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Insight from Business Day Focus 4.0

The Business Day Focus 4.0 Conference held at the beginning of March this year, aimed at exploring the implications of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) on our economy and society.
The presence of leading Hi-tech companies’ CEOs as keynote speakers and in panel discussions illustrated the importance of this topic to the business world.

Below are my three main takes from the conference:

1. It is not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when” we adapt to the 4IR

According to MD Tech Accenture, Kirstan Sita, 85% of South African companies are vulnerable to future disruption (Accenture research).
One of the reasons companies fail is if they missed, or not responded fast enough, to changes in the market (Prof Bran Armstrong, Wits Business School). The more we delay our adopting to changes, the more we widen the gap.
The challenges of poor infrastructure development and the need for cities to work collaboratively towards the creation of smart cities was alerted by Liquid Telecom CEO Reshaad Sha.
It was reiterated that government has to elevate infrastructure as high priority and enable connectivity (survival need) in an equal distributed manner.

2. Technology is neutral. It is what we do with it that matters

Alison Jacobson from the Field Institute, argued that before looking at digital strategy of the business one needs to look at the business strategy and the specific needs of the business through the customers’ needs. “Do you understand your customers? Only then deploy the technology”. Competitiveness in the market and creating the competitive advantage has to be customer-centric.
Devina Maharaj from Digital Investec Bank recommended “Understand the needs first, than plug the gap with the relevant tech solution”.
According to Prof Brian, there are many reasons to automate. Machines have many advantages over human being. If the first and second industrial revolutions were about ‘machines enhancing power’ the third and fourth industrial revolutions are about ‘machines enhancing human brain power’. We need to stay alert in the wake of the ‘digital vortex’ upon us and be ahead of it.

3. Range of skills are needed for the future workforce

Assaf Luxembourg, Business Development Consultant from Israel, noted that ‘technology changes fast, but culture changes are slower’. He then recommended that each individual see himself/ herself as a ‘business unit’, as the ‘CEO of themselves’ and seek to promote oneself. Adjusting to the dynamic nature of the market he says, is to think as entrepreneur and not as employee (even if you are one).
Dr Tashmia Ismail-Saville, CEO of YES, said that tech skills can be easily taught, the need is to create mechanisms to ensure that resources are available to the youth in all communities as in some of them access is limited.
The real skill needed to adjust to 4IR as noted by Alison are the abilities to identify the problem and use critical problem solving and team work.
We should ask, ‘how do we become the best version of ourselves by using technology’ and plan for our career to ensure relevance for the future.

Be ahead of the 'Digital Vortex'
Be ahead of the ‘Digital Vortex’

A Model of Lesson Study in Singapore

The Lesson Study portrayed in the following video was presented to representatives from South Africa by Peggy Foo, MCI at Evergreen Primary School in Singapore

Lesson Studies are used as a Professional Development Tool. Teachers use this tool to engage in and to systematically examine and reflect on their teaching

Lesson Study is:

  1. 1.       Teacher driven
  2. 2.       Job embedded
  3. 3.       Collaborative learning

Teachers identify the research theme which will be based on the school’s vision. Once the research theme has been identified, the lesson plan is designed and a research lesson conducted. Research lesson is conducted by the research teacher, observers can be internal and external teachers and experts who adhere to observation protocol (not to communicate with pupils, with fellow observers, observe few pupils closely, take detailed notes etc)

In post lesson observation, recapping of the research theme and research lesson are conducted. Comments from observers from lesson study plan teams and from other experts are all taken and a summary is done.

In the research lesson conducted in Evergreen Primary School, the research theme is “thinking and self directed learners”. The aim of research is to identify principles/factors for promoting thinking.

The research lesson was on fractions conducted with a Grade 2 class. It was an interesting lesson conducted using a cake to illustrate whole, halves and quarters.  The recap on terms was followed by the teacher referring to a fraction as part/piece, thereafter putting in order fractions from greatest to smallest and vice versa. Pupils working in pairs were using manipulatives to do the worksheets.

In post observation sessions, the following comments from observes were reflected:

1.       The importance of the use of good questions to check misconception (if 4 is bigger than 2, how come half is bigger than quarter?)

2.       Examine carefully, the use and types of manipulatives.

3.       When using real life examples such as the cake – to utilise it further and in the young group tell stories to probe questions to check prior learning

4.       When group work is required, ensure paired pupils work together nicely without being overtaken by dominant character

5.       Pupils completed work quite quick, which may imply that worksheets were too easy for them. To promote thinking, it may have been advisable to remove manipulatives for the last two questions in the worksheets.

I like the idea of Lesson Study as a PD Tool. I think it is a great way to reflect on any teaching. Though for it to be effective, it has to be run by subject and teaching experts.