Category Archives: e-Education

World Youth Skills Day: Unemployment driving unrest in South Africa

Is there a way we can reverse youth unemployment in this country? 

In the midst of South Africa’s deep unrest, 15th July is World Youth Skills Day. Tragically, the country’s youth unemployment rate reached a new record of 32.6%, the highest since the quarterly labour force survey began in 2008, totalling 7.242 million people out of work. Employment lies at the centre of many socio-economic ills, given its capacity to fill time, provide purpose, generate income and drive greater equality. But employment can only be driven by skills training.  

Africa is burdened with an additional challenge: many struggle with literacy, due to the poor delivery of basic education. So, where might hope and inspiration be found in the next decade?

In our pockets.

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Smart device costs continue to come down, and new manufacturers are bringing in devices at lower costs, as well as data prices slowly dropping, meaning increasing access as we move through this decade, and more opportunity to upskill via online learning on a phone, with a growing resource of training platforms which offers free training programs like Coursera, Udemy, Udacity and Khan Academy.

But, explains Dean McCoubrey, Founder of MySociaLife, South Africa’s leading digital education and media literacy program, “There are many promises various governments have made about their promise of leadership in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), but how many understand the foundational digital skills required? You can’t just jump into robotics or coding, you need to understand what it is to be a digital citizen to embrace the free resources of the internet. Without it, you are driving a vehicle without a licence, or a map. How do you explore and grow safely?”

McCoubrey explains that the foundation is required in the same way previous generations were taught at length to hold a pencil and use those words they create more wisely. By contrast, increasingly, the internet is seeing spikes of misinformation and cyberbullying.

“With the basics in place of media literacy – understanding media, its power and influences, and fake news – as well as digital literacy such as privacy, cybersecurity and handling technology carefully, we can shift gear into exploration and expansion. We can find avenues of income. MySociaLife shows teens where they can learn photography for free, for example, and then show them where to sell their photos or videos,” adds McCoubrey.

Teens and pre-teens use the apps and devices so intuitively, and it’s a huge advantage. Some children are poor in school but brilliant online, which means there could be an alternative for young South Africans that could transcend the lack of quality basic education.

“We stand at a doorway to vault over other African countries, but we need guidance to know which keys will open it and prepare GenerationZ for a 4IR future. We need to focus on basic digital education as well before it’s too late and we miss a glaring opportunity.”

Looking at TikTok and other social media and gaming platforms, popular culture has youth fascinated and motivated, with approximately 60% of its 1bn users globally found in the GenZ age range. We already sing, dance, shoot videos and photos, why not build on this, and start to use these skills? What if we taught them how to do it safely, intelligently and with purpose. Minecraft For Education, for example, is a way to game and code at the same time, learning a new “language”.

MySociaLife approaches the challenge by not only teaching kids foundational digital skills but also their teachers and parents on how to direct youth to opportunities and realise potential, while at the same time ensuring online safety too – “two sides of the same coin.” A South African EdTech training platform, it allows schools to simply log in and learn using eight hours of video training for learners aged 8 to 18 including subjects such as online safety, privacy, cybersecurity, digital footprint, bullying and intimidation, fake news, and ways to build skills and generate income online.

The World Economic Forum listed its top 10 skills for “The Future of Work in 2025” and these included technology monitoring, use and control, and also technology design and programming, critical thinking, social influence, reasoning and stress tolerance. “We teach many of these skills to kids in schools and they respond with such energy and enthusiasm. It’s something that ignites them.”

“On World Youth Skills Day, this is a call to the government to understand both the challenges and the opportunities of media and digital literacy – and to accept how much they need to quickly grasp with regard to evolving popular culture, pre-teen and teen usage of devices simply because of the generational divide and technology divide. It could deliver a huge shift in employment, direction and momentum over time. We are completely missing this right now,” says McCoubrey.

“Even kids that are literate and have unlimited access are not fully utilising their devices and media platforms to their full potential. The outcome of digital citizenship is a more aware and responsible society because it reduces the negativity and polarity online, increases people’s ability to choose their next action, embracing the net for what it can offer – to share, to inform, to educate, to deliver income, to support, and much more. It’s apparent we would greatly benefit from this right now,” he concludes.

Creating e-Learning for English Second-Language Learners

This article has been contributed by FUEL, a member of ADESSA.

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At FUEL, we specialise in creating engaging e-Learning lessons for English second-language learners. Most of our learners speak English as their second language. This means that we have to be especially sensitive to their ability to understand the language. This includes every element of the e-Learning experience, from the writing of the narrative all the way through to the user interface design. In this article, we are going to share some of our most valued guidelines for creating awesome e-Learning lessons for our English second-language learners

Use the simplest language possible

Language use not only includes the words you use but also how you structure your sentences. We follow a basic rule: if you can think of a shorter word or sentence than what is being used – use it. If there is a simpler way of saying something, then say it that way.

If we’re using more technical terminology or jargon in your lesson, we use a specific example to illustrate exactly what you mean. Sometimes, we use a glossary section where we define these terms and explain what they are used for.

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Make navigation easy

There is nothing more frustrating than not knowing where to tap or click or how to continue with a lesson. For this reason, the navigation and user interface need to be as simple as it is instructive. Don’t leave anything up to chance. If there is the slightest chance of confusion, fix it.

Here, we think about what we want the learner to do at every step of the journey. When describing an action, we use a verb that the learner will relate to. For example, if we need our learners to select something to enter an answer, we make the wording for the relevant field something along the lines of: ‘Enter answer’. On top of this, we give the button a distinct colour that just screams action, like green or red.

Don’t introduce any elements that are distracting – ever. Here, we believe that our only goal is to help our learner understand something. If there is anything that distracts the learner’s attention from what matters – remove it.

Don’t only tell the learner – show them

We don’t expect our learners to rely on textual or verbal explanations only. We believe that the best way to explain how to do something is to show it. That’s why we love using video, and lots of simple images and easy-to-understand animations, for our learners.

Video can bridge gaps in language and ensure that if the learner doesn’t understand the wording, they can fall back onto the visuals. It’s simple, if you’re discussing an object, show it. If you’re trying to explain a difficult process, use flow charts and infographics to represent it visually.

These are just some of the guidelines that we use every day to ensure that any lessons we create are well positioned to ensure our learners keep learning. The bottom line is that for any e-Learning solution to be successful, it has to be based on knowing our learners. That’s why we strongly believe that every lesson begins with the question: ‘Who is my learner?’

Creating Effective Remote Onboarding in a Post-Pandemic World

This article is contributed by Fuel Online, a valued member of ADESSA.

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have adopted a fully or hybrid remote approach to working. With an established workforce, this is a manageable transition, however, organisations will need to think about how they effectively onboard future employees.

The dramatic shift away from established office working, to the majority of workforces now working from home, has revealed significant benefits that have led to many organisations making the change a permanent one.  Employers are realising that they can significantly reduce overhead costs and are no longer geographically limited in their hiring choices. Many businesses are also adopting a hybrid approach to capitalise on work-from-home advantages and mitigating the disadvantages. The hot desk is ready to make a comeback as businesses offer smaller, flexible office spaces for team members to drop in one or two days a week. However, the need for effective onboarding is more essential than ever. Organisations need to ensure that they can onboard future employees seamlessly.

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Identify important information

Whether you’re an experienced onboarder or just starting out, the first step is to identify the content that new employees need to know to get started. Don’t give in to the temptation to try communicate everything at once. That approach will overwhelm your onboarding programme and will likely leave you with a new employee who has struggled to retain the basic and most important information they need to function in their role. The best approach is to determine two or three learning objectives. This can be done by refining the information to cover what your new employee needs to be able to do in their role. Potential learning objectives may be:

  • Apply company values to their work
  • Identify and use appropriate tools for completing tasks
  • Follow company policies

Clear learning objectives will help you to carefully review all potential content and evaluate the value of each piece to identify what content is truly relevant to your onboarding programme and what is better placed elsewhere. These will help you to order your content into what is most urgent, informing your content creation roadmap.

Create your content

All training content needs to be informed by your onboarding learning objectives. If you have existing onboarding material that needs to be converted, it is useful to bear in mind that no content is unusable; all existing legacy content can be adjusted to suit delivery through an online training methodology, organisations just need to understand how to utilize what currently exists. An experienced online training service provider, like FUEL, is more than capable of ensuring that all existing content is revised and utilized so no skills knowledge is lost during the implementation phase. FUEL excels at successfully converting existing training content into engaging, online training modules for maximum return on investment. We offer a full-service production service, from script to screen. Our ‘Presenter to camera methodology provides a vital transitional link for learners moving from classroom-based learning to online training. Our green-screen studio is equipped with state-of-the-art camera and lighting equipment and we offer a range of production packages to meet both your learning objectives and your budget.

Assign training leaders

Assigning a Training Leader to a new employee, will ensure that they get the support and motivation that they require when making the shift to working online. For many employees who are used to having the support of colleagues in the office environment, the shift to working remotely will be challenging.

A training leader will be able to monitor the progress of learners through their modules and can offer regular check-ins with those who are struggling to adapt to the new way of working. The most unique challenge of all virtual activity, including training staff to work online, is social isolation. Check-ins help remote workers feel a sense of community. If those workers are left ignored for too long, it could potentially impact employee health and wellness and be a drag on productivity.

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Overcome the loss in learning due to COVID-19 : Part 2

Contributed by Minda Marshall of LectorSA, a member of ADESSA

Finding the way out of the storm: what is needed?

Lectorsa Oct 2020 no 2

Governments have already identified that education plays a significant role to improve human capital. Good education outcomes ensure macro-economic stability; ignite inclusive growth, and advance their country’s ability to be globally competitive. Improved education outcomes also lead to an increase in tax revenue and GDP. It lessens the demand on social services, health services and safety services. It contributes to low levels of crime and improved health.  A lot has been done to research new and efficient ways to improve education. New curricula are developed, and vast investment is made to enhance learning environments.

The most significant gap currently challenging the improvement of educational outcomes globally is the lack of capacity in our learners, students and workforce to intelligently work with visual information. To achieve this, and other development outcomes, the foundational skills and strategies needed for visual intelligence should receive urgent attention.

The basis of learning is to interact intelligently with information. This includes the skills and strategies needed to find relevant information. To know how to connect new information to your schema of understanding. And to understand how to use the information you have now internalised to create new knowledge. Visual intelligence is the ability to process, understand and express visual information. One of the cornerstones of visual intelligence is reading with adequate comprehension. If 74% of our Grade 4’s cannot understand what they are reading, they will struggle to work with, and learn from visual information for the rest of their lives! They won’t be able to use the information they have to make intelligent choices towards a better future for themselves and their children.

Reading is not just recognising symbols, or reading and writing basic words – there is much more to reading than what meets the eye. Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols for the intention of deriving meaning (reading comprehension) and/or constructing meaning. Good reading does not develop naturally as the human brain is not ‘pre-wired’ for written information, but for spoken. This is one of the reasons that humans have, for generations, transferred knowledge through singing and story-telling. With the advent of written language, we’ve developed different strategies of training the brain to read with understanding. This has arguably been one of the most significant challenges facing nations in the last few decades. One of the critical aspects of learning that was recently proven through neuroscience is that the human brain is a self-organising creative system.

To find out more – follow this link to the full article.

www.eyebraingym.com

Embracing a Pandemic

Contributed by Adrie Schoeman, MD of Master Maths, a member of ADESSA.

Master Maths has been around for more than 40 years. After so many years in business, with franchise centres in nearly every town in South Africa and some in Namibia, we have a solid rhythm. Our structures and processes are in place.  However, when that announcement came that our country (like the rest of the world) will go into a hard lock down, the uncertainty kicked in and the fear was real. This pandemic did not choose it’s victims, we were all (small and large businesses) in the same boat. None of us could ever have foreseen a scenario where a pandemic just changed our normal day into something really surreal. 

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We had to trust our investment made into solid systems and it stood the test of time. Master Maths has invested substantially in developing a new LMS system, which we were in the process of rolling out. The pandemic forced us to fast track this and with good support and collaboration tools, the pace at which franchisees adapted to the new technology, ensured that we could proceed with our business in a new “normal” manner. Our learners could use our platform and with some additional applications, were able to continue their learning path. Parents had the knowledge that the monitoring and support from the franchise centre was there. Online learning became the new “normal” and we will never be able to thank our clients for their support and trust during this year!

But more than anything else, I saw grit in action!  Grit means courage, a show of strength of character, a never give up attitude, a true commitment… not a word you hear often, but one I now, know the meaning of and experienced first-hand. Not only amongst colleagues and franchisees, but also amongst our learners, parents and every schoolteacher.  Being involved in education we all had one goal – support learners as best we can.

I was asked to write about Master Maths’ experience of this pandemic.

This is a story of a learner’s experience, shared with me … it is but one, but a similar story was told by every franchisee I spoke to.

“Today was my first session back at the centre since lockdown. When I arrived at the centre, it felt weird and strange and honestly I was totally freaked out. Thank goodness for my mask, although I hate the thing! I was greeted by a “please wait before entering” sign at the door. There was someone coming towards me, her eyes looked vaguely familiar, but I didn’t recognize her immediately, until I heard her… hallo how are you, welcome back…of course…did she put one some weight and look at the hair…  It is sanitizing, temperature measures, cleaning shoes and questionnaires, but then I was seated and a familiar feeling of being back at the centre started kicking in.  I missed seeing my tutor…. online is ok, but not the same.”

The question most asked and written about in the media – is teaching going to change to virtual teaching in future? At Master Maths we embrace technology. It is a fantastic tool, but online tutoring only, will never be able to replace the experience of being able to see and interact with a tutor/teacher. We are happy to see us slowly getting back to business as normal!

Overcome the loss in learning due to COVID-19 : Part 1

Contributed by Minda Marshall of LectorSA, a member of ADESSA

A wise man once told the story of how he went on a joy ride with a boat off the South African coast. It was a beautiful day, but within a short time, a storm came up. He described how thankful he was that he had an experienced skipper. I remember how he told us that he was standing behind the skipper – watching over his shoulder.  The skipper explained to him: “You must be able to see the way through the waves,” as they safely navigated to the beach.

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In the eye of the storm

Governments, educators, parents and students are currently facing a perfect storm. The challenge now is to find the way out of the storm. International figures indicate that 1.6 billion students around the world were out of school at the peak of the COVID-19 lockdown in April 2020. Many countries will be severely challenged to achieve their Learning Poverty goals.[i] 

According to the World Bank,we need rapid, decisive, and coordinated action. They indicate that we were already living in a learning crisis before the pandemic. The situation threatens to pose a massive setback to hard-won gains in human capital.[ii] Before the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic, the world was already struggling with a learning crisis, with 53 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries living in learning poverty being unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10. Up to 7 million students from primary and secondary education could drop out of school due to the income shock of the pandemic alone.[iii]

The added challenges we face is that I4R is placing a higher demand on learning, unlearning and relearning. We will all need to achieve higher, to develop more, to read faster, think smarter, learn better in the future. Even students that were doing good before might not be doing well enough going forward. We are all faced with oceans of information.  Neuroscience has shown that the cognitive load exceeds the capacity of the working memory, intellectual abilities decrease. We must find a way to increase life-long learning effectively and to bridge gaps caused in learning by, and worsen through, the lockdown.

To read the full article, click here.

Find out how you can join us in finding the way out of the storm. www.eyebraingym.com


[i] https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/06/18/covid-19-could-lead-to-permanent-loss-in-learning-and-trillions-of-dollars-in-lost-earnings

[ii] https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/06/18/covid-19-could-lead-to-permanent-loss-in-learning-and-trillions-of-dollars-in-lost-earnings

[iii] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/education/publication/simulating-potential-impacts-of-covid-19-school-closures-learning-outcomes-a-set-of-global-estimates

Does the cascade model work for technology training for teachers?

When we think of a cascade in nature we have a vision of big quantities of water rushing down a river.  In education this image has become a metaphor for a particular training model: one teacher from a school (or a district) is trained; the newly trained one trains a few more; each one of them trains a few more, until all have received the training.

The cascade training model is an attempt to fast-track training of great numbers of teachers.  Cost saving is one of the perceived benefits of this approach – only one teacher needs to attend an expensive training course.  The knowledge gained on the course can then be passed on progressively to all in the organization.

When you introduce technology into your school and have the need to train all teachers in its use, this may be a tempting strategy.  In theory the cascade training model seems to be cost and time effective.  But does it work?

In a cascade in nature the force of gravity ensures that the all the water reaches the bottom.  The force of gravity – a pull from below – is not operative when you try to empower all your teachers with technology skills.

You probably would select the most qualified person in terms of passion and affinity to technology, as well as training ability, to be at the top of the cascade.  If the members of the first group who receive training are less qualified, the effectiveness of the training they offer to subsequent groups will be diluted.  They can only pass on what they themselves value, remember and understand.

In many cases the envisaged cascade is reduced to a mere trickle of knowledge when it reaches the last teachers.

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Minimal knowledge may reach the teachers at the bottom

The cascade model may be useful for creating initial technology awareness among all staff members.  When more intensive training is required, you can’t depend on this model.  Teachers are at different levels of technical competency; a one-size-fits-all training approach will not yield desired results.

If you want technology training of your teachers to be effective, don’t just put a ‘model’ in place, hoping it will work.  Ensure that each teacher receives all the training, coaching and support they need to make them skilled users of technology teaching tools.

UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES DOES TECHNOLOGY AS A TEACHING TOOL NOT LEAD TO SUCCESS?

Technology does not always lead to success in education– it does not automatically lead to improved teaching and learning.

The introduction of technology in the business world only yields results when it supports the objectives of the organization. A good organization structure must be present. Throwing a lot of technology at a problem will not make it disappear if the establishment itself is dysfunctional.

The same principle is true in a school environment. Attractive as the use of technology may appear when face-to-face teaching is disrupted, it is unlikely to add much value under the following circumstances:

Poor leadership: Where the principal, management team and governing body do not give clear direction in general educational matters, it is doubtful that they will do so when it comes to the use of technology as a teaching and learning tool. If sound leadership is lacking, this matter must be addressed before you even think of introducing technology.

Dysfunctional schools: Sadly, some schools fall into this category. Some schools struggled to persuade learners and their teacher to be in the same classroom at the same time during the pre-pandemic period. One could hardly expect technology to make a difference in such schools now.

Unwilling teachers: Where teachers resisted the use of technology in the classroom in the past, one can hardly expect results now. Hesitancy to use technology now may be a result of a lack of exposure to technology in the past.

Technical support: Nothing is as disheartening to teachers (and to learners) as when the technology fails when they try to use it. Planning to use technology as a teaching and a learning tool must include some form of maintenance and support.

Training is not available: If no training is available, technology may end up missing the purpose of using it. Along with the technology, adequate training for teachers must be provided. A lack of training is perhaps the biggest reason why technology fails as a teaching and learning tool.

There is ample evidence that technology can lead to improved teaching and learning – success depends on the environment in which you try to embed it.

How to limit kids’ screen time during lockdown, AND …

equip parents adjusting to two new ‘battlegrounds’ – homeschooling and digital learning.

With lockdown potentially being extended beyond 21 days, parents are faced with a longer period of time indoors. Some have loved their time together, and others desperate for their old routine. Devices, social media, apps and games provide escape for both parents and kids, a much-needed “breather” in a long day of incarceration. And connecting to friends and chatting is important for humans.

Mysocialife 14 April 2020

But life online often comes with many by-products – bullying, exposure beyond what is age-appropriate, contact from strangers, sexting. More time online naturally means more risk. Parenting will be different over this unparalleled situation, to adjust to socialising and schoolwork, but our attitude to online safety should improve in relation to the amount of screen time. 

As Western Cape kids are set to “return to school” (while they stay at home), millions of parents have suddenly been transformed into ‘home-schoolers’? 

Dean McCoubrey, Founder of MySociaLife, the leading digital life skills and online safety program in schools in South Africa, answers some key questions … READ MORE

Use cell phones to expand the walls of your classroom

Lessons are typically conducted in classrooms.  Some teachers take their learners on field trips or find other innovative ways of teaching outside of the classroom, but this happens only on occasion.  In most cases it is not practical to have a lesson outside the classroom.  The downside of a lesson constrained by the four walls of the classroom is that when the learners leave the room, the lesson is over.

Cell phones can be used to let the lesson continue outside of the classroom.  Activities and content can be given for leaners to engage with after they leave the classroom.  This means that the classroom is now expanded to the homes of learners, or even to the transport that the learners will use travelling between their homes and school.  When learners cannot be taken on field trips, or when they need be educated about other parts of the globe, a cell phone can be used to give them a glimpse into those aspects.

When learners cannot come to school owing to sickness, or when civil unrest prevents them from moving around freely, we can use their cell phones to put the classroom in their homes.

Using cell phones outside of the classroom can enhance any lesson, but it would be particularly useful when a school has a strict no cell phone policy, or where the use of cell phones is prohibited in the classroom.  Despite the restrictions, teachers can still expand the walls of their classroom by letting the learners use their devices for learning outside of the classroom.