No ‘hit or myth’ here: Unicorn Preparatory School targets technology

| March 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Ian Houston

Unicorn Preparatory School is a Christian, English-medium day school catering for 346 boys and girls from Grade R to Grade 7. In 2015, Unicorn Preparatory celebrates 21 years as an independent school and its 43rd birthday.

Since Unicorn Preparatory first opened its doors, it has become a vital part of community life in Tzaneen in Limpopo. The unicorn is a fitting symbol for a fine school. The mythical one-horned horse appears in folklore around the world1 – in South Africa, tales of the unicorn are even found in ancient Khoi and Khoisan culture.2 All the legendary tales of the unicorn portray it as a creature devoid of evil, a mythical protector of the meek and innocent.

IT a key component

While our name may refer to a mythical creature, our reputation as a leading institution in technology use in the classroom is very real.

Our location in the tranquil valley of Tzaneen, far from any major city, has not prevented us from making information technology (IT) a key component of our educational programme. Over the past five years, we have actively developed and grown IT throughout all aspects of our school. This could not have been achieved unless all staff were on board technologically.

Knowledge Network

At Unicorn Preparatory, we have used Knowledge Network3 for the past 15 years, and have found it to be a phenomenal teaching tool for IT. Our children leave Grade 7 and are able to cope with IT in high school at a Grade 10 level. This has undoubtedly given our pupils an edge over their peers. Linked to this is the four-day training course that all teachers who are going to teach IT also undergo. Not one teacher has ever felt that this course was not worthwhile.

We have also enlisted Knowledge Network to facilitate staff training for all staff who do not teach IT. This up-skilling is done twice a year and has proved to be highly beneficial. The courses covered in the up-skilling include all Microsoft applications, including Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Windows 8. We have also received instruction in Paint.

We can use CAMI

We also use CAMI Education software4 in mathematics classes to reinforce key concepts. Speed test monitoring is also conducted using CAMI. Our foundation phase also uses the CAMI perceptual programme to enhance the learning process for our youngsters. The foundation phase teachers also find the CAMI English software programme to be most beneficial, especially for comprehensions.

Everything electronic

Because Unicorn Preparatory has embraced technology as a teaching tool, each academic staff member has been issued with a personal laptop. Laptops have proven to be far more successful than we envisioned, as they allow staff to prepare at home or at school without having to use external memory or flash sticks. Both staff and students enjoy access to Wi-Fi anywhere oncampus.

Each of our classrooms is equipped with an interactive SMART Board and data projector. Staff receive ongoing online training, moving through complete courses at their own pace to be able to use these tools effectively.

All our communication with parents is now done electronically, from our website to our Facebook page, to text messages and e-mails sent via our administration programme, PencilBox,5 and accounting system, Pastel.6We also have a fully up-to-date electronic calendar linked to our website. Even our telephone system is now based on computer technology, operating via the internet rather than cables.

Always planning ahead

We believe that the future of education lies in implementing technology and IT in schools. Our teachers remain indispensable, however! Plans for the future at Unicorn Preparatory School may include the introduction of tablets loaded with ready-to-use textbooks and an extended research facility attached to the media centre.

References:
1. See, for example: http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1814227,00.html.
2. See, for example: http://www.academia.edu/856979/THE_MAKAPAN_VALLEY_AND_THE_EXCAVATION_OF_THE_CAVE_OF_GWASA.
3. See: http://www.knowledgenetwork.co.za/.
4. See: http://www.camiweb.com/.
5. See: http://www.pencilbox.co.za/.
6. See: https://www.pastel.co.za

Category: Autumn 2015, e-Education

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