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ICT integration

Taking a winning idea to Jordan and Washington DC

By Natalie Meerholz

In September 2011, as one of the winners in the South African Microsoft Innovative Teachers Forum, I had the incredible opportunity to visit the beautiful and historic country of Jordan to compete in the Pan African/Middle East round of the competition.

The barren desert landscape has a unique and mystical beauty difficult to describe and is immersed in biblical history. I was struck by the simplicity of the lives of many of the Jordanian people. The Bedouin tribes adopt nomadic lifestyles incomprehensible to many of us westerners.

Integrating – not collecting – ICT

In the west, we are consumed by materialism, fast-paced technology and ‘conversational overload’ (on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, BBMs, e-mail, blogs…), and my visit to Jordan caused me to rethink simplicity. Many schools are getting caught up in the barrage of information and communication technology (ICT) equipment and software flooding the market, and a great deal of money is thrown into the purchase and maintenance of these resources. Keeping up with the changing needs and learning styles of our students is, however, imperative. Many schools can be proud of the ICT infrastructure they have developed over the years. Where to from here?

Addressing and adopting 21st century learning-skills of communication, collaboration and critical thinking in ways that extend our students beyond the classroom, and which address real-world issues, are challenges that many teachers have yet to come to grips with. The integration of technology into the curriculum is not merely the act of using projectors, interactive whiteboards, gadgets and tablets in the classroom, but rather using these devices in meaningful ways to create relevant and authentic learning experiences.

Electronic waste the focus of project

I was able to benchmark my students’ work, by entering a project that involved the use of ICT integration into the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Forum competition. The work centred on creating awareness in the community and finding solutions to the growing problem of electronic waste. This ewaste (any electronic or battery-operated item that is broken or at the end of its life span) is the fastest-growing waste stream in South Africa. In November 2011, I was thrilled to be selected to compete further in the Global Forum in Washington DC, USA.

By using the existing equipment we had in our school, Holy Rosary Convent, in Jordan and Washington DC, I was able to compare, compete with and rank favourably amongst international, innovative teachers, representing a host of different countries.

What we all need to realise is that effective teaching and learning in our digital age is not represented by the amount of digital equipment we throw at our pupils. It is represented by how effectively, efficiently and most importantly, simplistically we use technology to enhance the learning process that is appropriate in this day and age.

Category: Winter 2012

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