Reflections from ‘The Inspired Teachers Conference’ held in Cape Town on 6 August 2014

Submitted by Fiona Beal

What a wonderful experience we had at the Inspired Teachers Conference in Cape Town on Wednesday August 6th. This is the first time that Dunne and Debby Edelstein have brought the conference to Cape Town, and we’re sure it won’t be the last. The venue at the Cape Town Science Centre was cosy, full and buzzing with excitement. The audience was very responsive and engaged, with questions and answers flying back and forth across the room almost as fast as the tweets. Debby summed up the atmosphere so accurately in her tweet, ‘This is the most ridiculously inspiring community’.

The Conference was opened by Debby Edelstein who explained why the Inspired Teachers’ Conference had been brought to Cape Town this year. (SchoolNet partnered with the Inspired Teachers team to help make the conference known in the Western Cape.)

First session: Conversation in the classroom – the teacher as facilitator

Steve Sherman from Living Maths was the MC and the photographer for the event. The first session of the afternoon was about the teacher as facilitator where we unpacked the best strategies for keeping interest and energy in the classroom.

Arthur Preston
, Head of Elkanah House Senior Primary started off the session. He left us with three points.

Arthur Preston
  • Engage with relevant content – bring the world to your classroom through hangouts, Skype and PBL
  • Remodel learning. How do we take the existing paradigm of a teacher and, change it? Use effective collaboration.
  • Nothing can replace the teacher in the classroom. Relationship is vital.
Dorothea Hendricks
Lydia Abel
Kitty Lambrecht

Kitty Lamprecht from Tsiba University spoke on ‘Children learn what they live’ and spoke on  listening…really listening. Teach a child to listen with understanding. Dorothea Hendricks from Tsiba Education spoke on Teaching Circles and present three methodologies. Lydia Abel from Ort sppoke on social change. She said, “if you don’t have decent preschools you’ll have to use band aid in Matric.” Lydia gave four levels of professional development for teachers – Awareness, Acquisition, Adaption, Application.  Set out with an intention. Every act of organizing is an experiment. 

Keynote presentation: Professor Rachel Jaftha ‘The power of collaboration – facing the challenges together

The first keynote of the day was from from Professor Rachel Jafta on ‘The power of collaboration: facing the challenges together.’ What happens when teachers create teacher forums and learn from each other rather than remain in isolation? Drawing from her work with Media24 Rachel’s Angels Mentorship Programme which she founded, Rachel talked about what happens when teachers learn from and co-operate with each other as a tool to support and grow especially in schools facing socio-economic difficulties. 

Student panel ‘For the love of learning – imagining the ideal school’


A delightful part of the afternoon was the four-strong High School student panel from some of the surrounding schools talking on ‘For the love of learning – imagining the ideal school’.  The learners discussed what works best for them and what differences their teachers make in their lives. They were very honest with their answers and had us in fits of laughter at times. The group were wonderful speakers and a tribute to South Africa’s youth. The audience was very receptive and asked lots of questions. The students recalled some of their inspiring lessons which tended to be ones that were interactive, with or without technology. They preferred the use of technology when there was careful control by the teacher and reaffirmed what we all know…a teacher using technology without pedagogy will be ineffective.


Keynote: Trevor Ncube ‘Embracing Life’s Challenges’

imageTrevor Ncube gave a very inspiring keynote entitled ‘Embracing Life’s Challenges’ This media mogul stressed the importance of adversity, saying that sometimes it’s important to be fired from one’s job! He said that if he had not been fired from his job as an editor-in-chief in Zimbabwe, he would not be where he is today. Trevor Ncube is Chair of Alpha Media Holdings based in Zimbabwe, a company he co-founded 18 years ago, as well as controlling shareholder and Executive Deputy Chair of the Mail & Guardian Media Group (SA), publishers of one of the leading weekly newspapers the Mail & Guardian. Trevor discussed the impact teachers had on his life both positive and negative. This was a very inspiring talk and the audience listened with rapt attention



The STEAM-powered classroom – when Science and Art join

The next session was on The STEAM-powered classroom ‘When Science and Art join forces’. Arts education is a key to creativity, and creativity spurs innovation which is necessary to create new industries. The classroom of the future will draw inspiration equally from science, technology & the Arts. Steve Sherman from Living Maths conducted a live Hangout with teachers from countries around the world and cleverly got the local participants and the global teachers to sign into a Kahoot room to participate in a quiz together. One of the Hangout global teachers was Janet Barnstable from the Global Virtual Classroom who encouraged the #inspiredED teachers to consider entering the Global Virtual Classroom competition this year The video of the inspiring Hangout conducted at the Conference can be seen at



Anthony Peters followed this lively Hangout and international Kahoot quiz with a dazzling presentation entitled ‘Innovating Every Lesson’ where he showed excerpts from some of the highly creative ‘app-smashing lessons’ he prepares for his High School English classes at Parklands College in Cape Town. Anthony sometimes writes for the SchoolNet blog and his inspiring lesson collection can be seen on the blog at


Fiona Beal from SchoolNet spoke on Digital Storytelling which is a very popular trend at the moment. The presentation was called ‘Digital Storytelling – is it only for the language classroom.’  Fiona showed how the brain is wired for storytelling and how it comes to life when a story is shared.  Teachers were encouraged to collect relevant anecdotes and stories,  re-imagine classic stories and retell them, collect video clips from the Internet and use stories from personal experiences to capture their students’ interest in lessons. Fiona’s presentation can be found at



Jacqui Watson joined the Obami team in 2013. She presented on ‘Gamification’. and how it can be used to engage 21st century learners. Gamification is the use of game design and mechanics to enhance non-game contexts. The gamification process consists of 24 game mechanics. Jacqui spoke about her use of the  Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology in a classroom case study. This character theory consists of four characters: Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and Killers. Her learners received points as individuals and groups. Together they defined risks and rewards and the scoreboard was reset each week.  Jacqui’s presentation can be found at


Keynote: The teacher as leader – Professor Brian O’Connell

imageThe last keynote was from Professor Brian O’Connell, Rector of the University of the Western Cape,  speaking on ‘The Teacher as Leader’. Every day, teachers are faced with not only imparting information, hopefully in an inspirational manner, but potentially with moulding and shaping these young people to go out and be leaders in their communities and families. How can we change the way teachers view their profession as merely one of teacher to a more holistic view of the profession, in relation to the role they play in society? Professor O’Connell gave many ideas of what to do about the problems we may see in our country – the one that interested me was that we should get our students thinking about real world problems and designing ways to overcome them.

Definitely an inspiring day!

What an inspiring day it turned out to be! My guess is that everyone left thinking they would definitely make this conference a part of their yearly calendar. Many tweets giving votes of thanks followed.  We would like to thank Dunne and Debby Edelstein for bringing the Conference to Cape Town and we really hope to see it happening again next year.

Closing links

  • Steve Sherman from Living Maths took great photos at the Conference 
  • He also collected  links from the four presenters in the  STEAM-powered classroom session and has shared them in a Google Document
  • The collection of archived tweets from the conference can be viewed at

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