Deputy Minister defines national plans for digital learning at the SchoolNet ICT in the Classroom Conference

Before opening the
SchoolNet SA 2017 ICT in the Classroom Conference, the national Deputy Minister,
Mr. Enver Surty, sat down with Janet Thomson, Executive Director for SchoolNet
South Africa to discuss the DBE’s approach to digital learning.
   



The Deputy Minister
thanked Thomson for “the enormous contribution by SchoolNet in the ICT domain”
asserting that “ICT is becoming more critical and central to the facilitation
of teaching and learning”. Surty then demonstrated the department of
education’s holistic approach to digital learning by describing the various
streams of the Operation Phakisa framework as well as government’s efforts to
digitise content effectively and in an interactive format.


In relation to the vital
teacher development component of Operation Phakisa,  Surty noted 
the vital role of education centres, stressing that ICT was central to
the future development of educators.  He
pointed out that The Integrated Strategic
Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa
,
specifies the Provincial and District teacher development institutes and
education resource centres and their contribution towards teacher development
in the future.  



The DM revealed his
knowledge of the value of the type of professional development that SchoolNet
has always advocated, by noting that he was not referring to the computer
literacy of teachers but rather to the higher, innovative levels of teaching,
integrating ICT “ïnto the curriculum”.



The Deputy Minister
discussed the strides that the national department has been making around
school administration and the use of data-driven decision making. In particular
he noted the Learner Unit Record Information and Tracking System (LURITS) which
aims to collect data for each learner in South Africa.  Interestingly and crucially, the DM mentioned
the ability of LURITS to track the impact of teacher absence on learning and
learner achievement.   




The Deputy Minister
pointed out that the department had listened to stakeholders and experts in the
field whose interventions had shown the positive impact of ICT on learning.  When asked what support would be provided to provinces
that were not making progress in crafting plans for implementation, the DM
outlined the digital resources that were available to all provinces and said that
his department was fully aware of challenges facing the so-called “Cinderella”
provinces.  Surty pointed out that whilst
Western Cape was the most effective out of all provinces at monitoring the use
of the interactive workbooks other provinces had made notable strides including
the Free State which had broken “the ceiling of 90% matric pass rate”.  The Deputy Minister made reference to two
previous SchoolNet Conferences that he had opened in the Free State province
during the previous 10 years.   


Thomson asked how
the new Professional Development Framework for Digital Learning, being
disseminated by the national DBE, was going to benefit teachers, bearing in
mind that teachers seldom access policy documents. The Deputy Minister was
quick to acknowledge that both teachers and learners must have access to both
technologies and connectivity.  He went
on to explain the impetus for the professional development framework and the
need to standardise and reach a common understanding of minimum requirements,
in teacher competences for digital learning, particularly pedagogical
competences, across all interventions and initiatives in all provinces.  This would include minimum requirements for
teacher education qualifications.


The Deputy Minister responded to the final
question which was about the SACE (the South African Council for Educators)
process in continuing professional development and the awarding of professional
development points by indicating that SACE was independent from the DBE.  However he proceeded to clarify the need for
service providers for professional development such as SchoolNet and the
reliance on corporates such as Microsoft and Intel to support teachers and
provide opportunities for their further professional development.  


The full interview can be viewed below and is also available on the SchoolNet YouTube Channel:  https://youtu.be/uK9xWNKxAZk





Speaking from the heart, rather than from the
script, the Deputy Minister of Education, delivered a most engaging and
informative opening address. Delegates felt they were being treated to a
real-life insight into the national department´s thinking. Not only was the
address directed at teachers and the most critical issues facing them currently
but it also outlined the forward planning and wider policy development around
digital learning for South Africa. The Deputy Minister included a tribute to
Oliver Tambo and conveyed a broader message for our overseas presenters who
were most appreciative of the national and continental context provided by the Deputy
Minister. The tweet from Ollie Bray from Scotland, who was at the conference to
present various sessions, provides some sense of the impact of the Deputy
Minister’s words:



 pic.twitter.com/CfLSUFAcaz



The Deputy Minister then walked through the conference exhibition area and proceeded to the Opening Plenary in the main hall of Brescia House school.  







The full opening plenary address by the Deputy
Minster can be viewed here: 
https://www.facebook.com/maggieverster/videos/10155929274194994/
 It was live-streamed via Facebook by Maggie
Verster, the popular Maths Education and social media guru.   



A comprehensive album of conference photos is
available from this link
https://photos.app.goo.gl/k0ggFcOdEEmSpvoF2


The link to the Storify collection of tweets can be accessed at:

https://storify.com/JanetThomson/schoolnet-conference-2017#publicize


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