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If we were to organise an exhibition of current technologies and invite our ancestors and descendants from the past to attend, what would their reaction be?

Our forefathers walked in the desert for 40 years to reach their desired destination. Imagine! After all the suffering, starving and struggling in the harsh climate and tough terrain to find out that with ‘flying technologies’ they could have made the journey within an hour! Moreover, with global positioning satellite (GPS) technology, it would have been so much easier to navigate their way. And oh! How crazy they’d think we are, counting our steps, with IoT devices, and sending information to a ‘cloud’…not to ask for direction from G-d but to…monitor our health!

Imagine Florence Nightingale, known for founding the modern discipline of nursing, and a key figure in introducing new professional training standards for nursing, visiting a robot display to reveal moving machines replacing the service of human care. Japan’s aging population (30% of its population is older than 65), faces a crisis of a shortage of human resource in eldercare. To resolve this predicament, robots have been placed in nursing homes. Robots that move, cry and cuddle are replacing the human work force, from lifting people from bed to entertaining them, with much success. The elderly absolutely love them!

All those involved in getting our internet to where it is today! Who would have imagined that with all the impact of the internet on our culture, commerce, communication and technology that it will also generate the biggest crime, globally? According to the latest information, cybercrime will cost the world more than six trillion dollars annually by 2021. It will be more profitable than the combined global trade of all illegal drugs!

However, if we had Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein entering some of the current classrooms, they’d most probably see no difference from their own classroom, a hundred or more years ago. They will also notice that not much has changed with teaching and assessments, using a curriculum that is mostly outdated with techniques and pedagogies that prepared children for the industrial jobs of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Companies invest in enormous amounts of research to explore the use and impact of new technologies in the global economy (McKinsey, World Economic Forum and so many other papers and reports have been published on the topic.) But what about education? Isn’t it time that we explore transforming education to keep up with the pace of change and to prepare our future generation for their world of work?

We now know more than we knew in the past on how children learn and we know that new technologies are transforming jobs as we know them. But we continue to skill our children for jobs that soon will vanish.

It is time that industries, corporates, government and educationalists work together to transform education through updated policies, curriculum and implementation of technologies as tools to assist with the digital transformation. It is time that we start implementing the use of technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science and IoT in emulating successful methodologies and incorporating them in our classrooms.

The return on our investment will be higher than any business will ever generate. And who knows, the fruits of these investments may be showcased one day in an exhibition featuring future technologies produced by our own future generation.

Written by Ariellah Rosenberg, CEO ORT SA

@Ariellah @ORT_SA

Addiction to our mobile phones

On a flight from São Paulo to Buenos Aires, I was sitting near a girl in her twenties and a guy in his thirties. What strikes me the most that the first thing they did, settling down, was connecting to their mobile phone, charging it and scrolling through their phones. I thought about a lecture I once heard that the average person goes through the height of Eiffel Tower scrolling A DAY!

What strikes me the most, is that we lost the communication between people. Here’s an opportunity to connect with strangers from different cultures, different countries but yet we miss it by scrolling our Eiffel – daily feeds on social media.

Social media made us less sociable, this was my realization as I dozed off to the background hard- core Music bouncing off the girls’ earphones.

We’re doomed..

How will technology impact the future of education?

Reflections from a Study Tour to Israel, MOFET 2013

Technology is progressing so fast that we never seem to be able to keep up to date with it.

As teachers, we sometimes feel that we, the “Desert Generation’s” main objective is to lead our students into the “Promised Land,” and by doing so we ourselves may be left behind, just observing the technological miracles envisaged by this new generation.

There is no question about whether or not technology has an impact on education.  Technology has, and always will, have power on shaping education. The real issue is the approach that we take when handling the changes and challenges that technology conveys.

Rabbi Kook, a significant thinker of the 19th Century said “In every era, you need to learn how to use the elements that influence the generation”. Adapting this to the 21st Century, the approach seems to be to learn what the future holds technologically, so that we can prepare this generation to cope with it.  When examining new and futuristic technologies, one needs to keep in mind the definition of Technology, as given by Allan Kay, an American Computer Scientist.  He said: “Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born”. With the constant and endless changes in technologies today, we need to keep this definition in mind.   Think about the new upgraded cell phone that you have just purchased.  How long will it be before a new version comes onto the market?

In the past 30 years, research on education and technology has shown that since computers were introduced to schools, no change has occurred (Prof Hannan Yaniv, 2013).  There is, however, a need to change the way we think about technology and education. These life changing technologies challenge the digital pedagogy and the approach we take to these changes.  Instead of using new tools to change the way and what we learn we are doing what we have always done, but more efficiently (Jay Hurvitz, 2013).

Prof Sheizaf Refaeli from the Haifa University claims that disruptive technology can lead to disruptive change. The more established the organisation the more resistant it is to change e.g. Education.
Thornburg’s definition of disruptive technology is as follows: “an impossible-to-predict game changer that will fundamentally alter the conventional landscape”. The technology which he predicts will create the third education revolution is the always-connected mobile device.

Research shows how Africa is leapfrogging from an unwired, non-existent e-learning infrastructure to a wireless e-learning infrastructure with whole integration of online and wireless technologies and learning management systems (Brown, 2003). As a result, the potential of using mobile technology in Africa to bridge the digital divide is being re-examined and researched.

In this regard many questions are being posed to researchers and policy makers in the Educational field.  For example:

  1. “Do we understand technology enough to develop policies about it in education?”
  2. “When is learning effective?”

The leading answer seems to be that children need to become “designers for learning” and not the “consumers of learning”.  To achieve this end, there is a need for cultural change, and then one has to ask what the role of the teacher is?   The teacher will then be accountable for the quality of the content being learnt.

How can Technology be the catalyst for change? Examples from the Technion

  1. Use of mobile technology, such as laptops, in crowded classrooms to create active learning
  2. YouTube – used as a platform for assignments
  3. Cloud Pedagogy – learning can take place everywhere, no classroom boundaries

Virtual realities, simulations, mobile technology, virtual platform, cloud pedagogy and digital pedagogy, need to be examined to create lifelong learning.   This will equip our students for a future that we ourselves can’t even envisage.

From tablets to tablets

Classroom Innovation in SA

The following video was created as part of an application for the Google Teacher Academy.  There are two themes to choose from: Motivation and Learning or Classroom Innovation. I somehow was drawn towards the Classroom Innovation and had few versions to it before this final one.

Working with teachers in promoting classroom innovation is challenging and rewarding at the same time, but creating this one minute movie has opened some insight into what classroom innovation can be. I guess when you are forced to keep your ideas into a strict time frame; it helps to focus your views.

What is not in the movie is the South African perspective, as I see it, which I would like to share:

 More than 16 years ago, during Apartheid, there were different education systems assembled according to race; Black, White, Indian and Others known as BANTU education. Now 16 years Post Apartheid, the country has gone HUGE way into integration of all races into one system of education, but still has HUGE way to go as far as performance in education and infrastructure are concerned.

Most Township schools have these concerns to consider: Number of learners in a class (can get 6o to 100 learners per class), crowded classrooms, dire infrastructure, low teachers’ proficiency, poverty, hunger and families strike by loss to HIV/AIDS.  Child-house hold is the phenomena in those townships and teachers are mothers, social workers, nurses, psychologist in addition to their teaching profession.

I therefore found it very difficult to define classroom innovation to these classrooms, as what I wish for them is that these classroom meet basic needs first , with children well fed, secured homes and environment and not being abused on the way to school or when going home from school. 

At ORT SA we try and contribute together with our funders by working with teachers to upgrade their skills and knowledge in subject matters as well as in mentorship and leadership skills. We can only hope that the bit we are doing is assisting to transformation in education in SA.

My thoughts are that mobile phones, which are fast taking SA by storm, may be the way to get those classrooms to “leapfrog” into technology integration. Which is the area we, in Professional Development, should be looking at.

Hope you enjoy the movie!

A year blog in a post

Cartoon web 2.0 history

Cartoon history of web 2.0

I have started the journey of the World wide web 2 and social networking with this blog exactly last year with many questions and queries that cultivated as I explored more.

A diary to share my journey was the first step taken as a fresh virtual explorer “diary from the desk of a digital immigrant”.

The first lesson shared was my discoveries with cyber language and cyber socializing through Facebook and the potential it holds.

When it “strike” me at home with my daughter approaching her first year of grade 1 , I shared a lesson with teachers and what to expect from our learners as far as computer literacy goes. This case study reiterate that although the terms of digital natives and immigrants are well rooted amongst us, we must remember that there are many skills that we the digital immigrants have to ensure our natives acquire.

In my journey I also realize the negative that is associated with technology and pondering about cyber bullying led me to understand that we have to keep to the basics as far as keeping our teenagers safe . This post evoked most amazing responds from readers. As each have their own thinking regards the parents’ roles in the upbringing of our children.

When advocating to colleagues, teachers and friends the potential in using web 2.0 tools beyond the normal use of internet and emails it was not an “easy sell”. Frustrations were shared in the post if life gives you lemon – make lemon meringue

A year in the journey- it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the question we should ask ourselves as parents, teachers and professionals is that of the skills we need to ensure our children acquire to equip them to the world of the future.

Your comments are welcome, please add your twitter/ blog / other should you wish to carry on the communication in other platforms.

A crtoon history of Web 2.0

Cartoon history of Web 2.0

Cartoons by  the cartoonist Oliver Widder, see more cartoons  http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/erp/article.php/3693956

Project based learning bridging gaps

Technology, a subject that was introduced in the SA curriculum in the nineties, is designed to create awareness amongst students for the needs and challenges of society and the environment. The aims of this learning area are to develop knowledge, technological skills as well as thinking and problem solving skills.

ORT SA has for the past four year worked closely with the King David schools to assist teachers with the integration of the subject in the most relevant way and as close to policy as possible. In addition to ensuring that the subject of technology is being tackled, current world-wide educational trends in teaching methods and strategy have been incorporated in ORT SA’s work with the KD schools.

Trends such as project based learning, collaborative learning and web 2.0 based methods are part of students technology projects modeled in the recently introduced Diverse Culture days in King David Linksfield Primary school. These Diverse Culture days have been inspiring and motivating for teachers and students alike.

Grade 7 students received a case study of the socio-economic conditions in which the kids in Alexandra Township live. Alexandra Township which for some is only about five minutes away, is socially and economically worlds apart to what the KD students are exposed to.

Grade 7 students learnt from various sources about the common diseases affecting this township – they listened to a person who was affected by TB, heard about the conditions in Alexandra from teachers who work in schools in Alexandra and learnt about HIV/AIDS from a doctor who specializes in the disease as well as being involved in research to find immunization.
Realizing the importance of healthy nutrition which is hampered by a scarce supply of fruit and vegetables has been the case study for technology and the students designed and made greenhouse models. Kind David Linksfield school included plants to give away to schools in Alexandra.

Grade 6 students who took part in first aid awareness, made first aid kits to donate to schools in Alexandra.

P1020221P1020227P1020206P1020266P1020267 Grade 6+ 7 KDL students  in Diverse Culture Days

A special ceremony is planned where KDL students will hand out the greenhouses and first aid kits they have made to their peers from Ithute Primary School in Alexandra.

The extraordinary thing is that although three subjects were integrated (Technology, Life Orientation and EMS) this required immense time for planning and logistics, and more effort in the execution– teachers LOVED it!

Case studies were real-world and relevant and required students to define the tasks ahead and plan appropriately. Students were required to construct their models at school from scratch (without help from parents) and collaborate with their peers. These days of building this Technology project were vibey with activities filled with passion and enthusiasm expressed by students. The students had FUN!

When I asked a student about this day, her response was “I will definitely remember this when I grow up!”

Technology + Mobile = Disengaged students?

I would like to start my reflections on the mobile and wireless technology seminar  with some questions fellow teachers raised regards the implications of the use of mobile technologies in education.

As you can guess not many participants are convinced regards the importance of incorporating mobile and innovative technologies in education. Follow are some of the questions  often raised:

  1. “Laptops make a good school better, but they don’t make a bad school good” (Fellow twitter-@dajbleshaw)
  2. “In a class with perfect equipment and perfect teacher – will a perfect teaching and learning occurs? Are the pace, depth and outcomes achieved in this class satisfying?”Reeva, Israel
  3. “What can a laptop/ other gadgets provide that a pen and pencil can not?”
  4. The following movie from the Series South Park illustrate classroom situation when computers are used by students http://vimeo.com/4689743

Agree/ disagree? Please share your experience and thoughts.