- Created on Monday, 30 July 2012 07:01
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Two new printed guides to educational apps bring a much needed sense of relief to parents and teachers seeking guidance in selecting the right apps for enhancing the learning experience.
With the advent of flip teaching, best explained as the blend of traditional teaching and technological aids, comes the subsequent difficulty and responsibility of selecting the most relevant, appropriate and efficient means to add value to the teaching and learning experience.
The classroom as we know it is changing and evolving: just think of the inclusion of interactive whiteboards for classrooms, otherwise known as SMART Boards, iPads, as well as cell phones into some teaching environments. This integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into the teaching and learning milieu is becoming more pervasive despite the deepening crisis in education many South African teachers and learners, as well as the Department of Basic Education are experiencing. However, the use of technology in education necessitates recourse to guide teachers through best use of the plenitude of available technology.
Kat Potgieter asked the Managing Director of Think Ahead Education Solutions, Michelle Lissoos, how she became aware of the need to compile The Primary Education App Guide, followed by The Secondary School Education App Guide. Think Ahead Education Solutions is the educational arm of the Core Group (South Africa’s distributor of Apple products).
Michelle explains that the inclusion of iPads in classrooms sparked an explosion of new educational opportunities. The benefits of using iPads as teaching and learning tools are manifold. These range from greater motivation, engagement and independence, to improvements in numeracy, literacy and conceptual understanding, and include special needs learning.
Also, if one were to consider that 20 000 of the more of less 500 000 available apps in the App Store are educational in nature, it becomes clear that the “need existed to take the South African curriculum and the wealth of available apps and to match the two resources”. Michelle says that the guides serve to open up resources for parent and teacher alike, and offers support for both parties. “With the specific selection of apps, the guides also strive to increase the relevance of the apps for a South African audience and a South African curriculum”, says Michelle.
All selected apps are chosen on the grounds of accuracy, quality and relevance, Michelle assures, adding that apps should be responsible in the sense that they are subject specific and appropriate. “Apps are meant to add value to the learning process, and are not meant to substitute [any part of it] says Michelle. They “are meant to engage and motivate”, and technology for technology’s sake is simply out of the question, according to Michelle.
Keeping the disparity between the requirements for the National Senior Certificate and the Independent Examinations Board in mind, Michelle explains that the apps are based on delivery of learning outcomes that are indexed very clearly. Selected apps stem from the crossover between the learning outcomes of different curricula.
The guides are (ironically) in printed form, and are meant to help parents and teachers “to leapfrog into the digital age”. Even so, making these guides available in digital format is in the pipeline for Think Ahead. Even though most of the apps were sourced from the App Store, Michelle says that Think Ahead encourages the development of South African-written apps. An example of this is the ‘Design-an-app’ category of their Apple in Education Competition. In this category learners are encouraged to design apps with an educational focus.
For many, the inclusion of technology into the classroom represents major change to traditional methods of and approaches to teaching in South Africa. Even though such change might be resisted or questioned by some, Michelle believes that it should be embraced by all: “Right now, how we work and how we live, technology has to become a part in how we learn”. With regard to teachers’ attitude towards using technology in teaching, Michelle reassures; “teachers should not be mystified by technology and not be in awe of it”. Instead, she says, “teachers should see it as a tool” and “should see it as a means to empower them”.
Responding to whether she sees a future devoid of chalk and paper, Michelle says “the teacher’s role will always be important”. However, she is of the opinion that “the roles between teacher and learner, teacher and content, [as well as] teacher/learner and the spatial classroom, are [indeed] changing.” She points out that “the need for mobility, integration and flexibility is becoming expected and that “there should not be a distinction between the tool [aiding learning] and learning”.”
Michelle feels strongly about the adoption of technology as a means to enrich the teaching and learning environment. In fact, she says the question to ask should be that of ‘how’, not ‘if’ technology should be integrated into learning environments.By Kat Potgieter