I know I haven’t posted one of these for months, things have been crazy moving back to South African, starting an amazing new job that keeps me on my toes all the time and finishing up my second semester of my Masters, correspondence. I know that’s everyone’s excuse and that is why I decided it would no longer be mine. So I’ll be gracing your screens every week or so with a new post from now on again.
Coming back to South Africa my biggest fear was that I would not be able to follow my passion for digital publishing anymore since the market is so small here. I was so very lucky to get a job in digital publishing distribution at Jonathan Ball Publishers and I have now immersed myself in the world of books, and especially digital publishing more than ever before. So my first blog post will be about just that, digital publishing.
For my first post back I wanted to share with you the amazing story of Norkem Primary School in Kempton Park Johannesburg. On Tuesday this week I had the opportunity to visit this school that has decided to go completely digital in their classrooms and I was blown away by what I found.
In South Africa, there is still a lot of skepticism about incorporating digital into classrooms. There is the issue of cost and also the safety of the children to carry tablets around with them. Norkem Primary however held a meeting with parents and together the decision was taken to give their children the opportunity to learn using the best new technology available to them.
The primary school started using Parrot Smartboards two years ago and in September last year they launched a pilot project to integrate tablets into their classrooms as well. At the beginning of this year (2016) the school rolled out tablet education in all their classes from grades 4 to 7.
My nerdy side needs to mention the software being used by teachers and learners before we get to the good stuff. Teachers use Parrot software that is linked to the smartboards to teach the students everything from maths to history. They have many more tools to their disposal than any traditional blackboard could ever provided such as colour, self-drawing shapes and they can split screens so teachers and students can work on the board at the same time. A Learner Management System called InVision is used to connect the learners’ tablets and the teachers’ computers. This system allows teachers to share worksheets, lock learners’ tablets so they can’t use them for other things during class and teachers can even share quizzes with learners in real time. Finally, learners use the Vital Source eBook platform and make use of Oxford University Press and Pearson textbooks. They are able to make notes in these eTextbooks and teachers can also share highlights and notes with students, but the textbooks are still protected and cannot be shared between learners.
I found it amazing how all of these different systems integrated so seamlessly with each other to allow teachers and learners to have a great learning experience.
However what caught me off guard was the passion of the principal and teacher, Mr. Caleb Rorich, in charge of the project and the excitement of the kids in the class. It is important to note that Norkem Primary is not a fancy school. It is a very typical public school with mostly previously disadvantaged learners in their classes. Thus not parents with huge amounts of money, but parents who wanted their children to get the best education possible, and boy are they.
Talking to some of the kids it became clear that they loved school and some even said that maths was now their favorite subject! Maths of all things. The excitement on their faces when being told it was time for a quiz is unheard off and there is not a question about losing those tablets as they are all very protective of theirs. We were also told that these kids marks had gone up in maths and geography classes with nearly 15%! If that is not results I don’t know what is.
I just knew I had to share with you the amazing story of a school that’s putting their learners’ education first. Norkem Primary School decided to not make excuses for why digital learning will not work, but pushed through. There are so many advantages to incorporating digital learning into classrooms and for that reason, I will say with full certainty that Norkem Primary are giving their learners the opportunity to be the innovators and leaders of future South Africa. Let Norkem Primary be a lesson to anyone who says it can’t be done.
Please have a look at this video to see some of the amazing things Norkem Park Primary is doing with their students.