Snapplify is a South African elearning company that has recently partnered with publishers to education publishers to launch their Free Access programme for all South African learners. Schools in South Africa have always struggled and no more so than what they are going through right now. As much as we might think that universities are having a hard time, primary and secondary school principals, teachers and learning around the country are in a dark place.
Free Access provides over 5000 IEB, EB and CAPS-aligned ebooks for free to anyone who needs them for remote learning while schools are closed. These Free Access books will be available to learners until the 31st of December 2020.
In order to download the free textbooks:
Go to www.snapplify.com/freeaccess
Search for the ebook you need and add to your library
Install the Snapplify Reader to read your ebooks
If you know anything about the publishing industry you’ll recognise that this is a huge achievement and must represent a massive effort from the company. I think that this is an amazing contribution to South African education. Please share widely.
This combination of public, private and community-based delivery of renewable energy is an advanced, sophisticated vision (consistent with practice in a number of countries), that breaks from the simplistic view that renewables can only be efficiently delivered by IPPs in a highly competitive market. We must avoid a pure market solution that incentivises a race to the bottom where prices drop so low that renewables become unprofitable.
For the past few months I’ve been feeling pretty low about the situation we find ourselves in here in South Africa. Unemployment is at 30% (youth unemployment is at 60% by some measures) and looks to keep growing. Corruption at the highest levels of government is no longer even noteworthy. We have a national power utility that struggles to provide power; a national airline that struggles to fly airplanes; and a national health service that struggles to treat patients. Oh, and some universities across the country remain suspended as a result of student protest around debt and an inability to register.
But since last week Thursday, when the President delivered his State of the Nation Address (transcript here at Daily Maverick) I’ve been feeling a lot more positive. The media especially has been upbeat about the new opportunities that seem to be on the horizon, including the ability of municipalities to generate their own electricity, and the presentation of policy (not just rhetoric) aimed at moving towards renewable energy production and tackling youth unemployment. And there seems to be a genuine desire to see that that State-looting criminals who ran our country for decades be held accountable.
For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful that we might be able to unfuck the situation we find ourselves in.
CAPS is the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement that describes the South African national curriculum for Grades R – 12. I don’t work in the basic education sector but I have friends who do and this is something they talk about all the time. You could probably say the same thing about many (most?) higher education curricula.
It it too content heavy. Because we think that covering content is the same thing as teaching.
There is no time for consolidation. Because there is so much content to cover.
It is too rigid. Because teachers can’t possible be trusted to take students where they need to go at the pace they need to go.
Children are over assessed. Because we think that assessment is evidence of learning.
We are not producing thinkers. Because a curriculum that emphasises assessment of content has no space for developing creativity.
For the past few years I’ve been involved in an NRF-funded research project that looked at the use of emerging ICTs in South African higher education. In addition to the range of conference presentations, publications and postgraduate student progression, we also recently saw the first draft of a set of guidelines for South African lecturers who are interested in incorporating emerging technologies into their teaching and learning.
These case studies are drawn from seven South African HEIs, both resource-rich and resource-poor, from diverse disciplines such as Teacher Education, Nursing and Media Studies, covering a variety of tools and technologies, such as traditional learning management systems (LMSs), but also a wide range of social media applications, such as discussion forums, Facebook groups, Google Drive and blogs, to address a variety of educational challenges. These challenges include: managing large classes, enhancing interaction and collaboration among geographically dispersed students, facilitating critical reflection, developing digital literacy skills or creating safe online spaces to practice professional skills.
Here is the cover of the guidebook, which is going to be released under a Creative Commons license and which will be available for download in the next couple of days. Thanks to Daniela Gachago and Cheryl Brown for their amazing work in getting this guide to press.
We thought there was room for something a bit more…playful. Something less formal. Maybe even irreverent. We think that there’s space for a group of like-minded South African educators to get together and shoot the breeze without needing to worry about who is watching and who you represent. A place where you can cut loose and say what you think. Where you can challenge the status quo and where you don’t have to conform. We think that there is room for debate and discussion that is institution-independent and we think that this could be that space.
I recently began working on a project called Unteaching, with a few other people in South African higher education. We’re interested in trying to build a conversation around rethinking teaching and learning practices in a way that was oriented to the local context, with our unique facilitators and challenges. At the moment it’s just a WordPress blog but we’re kind of figuring it out as we go along, so things may change.
In thinking about a few guiding principles, I couldn’t help but keep coming back to this advertising campaign for the original Mac computers. We wanted this community to be different and to represent in some way the ideals and enthusiasm for change that could be reflected in thindividual stories and experiences of people who are doing for eat work in the classroom but who don’t have the opportunities to publish or present at conferences.
Yesterday’s CHEC session was presented by Jeff Jawitz from UCT, who looked at tools for addressing diversity in the South African university classroom. I’ve seen Jeff present before at conferences and he’s got a really relaxed way of introducing and working with often highly controversial topics, like race and gender. I was especially excited to have the opportunity to learn more from him during this session. Here are my notes.
In what ways are students diverse? Which of these matters?
There are many different differences, and any one of these might be highly significant for one person, but insignificant for everyone else → we can’t take all of these into account when we’re working with groups. Yet, we must be aware of all of the differences nonetheless
No single aspect of diversity addresses all of the issues
What does diversity mean in a South African context?
Diversity enriches the classroom
Learning styles (e.g. Felder-Silverman) can be used to change teaching practice to take diversity into account, rather than categorising students. Bear in mind that the most aspects of diversity in education deal with the issue of cognitive diversity i.e. ways of learning, but there are others e.g. language
Language can be used to communicate effectively, but also to engage deeply with the academic discipline. These are two different things and can be developed in different ways (See Cummins, 1996)
“Every time a student sits down to write for us, he has to learn to speak our language, to speak as we do, to try on the particular ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating, reporting, concluding and arguing that define the discourse of our community. He must learn to speak our language. Or he must dare to speak it or to carry off the bluff, since speaking and writing will most certainly be required long beofre the skill is learned” – Bartholomae, 1985, 134-135
Discourses are ways of being in the world, which integrate words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes and social identities, as well as gestures, glances, body positions and clothes…a sort of identify kit” – James Gee
Where do discourses come from (Gee, 1996, p.137)?
Primary – acquired early in life within the socio-cultural setting of the family
Secondary – learned / taught as part of socialisations within schools, religious communities and other local, state and national groups
How do discourses cause discomfort among others?
Socio-cultural dimensions of diversity:
Class (“income diversity”)
What resources do students need in order to complete a task?
How comfortable are you using race as a descriptor?
What are the problems with using race as a descriptor?
What is the value of using race as a descriptor?
“Am I a racist if I think about race in my courses? Shouldn’t I treat all my students equally?” – Milner, 2003, p.176
How does one address the significant difference in retention and graduation rates between black and white students at university in South Africa without reference to race?
When discussing diversity in the classroom, it’s as much about who we are (i.e. teachers) in that discussion
Authority doesn’t only come from what you know, but also from what you look like. The notion of authority has huge racial overtones in South Africa
How might my students’ racial experiences influence their work with me? What does it mean for a young black student who has never even had a conversation with an adult white male, to be told to come and see the teacher anytime, when that teacher is an adult white male?
How do I negotiate the power structure around race in my class to allow students to feel a sense of worth?
Am I willing to speak about the injustice of racism in conservative spaces?
“We are a nation struggling to come out of our history”
Bartholomae, D (1985). “Inventing the university”, in Rose M (ed), When a writer can’t write: studies in writer’s block and other composing precess problems.
Cummins J (1996). Negotiating identities: education for empowerment in a diverse society
Felder, RM (1993). Reaching the second tier – learning and teaching styles in college science education. Journal of college science teaching, 23(5):286-290
Gee J (1996). Social linguistics and literacies: ideology in discourse
Milner HR (2003). Teacher reflection and race in cultural contexts: history, meaning and methods of teaching. Theory into practice, 42(3):174-180
I’ve just been asked by one of my supervisors for my research goals for 2011. This will include my own work, as well as planning how our undergraduate and Masters students’ work might feed into some of the bigger projects. The first goal I have for 2011 is to submit 2 articles based on my first PhD objective. I’d planned on sending these off at the end of 2010, but never managed to finish them in time. They’re almost done now, and I’m hoping to submit them before lectures begin in a few weeks.
In order to plan my research activities for 2010, I created a chart to help me visualise the different activities I’d be involved in (see below). I completed most of the tasks, although not necessarily exactly as I’d initially planned them. Looking back at the process I went through in 2010, it’s clear that things don’t always work out the way you planned them and that that isn’t always a bad thing. I ran out of time at the end of the year, and didn’t get to complete everything I’d wanted to. Now I have the dilemma of trying to decide if I still want to do them, and run the risk of biasing the results e.g. realising that students may not have great recall of certain events.
I’ve created a similar chart for my 2011 progress, and tried to incorporate the results of the 2010 research I conducted, showing how they feed into my second PhD objective. This includes a review of the undergraduate curriculum using document analysis, and a Delphi study of physiotherapy educators to plan a blended learning intervention for one (or several) undergraduate modules. The original plan was to identify one module and then develop it using a blended learning approach but now we’re considering the possibility of working with a few, although this isn’t reflected in the diagram below.
I still need to figure out how I’m going to incorporate input from my 4th year research group, as well as the 3 Masters students I’m supervising this year. I can’t really see how they’ll fit in, so I might need to start a few additional projects (Edit 13/01/11: I changed the diagram above to show the 4th year project and one MSc contribution to my study). I find preparing charts like this useful to organise my thoughts around the process. I often struggle to see details but am OK with picturing the overall structure. When I create a flowchart like this, it forces me to think about the specific steps I’m going to need to take to move forward, as well as how all the pieces fit together.
In addition to the research, I also hope to present at 4 international, and 2 local conferences:
International Association for Medical Education
Education in a Changing Environment
Personal Learning Environments
World Physical Therapy Congress
South African Association for Health Educators
Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa
I’ve committed to convert each conference presentation into a publication, so hopefully that’ll grease the wheels for funding from the university. It seems like quite a full programme, but since my teaching load has been reduced for this year, I think it’s doable.
As part of our commitment to continuing professional development (CPD) in South African healthcare, we’re required to accumulate 5 ethics credits every year. Yesterday I gave a presentation to the staff in our department in order to fulfill this requirement. It went quite well, although being my first time I felt pretty unprepared.
I learnt a lot from the experience and together with the feedback I got from my colleagues, will be able to refine the workshop for next year. One of the main suggestions was to add more interactivity to the session. I definitely agree that this is one area I could’ve improved on, especially with the view to making it more dynamic.