You’ve heard this one… Many times, I’m sure. “These kids of today!” mutter grandparents and other well-seasoned folk. “They’re constantly on their devices! iPad this, cellphone that. Why do you let them play on those things so much?”
But, while our 7-year-olds are enjoying themselves, they’re not always playing, they are often learning.
Using tech to learn
They watch DIY videos. They take photos. They make movies. Before you ask: Yes, most SA kids with iPads still spend a lot of time outdoors: playing sports, swimming, and building the odd sandpit castle. But the castle has a fortress. A moat. A keep. Struts and supports. A proper foundation. And they learn all that from the iPad.
iSchool Africa, together with Think Ahead is using the potential of the iPad to build a generation of tech-savvy, numerate and literate learners. They’re working with children living in rural areas and extremely disadvantaged urban schools.
Meet Gugulethu Thusi.
Take Gugulethu Thusi from Samungu, KwaZulu Natal. The iSchoolAfrica Rural Development Programme has allowed Gugu and her peers to use an iPad to learn, both inside and outside the classroom.
She also takes photographs of her community, one of which won the nationwide iSchoolAfrica Press Photography Competition. This is a young girl, from a rural community, who has never owned a camera. Her iSchoolAfrica facilitator Nicholas Holmes says, “Now she thinks she can do anything. And she can.”
Gugu’s school is one of 100 rural schools and 214 SA schools in total, in which iSchoolAfrica’s iPad Learning Programme has been rolled out; affecting over 60 000 learners to date, developing over 3 000 teachers, and training over 200 youth journalists to be part of the iSchool Press Team – all within the last nine years.
In many SA classrooms, children come from child-headed homes and abject poverty. This makes learning even harder, and iPads can make all the difference.
“I went from a regular township teacher to a top-performing teacher. Not only is the iPad changing my learners, but it has also transformed me! I have a new outlook on the teaching profession and have never been so motivated,” says Lindiwe Mawela, a Gauteng primary school teacher.
iSchoolAfrica is empowering teachers, too, by giving them access to the most advanced educational technology and classroom practices, and it’s working.
Our primary schools face, among others, a numeracy crisis: SA placed second last for maths in the 2016 Trends in International Maths and Science Study.
The iSchoolAfrica Numeracy Programme (est. 2009) uses digital education technology, including onebillion software, to improve the numeracy skills of Grade R-3 learners and help teachers to deliver quality numeracy education.
Growing young journalists
Then there’s the iSchool Press Team (est. 2010), which encourages young people of various backgrounds to make short films using Mac technology. The learners brainstorm, script, film, and edit their films, on topics like the water crisis, girls’ rights, domestic abuse, etc., and they are shared on multiple far-reaching platforms.
Helping special needs learners
“Noni is 10 years old and has no arms, but she can play a musical instrument with GarageBand,” says Karen Schouwink of Muriel Brand School, “The iPad [has] opened a new world for our students, [with] opportunities they would never normally have.
Did you know that the iPad is the only device that offers built-in features for special needs?
These include FaceTime for video calls, so that sign language and facial expressions can be used, as well as AssistiveTouch and Guided Access. Then there are GPS apps that help with orientation and mobility, and a range of high-tech communications apps – like VoiceOver, a gesture-based screen reader.
Closing the educational gap
One of the most beautiful things about the work being done by iSchoolAfrica is that it can remove one of the many devastating barriers that exist between privileged and disadvantaged SA children: access to technology as an educational aid.
If our job as parents is to prepare our children for an evolving world, we can’t afford to forget that the world we’re preparing them for is and will be filled with technology. And we also can’t afford to forget about those who need that edge the most.
For over nine years, Think Ahead has worked in partnership with iSchoolAfrica and the Core Group to help schools to support teachers and learners in their 21st century teaching and learning journeys.
These programmes include the iPad Learning Programme, the iSchoolAfrica Rural Development Programme, the iSchoolAfrica Numeracy Programme, the iSchool Press Team, and the iSchoolAfrica Inclusion Programme.
With help from Think Ahead and iSchoolAfrica, school practitioners can design and implement the best possible education experiences, in the most cost-effective, sustainable and accessible ways.
Offerings can be customised to suit each school’s vision, culture, budget, grades, special needs, and requirements, and include support in the key stages of successful school ICT integration.
Michelle Lissoos, Managing Director of Think Ahead and Director of iSchoolAfrica, leads an expert team of specialists in teacher training, consultation on ICT policy, and digital deployment within the education sector, as well as the integration of digital curricula into schools.
Think Ahead is an Authorised Apple Reseller and Education Solutions for Expert.
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