By Dennis Lamberti

As South Africa celebrates Youth Day, we need to consider the ways in which we are exposing our youth to the technological growth the world has to offer, and the extent to which we are using it to their advantage.

Dennes Lamberti.

In schools around the world and throughout South Africa, new software, teaching aids and online courses have turned the conventional classroom on its head. The curious irony of these shifts, however, is that technology is enabling teachers to provide learners with better, more personalised attention.

As the educational space becomes more technologically advanced, it is also becoming more human. In this way, the quality of education learners are receiving is improving, while levels of educational inequality have the potential to be reduced.

The massive advances in technology that are disrupting traditional processes across every sector are arguably more necessary and relevant in the educational space than they are anywhere else. After all, it is by understanding, manipulating and adapting these advances that today’s learners will continue to transform our world tomorrow.

Digital teaching in practice in South Africa

In January 2019, private school group Curro opened the doors of Curro Foreshore in the heart of Cape Town’s CBD to Grade 8 learners. Although it makes use of educational tools already in place at other South African schools, this innovative school’s holistic adoption of these tools is entirely novel.

“We wanted to create a new type of pedagogy that would be effective for children to learn in, appealing to them, and relevant to the technology age,” explains Jay Paul, Curro Foreshore’s business manager.

The bespoke learning management system for the school has been implemented by Media Works, one of South Africa’s leading education and training providers, and enables schools to manage the learning material they give learners access to digitally. It can either permit learners to work through lessons one at a time, or release a week’s worth of work and allow learners to go through the content at their own pace.

The learning environment is closely controlled and monitored, and teachers are able to identify children who are battling as well as those who are excelling in real time. This, of course, offers real-time benefits.

Improved, personalised education

“The smarter the platform becomes and more the children interact with it, the more time we free up for our teachers to engage in one-on-one support,” says Paul. In this new space, teachers, who no longer instruct or directly manage children working at different levels and speeds, quickly become personalised facilitators and mentors.

“When you remove the burden of teaching in front of a whiteboard from a teacher and allow them to focus on children individually, you start addressing core development areas better than any other model,” Paul adds.

In addition to the quality of the teaching, the content that the children have access to is among the richest, most versatile and engaging material available. Although aligned to the South African curriculum and relevant to South African learners, it draws upon international knowledge and expertise to communicate information simply and accessibly. By using technology to this extent, incredible gains are made in improving the quality of education children receive, and inroads are achieved into improving access to high-quality education across South Africa.

Scaling up, looking ahead

Is this approach to education scalable? Could it be rolled out nationally? The short answer is yes. While some infrastructural requirements need to be met, smart classrooms could certainly be implemented elsewhere. Scaled down variations are also an option, where visually rich information such as videos and interactive models are used to facilitate learning in ordinary classrooms.

We are reaching a point where the use of technology in schools is becoming both increasingly accessible and increasingly necessary. By making use of the digital resources available to us, we’re in a position to right South Africa’s considerable educational imbalances. As we celebrate our youth on 16 June, making high-quality education available to all needs to be a national priority.

  • Dennis Lamberti is the development director at Media Works, one of South Africa’s leading providers of education and training materials. Media Works is part of the FutureLearn Group.