Guest blog by Phuti Ragophala ,Principal of Pula Madibogo Primary school in Mankweng Circuit ,Capricorn District, Limpopo Province, South Africa
A. How did I use technological tools and food production projects to enhance teaching and learning as a way of supporting the 21st centaury skills building and fighting poverty within and outside the school community
Learning Activity titled” Planting seeds! Changing lives!
I am an educator who does not follow the prescribed teaching preparations from the textbooks. I would only get a theme for that week, scan what the textbook is saying and explore more from websites, search google, downloading applications ,my experience and learners inputs for more class work , projects and homework
As such my approaches differ every year. It depends on the kind of learners I am teaching. My school is amongst schools that has many orphans, child headed families, ill healthy learners due to malnutrition, dependency on government grants , unemployed parents and poverty.
The combined negative impacts, mentioned above, lead to lack of interest in education by both parents and learners. It was in this context that the school began to explore holistic solution that will benefit both parents, community members and learners
The core of problem solving was to relook at the role of the school in the community. We felt that the school could be used as a hub of service delivery with benefits beyond reading and writing.
Thus this lead to the idea of developing a model which took the following perspectives in to account:
1. School environment: The school is an extension of home environment and should therefore be safe, clean ,green, secured and lively
2. Social perspective: The kind of backgrounds that learners come from has negative impact in their education as their level of affordability is limited by poverty and unemployment of parents. As such the school does what it can to uplift impoverished learners who cannot afford school uniform, lunch and other educational needs
3. Spiritual perspectives: The scale of diseases like HIV/AIDS cannot be under estimated as they leave many untold stories in their wake. In addition, to regularly collecting condolence money for bereaved families, the school has structures in place for dealing with traumatized learners, especially orphans
4. Academic perspectives: To me, learning is in a sense a sum total of the above mentioned three factors where academic perspective will automatically fall in. In this case, the main aim is to nurture and win the learners hearts as compared to academic achievements which is regarded as an ideal situation where learners get on with their school work as soon as they get in class and don’t have to worry about other issues. The model is more about personal development and equipping learners with the survival skills than academicRedefining the role of the school in the community , has shown many benefits both within and outside the school environment hence the following food projects:
· School backyard Food security projects :Planting of mealies, vegetables, fruit and herbal medicines with the help of Food and Trees for Africa(securing food production methods)
· Indigenous medicines using herbs from the school garden: Various herbs are planted to augment more knowledge on medicinal making , to make ointments for head sores and fungi , to equip learners with survival skills and to assist them to pave their future careers at an early age. Production is sold on line.Visit their website: www.pulaointment.wozaonline.co.za and www.pulamadibogoprimary.co.za
· Information Technology project: The usage of IT tools in class, in the rural areas , is still taken as the field of the elite learners. We are teaching the mobile and E- generation which is competent in using the IT tools. It’s for us educators to incorporate IT tools with teaching and learning. e.g learning a poem on a YOU Tube is much faster that on a text book. “Teaching is like hunting birds. You need to shoot where they are going. You shoot where they are, you are likely to miss” Traditional way of teaching has no room in this era.
The EMS lesson on Sectors of economy about food production was successful and more fun because of the following:
· Learners were provided with opportunity for high order thinking by given a chance to be farmers (provoked their critical thinking and problem solving and innovative skills)
· They were also given chance to connect with the real world challenges like poverty and diseases.(Global awareness and civic literacy where their lesson went beyond the classroom and touch the lives of the community members)
· They were also given chance to share innovative skills with community members, peers and amongst themselves using E mails, what app and celphones(collaboration, knowledge building and ICT for learning)
· They presented their projects using over head projector, laptop and screen as compared to chalk and chalkboard method(Communication, feedback and sharing)
· Innovation was in both teaching and learning
. How I used technology to support the 21st centaury skill building in my class
The usage of IT tools cut across all the learning areas with the purpose of transforming education through technological tools for better teaching and learning.
Through the support from Coca Cares, School net and Netday(Penduka) I attended various IT workshops, facilitated Teach a Teacher project, mentored neighboring schools ,learners and community members where I gained a lot of experience and acquired more IT skills and in turn implement them in my class. I only worked with 30 learners .
I did theory in class, practical in the garden and IT skills acquirement in the mini computer lab available in school. Most of the time I engaged learners on Saturdays to use computers. Programmes like window movie maker, power point, songsmith, paint and You Tube were used by learners to present the projects.
I also downloaded various applications to present, assess and summarize the lessons and it was fun every day in my class. Learners created their emails, whats app, facebook and Popeyes for story telling ,communication and knowledge sharing and reporting their progress to me and their parents
Attached find learners work. For more information visit my learning project with this link:
C. Tangible difference made by IT and PIL project
Ever since I started with IT projects in schools the following were observed:
· Educators got inspired in using IT tools to enhance teaching and learning. e.g schedules, learners progress reports, SAMS, using on line Encyclopedia, have E mails, face book and twit for knowledge building and fun
· Neighboring schools educators, community members and learners become inclined in using the school mini computer lab as such the school became a hub of IT skill acquirement beyond every thing
· Parents , staff and community members are conducted through laptops and overhead projector projecting information on screen for every body to access information
· School messages ,code of conducts and other community information is displayed on an electronic board for accessibility by community members
· School websites, news letters, brochures and school page are developed to market the school
· Limpopo ICT educators is a page developed by an ICT educators to disseminate , share and encourage dialogue in educational matters
· I groomed one community member to be our school admin clerk through “Teach A teacher” IT project
D. Challenges encountered during the creation of PIL learning activity
· Very limited IT resources denied many learners to learn more as such only a handful could access the tools through Principals laptop and only eight PC
· Usage of 3g Modem to teach learners was so stressful in such that funds get depleted quickly before the end of what you want to achieve.
· The school has no budget for IT lessons hence the “no fee school” status
· Continuous load shedding during the weekends impacted negatively during our lessons
· Lack of financial, moral and technical support from high echelons
· But nonetheless I learnt that passion is the key irrespective of limitations and stumbling blocks
E. Way forward
My wish is to see all South African schools becoming the E- schools by 2022 as per E- Education policy advocated by department of Education. This can only be achieved if all the” hot spots” like churches, schools, restaurants, beer hall, cinemas etc, can be E-wired and wifi for every body to access information, encourage voluntary study to youth and connect Globally.
The tried and tested chalkboard method should give way to a classroom loaded with electronic gadgets as we enter the digital age of E- Learning. We must teach learners in the way they want learn not I the way we want them to learn.
Whatever the future holds, the soul of teaching profession will forever remain relevant to changing lives! As Nikos Kazantzakis, a Greek philosopher said” Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse ,encouraging them to create bridges of their own”
Phuti Ragophala(School Principal)