers Awards. Ten teachers from across five provinces were being recognized as finalists for integrating the use of ICT in their classrooms. What stood out was not only that the nominees were trying very hard to integrate technology into the teaching and learning environment but that many of them were from poor rural schools from one of the poorest provinces in the country, i.e Limpopo.
Their projects covered everything from teaching learners basic computer skills and the use of iPads, generating collaborative frameworks to share resources and expertise to developing content relevant to the environment they found themselves in. All of them recognized the huge impact their projects would have within their learning and teaching environments and the incredible journey their learners would undergo as a consequence. It was heartwarming to sit in their presence and see them exude such joy and delight when their respective resumes were read before the eventual winner was announced. Only one of them could win the grand prize and when the announcement of the grand prize winner was made, the adulation from the rest of the educators made one feel everyone won, especially the many children whose lives they must be touching daily. I wonder how the learners responded the days after this event when they were told about the achievements of their teachers.
The Super Teachers Awards is run by the COZACares Foundation. The finalists are selected by an online panel after teachers upload their entries. Once selected, the finalists receive training on media across many platforms: radio, TV, online, Twitter feed, social media channels and print. The Media Training session focused on the structure and hierarchy of newsrooms, the news gathering and production process and the characteristics of journalists. They also undertook simulated media interviews and basic writing exercises. The Media session is designed to offer educators a dip into the world of the media through both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Up to the point that I received an invite to the Gala event, I had no idea this programme existed. It was also noteworthy that no entries were received from the Western Cape. This must change. Our province is investing over R1 billion in high speed broadband, which will see all schools connected by the end of next year. Many schools have already received e-classroom setups, with hundreds of activations over the last year.
In this past week, the Western Cape Government also launched its e-portal, a site which contains many resources for educators, administrators, educators, parents and learners. Not only are service providers to our sector encouraged to upload their many resources; educators too are encouraged to register and upload their inputs, whether programmes or lesson plans. The central theme is that a database is created that allows sharing and collaboration, which will improve, over time, all our schools’ academic outcomes.
I therefore challenge all our educators, the many who have embraced technology, to do two things: (1) share their resources via the e-portal and (2) register your intent to submit your entry to compete for the Super Teachers Awards in 2016. I know Western Cape educators can have a strong presence on both fronts.