SA needs to create fertile ground for testing digital education resources

2017-07-31 22:28

Technology, technology everywhere but are the benefits worth it? That is the question asked by parents, students and teachers in an overwhelming global wave of digitisation in education.

This question about the value of technology is particularly relevant in a South African context where there has often been a one-size-fits-all digital education strategy as a means of addressing learners’ needs.

Part of this problem is because the move towards digital has largely focused on the delivery of hardware over content and training.

This has led to some parents, teachers and principals questioning what technology has really done in bringing about a change in student achievement.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s findings state that the ultimate context for delivering outstanding educational outcomes will occur where high teacher practice culminates with a high technology context. They report that this results in 3.4 times the educational outcomes than a low-practice and low-tech context.

The Western Cape Department of Education in partnership with Idea Digital Education is working on a measurable, outcome-based approach to digital professional development for teachers as well as high quality, interactive, resources for students in Science, English and Mathematics.

This content is currently available on the department of basic education’s DBE Cloud being piloted in certain government schools across the country.

The content is endorsed by, and in partnership with, the Jane Goodall Institute and the South African Council of Educators.

The digital education products provide content from an explicit instruction model with a well sequenced curriculum and rich graphic design ensuring there is a balance between the interactive, animated activities and conventional, self-paced content.

This allows students and educators a flexible and easily navigable education pathway.

The use of these materials highlight the purpose of quality digital content in that it is not for teachers to be replaced but rather to support them to evolve their role as learning facilitators in a digital environment.

This allows the teachers to be more creative in how they support their student’s content mastery even if they are not subject matter experts themselves.

Properly designed educational software like Idea should push a student’s self-assessment for learning rather than just an end-of-year assessment of their learning.

While many people will focus on the issues that obstruct South Africa from having a fully digital education revolution such as crime, cultural acceptance and teacher competency, these are rapidly being overcome. The door is wide open for technology to have a valuable effect on education and training.

Creating fertile ground for testing digital education resources and how they can transform education practices is what will ultimately shape the path towards extraordinary outcomes.

Dr Heinie Brand is director of education in the Western Cape education department and Dr Corrin Varady is the chief executive of IDEA Digital Education

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September 15 2019