Ok. So, I’m really doing this. I’m writing my first blog post. In English. You know how they say that Afrikaans people’s English is like airtime? Sometimes it just runs out? Yeah, let’s hope it doesn’t.
But what can I write about? Well, the thing that has ruled my past two and half years. And no, it wasn’t coping with CAPS. It was getting teachers in an Afrikaans government school to use Microsoft Apps – or well, forget the apps, trying to get them to use just e-mail.
I studied B.Ed with major subject IT and got a position at an Afrikaans school for IT grades 10 – 12 in 2015. In 2015 the school made tablets and e-books compulsory – it failed miserably (that is a post for another day). We adopted a “choose between hardcopy or tablet”-model. Somewhere in 2017 we went the Microsoft route. All the teachers and students got Office 365, etc. Verrrrrrrrrry nice – or so I (and only I) thought! Of course, being the IT teacher, I was sent on all the trainings and had to attend all the meetings and somehow, I was elected champion without even realising it – this sometimes happens just because you teach IT or CAT (a fact for which I am very glad now!).
In one of the Microsoft trainings in 2017, we had to use OneNote for something or the other – but my thoughts were elsewhere. I had noticed the “Teams”-app on my Office Home Page and couldn’t resist the urge to explore. And what I found, changed my life. Finally, I had a platform that can teach learners to used technology in a way that they will use it in the “real life”. I didn’t have to use technology to teach my lessons, I could use it to open a major new world of school life – a world with endless opportunities, professionalism and treating learners like real adults. A world where learners can have deadlines for tasks at midnight and not the fifth period, see their results instantly, have feedback about all their tasks in one place and have a library of files for every year they take the subject.
In my excitement to share this wonderful platform with everyone I could find (because why wouldn’t someone want to use it?), I gave a short (but long) presentation at a staff meeting – I explained and demonstrated and helped and explained some more. What was the reaction? My head of department smiled (she was one of the few) and said: “Ag, jy is so oulik as jy so opgewonde is.” Long story short, I was the only one to use Teams until the start of this year, 2019.
Treat them like children, give them sweets!
Our SGB member for IT sent me and our CAT teacher (of course) to Brescia House School at the start of this year in a new attempt to get the Microsoft School-thing going. There I learnt a lot, but two things stood out: reward technology with technology and teachers sometimes (when it comes to technology) need to be treated like children or students in a classroom.
So, what is my approach now? I posted the link to Teams on the various app stores on our staff WhatsApp group and said in a message they should download and install it and sign in with their e-mail addresses and passwords. I stood up in the staff meeting on Tuesday and announced that there is a competition starting and the first round is downloading and installing the app. I made it clear that prizes (food and chocolate of course) are involved. By the end of the day, about 30% of the staff members had downloaded it. Signing in was a whole other story as no-one could remember their passwords. So, this morning (Wednesday) I was handing out marshmallow eggs only to those who had signed in successfully – I won about 7 extra downloads only by refusing to give someone an egg. I also created Teams beforehand for a few of the major subjects and added the learners as well, so when the teacher got on, she had a few Teams ready.
Next, I plan to post a “Raai, raai, riepa!” as a Form Quiz on Assignments and have them compete for a few slabs. My goal? Fun. And maybe one who realises “wow, this might work in my classroom!”. Will it work? Only time will tell.
To be continued.
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