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... the eLearning Journey Continues

We look back on our journey to leverage ICT in the learning process at Rhenish and consider how many steps we have taken this year, although at the same time we have to think about how many steps there are ahead too!  ICT never sleeps – it seems that everything is rushing forwards really quickly, and now that we have stepped into this journey, it keeps the whole team running all the time!

Our ICT programme at Rhenish is divided into two overall parts, each headed by one of the Deputy Principals:

  1. eSafety and Technical Infrastructure, headed by Angela Sarga
  2. elearning which includes teacher and learner development, educational material, and processes, headed by our new Deputy Head - Rika Kroon.

Both of these streams have been really busy.  On the technical side we have expanded the wifi service and doubled the amount of internet bandwidth available to the school.

On the educational side the teachers have really made huge strides in leveraging the Learning Management System (GoogleClass), which is one of the largest and fastest growing LMSs in the world.  GoogleClass is the place where teachers store all of the class material, and from where the class presentations are delivered, homework scheduled, and, in the future, from where tests and assignments will be scheduled and testing performed.

We must note that it typically takes 2 to 3 years for a teacher slowly to convert class planning and lessons into digital format, and then to enrich it with digital content and to then set up the scheduling, homework and assignments, and create communications forums for each grade and subject with which they deal.  To this end there is training available, but in between all of this “extra” work, the teachers also actually have to teach the classes, mark the work, and figure out what to update.  They also have to trawl through material on the internet – there is really a huge amount of interesting educational material - and they have to look through it, select the most appropriate material, ensure that it is not copyrighted, then check that it really matches the syllabus they are delivering.

All the small changes to the syllabus also drive a need for regular reviews of the above.  There are MANY apps available too – these have to be reviewed for usefulness and content, and then tested.  We found that one of the apps 2 years ago had been compromised at the distribution location online, and contained malware – so this has to be checked too.

In general, we are doing all of this to prepare our learners effectively to deal with a digital world.  They need to learn to obtain their information online, safely, and from reputable sources.  We also need them to understand how fast the world is evolving, and help them learn to stay up to date, and relevant to that world.  Knowing that it is not just the knowledge they gain at Rhenish, but how well we prepare them to deal with new knowledge from new sources, and make informed decisions is an important dimension for us.  The learners aren’t always aware of this and sometimes it may seem to them that they are just going through relatively boring material (when they would rather be looking at more stimulating social media feeds), but both have a place.  Similarly it is important for them to learn the meaning of plagiarising, and how to avoid that, and reference other authors properly, without violating copyright.

There have been many questions too about when the school may advocate the use of laptops rather than tablets.  We still have a way to go in this regard and, since we are not yet expecting that assignments be performed or any testing other than multiple-choice formats, we are not yet suggesting this option for general learner use.  In addition, tablets still have a reasonable lifespan and capability – laptops require MUCH more support and administration and are more susceptible to malware and virus problems.  Laptops tend to be somewhat heavier too, and more battery intensive, apart from being more prone to damage from dropping and regular schoolbag journeys.

One of the really important aspects of our eLearning journey is bringing discipline to the use of digital tools.  Every year, every learner and teacher has to sign the Acceptable Use Policy (and now parents will too), and this dictates what is considered responsible use of technology at the school, and what the consequences may be if used outside of these guidelines.  Only after this policy is signed, is a password issued for access to the various school systems.  By experiencing this in the educational phase of their life and setting expectations, we hope that the girls will register and apply similar discipline in their non-school life, and be mature and ready to deal with similar responsibility when they finish school and move towards higher education and employment.

Although ICT use in education does not typically deliver changed scores in subjects, it is often recognised that it helps children to have longer term retention, know where to find trustworthy answers to their questions, and places them in a better position for understanding the context of problems and solutions, rather than just memorising facts.

We look forward to the journey continuing.

+27 21 887 6807 | info@rhenish.co.za
Koch Street, Krigeville, Stellenbosch
PO Box 87, Stellenbosch, 7599
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