Don’t Follow the Herd with Learning Systems


Schools are investing in educational technology (ET) such as electronic boards, projectors, mobile devices and computers but in general the technology is not producing the required benefits.

According to the 2014 JCSE ICT Skills Survey, there have been mixed signals in the ICT skills environment. He says that despite Africa being perceived as an emerging economy with immense growth opportunities, we have fallen behind due to factors such as a limited number of graduates in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and failed technology projects.

Bez Sangari, CEO of Sangari SA, a South African-based supplier of learning systems and teacher training, says it appears that some educational institutions are using technology for the sake of technology. “Most educational technology provides some benefit, but the products selected may not always be the best for the classroom. Before investing in technology, schools should determine to what extent teachers and learners will benefit, how it will improve learning and whether teachers’ skills will be enhanced. The most critical aspects after selecting the correct technology is teacher training and support from the service provider.”

Ixopo High School, an English medium school with 610 learners and 25 teachers, situated on the border of the Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, is benefiting from a product known as the iBox supplied by Sangari SA, improving the pass rate by 40% for grade 12 learners. The iBox comes pre-loaded with the full school CAPS-aligned curriculum and has made the delivery of lessons easy and fun, improving the interaction and relationship between teachers and learners. “The results have been astounding. Physical Sciences improved from 54% to 78%, Mathematics 52% to 82% and Mathematics Paper 3 from 37% to 95%,” he says. “We managed to finish all the syllabi on time and were ranked first and fourth respectively in the district in maths and physical science.”

“With teachers able to test learners immediately after each lesson with the iBox’s automated clicker response system, slower learners are immediately identified and can be given further assistance. Each learner’s overall understanding of a subject can be immediately eveluated,” says Mr Malunguza.
“The iBox is a centralised solution which often can be better than using individual mobile devices, such as tablets, which can be damaged. Devices can also be stolen. The iBox is not dependent on an Internet connection while teaching, but the internet is used for updating the curriculum or to access additional online information,” says Mr Sangari.

The Qedilizwe and Beverly Hills Senior Secondary Schools in Vereeniging, which fall under the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE), are two of eight schools that make extensive use of Sangari South Africa’s iBox. “The aim of the programme is to improve STEM learning with the goal to produce competent and knowledgeable engineers, doctors and chartered accountants in South Africa, says Mr Gauta Legoete, Dinaledi co-ordinator for GDE in District 8.
“Since the implementation of the iBox in 2011 there has been a marked improvement in maths and physical sciences results,” he says. In 2009 the pass rate was 28%; this improved to 68% in 2013, which Mr Legoete attributes directly to the use of the iBox in the Dinaledi schools in the district. “The iBox makes teaching interesting. The curriculum-based PowerPoint lessons enable teachers to prepare more easily and follow the curriculum closely,” he says.

“Overall, the iBox has enabled teachers to be better prepared. The clickers used by learners to answer questions take an enormous load off teachers, now not having to mark test papers after hours, keeping teachers in touch immediately with each learner’s progress.” Mr Sangari says that educational technology should be used to learn and apply skills. An example would be a science project that requires maths, aerodynamics, chemistry and English literacy to be applied concurrently. The technical skills are needed to create the product and literacy to write the user manuals.”
In summary, the objectives of a technology-based school learning system:

  • Teachers trained and supported by the service provider
  • Cost effective
  • Centrally managed by teachers
  • Complements and enhances teacher skills
  • Adheres to the school curriculum
  • Test students at any time
  • Connected, to but independent of, internet connectivity
  • Provides teacher-student interaction
  • Monitors slow and fast learning students at any point
  • Able to access and work in tandem with the school curriculum
  • Enhances teacher skills
  • Creates enthusiasm amongst teachers and students

“But overall,” Mr Sangari stresses, “teachers should be properly trained and monitored to ensure the success of the technology.”