TeachMeet at Somerset House on Weds 13th Feb–an inspiring evening


Submitted by Fiona Beal

After attending the TeachMeet at Somerset House Preparatory school in Somerset West last night, I left with a feeling of great hope for education in South Africa. The teachers who presented were so enthusiastic about what they do, and the ideas shared about how to make education inspiring and relevant made me wish I was back in the classroom!

Somerset Prep – a primary school that embraces BYOD

Somerset House Prep is a very go-ahead primary school nestled in the heart of the Helderberg Basin mountains. I always love to hear about the latest developments at the school. Their whole campus has been wi-fied and it is not uncommon to see parents sitting on the grass working on their computer devices as they wait to collect their children from school. The school embraces the BYOD policy of ‘Bring your own device’ from Grade 6 upwards, and the principal Chris Storey reports that the engagement of the students is incredible. This is a fine example of “teaching children the way children learn best”. The school works hand in glove with the parents in every change they make. One of the great advantages of BYOD, says Chris Storey, is that one has to be task-orientated as opposed to application-orientated since every device is so different. The students also have the knack of knowing what works better on the different devices and they share this knowledge with one another. Best is, the teachers benefit enormously from the students’ knowledge of technology. This year they are piloting project-based learning in Social Sciences in one of the grades and this has been hugely successful. This school has big ideas and plans. Next on the cards is changing the traditional library to a ‘knowledge centre’’ and building has already started for this project. They have also started a teacher exchange programme with another very progressive school in Cape Town, Elkanah House, where two teachers from the one school will spend a day with their corresponding teachers at the other school and vice versa sharing ideas all the while. Amazing idea! No wonder I strongly feel that this is a school to watch closely!

The TeachMeet

The evening started off with a a light supper so that teachers could meet each other and network. The TeachMeet itself was led by the enthusiastic Michele Botha, Head of the Intermediate Phase and Chris Storey, the principal, welcomed everyone. I thought I would show the opening video here as it really set the tone for the evening. It is called ‘What is 21st Century Education?’

There were 10 presentations, and we first had the Windows machines’ presentations followed by Apple machines’ presentations. Since they only used one data projector Michele gave us a programme for the evening.


1. Youblisher.com

Pam Roberts, who teaches Grade 1 at Somerset House, gave an inspiring presentation on how she uses Youblisher.com in her Grade 1 classroom.  She demonstrated this by showing a lovely e-book that her Grade 1 class had created. Each student contributed an illustrated page of writing. Pam also showed how you can make lovely 2nd language books on various topics with Youblisher, and ways of using Youblisher to encourage reading in a Grade 1 class.


2. Edcanvas.com

Jenny Martin, who teaches Grade 7 at Somerset House, showed her use of an application called Edcanvas which is perfect for a flipped classroom environment. This was a very fascinating presentation and I definitely want to try out this tool very soon. Jenny has started a blog called ReachaTeacha.weebly.com on which she displays all her amazing edcanvas lessons. I do hope she won’t mind if I give the link here http://www.edcanvas.com/lessons/jOvzAkmpnVCE6g/nouns-a-collection-of-resources



I loved the way Jenny summed up the benefits of using http://www.edcanvas.com


 3. Teenpower

Michele Botha who is the Head of the Intermediate Phase at Somerset West and also their Technology Integration specialist, gave her presentation on Teen Power using Prezi. There were six steps in this superb project. This investigated the likes and dislikes of teens and used survey tools of choice (i.e. Survey monkey, Poll Daddy) plus data interpretation techniques using Excel. The groups had a lot of leeway in their choice of tools to use. It was fascinating to note how a teacher can make concepts that have the potential to be considered boring really come alive when using the right approach. 

4. Inspire your students to write the right stuff

This was a presentation by Fiona Beal of SchoolNet (that’s me!) on creative writing tools. I used this presentation to lead up to introducing the upcoming ‘African Storybook Project’ (which will soon be piloted in four countries in Africa) and the writing opportunity it presents for our learners.


I have put my presentation on the SchoolNet blog for anyone who would like the links that I used: 

Inspire your students to write the right stuff – a TeachMeet presentation

5. One stop shopping!

This was another lovely presentation by Michele Botha on all the amazing tools one can find in http://classtools.net. This is the place where the Random Name Picker can be found that is often used at TeachMeets (sometimes referred to as the ‘Fruit Machine’). Michele outlined some of the useful tools and showed how one could use them in a classroom setting. She showed The random Name Picker, Fakebook, Countdown Timer, QR codes Game Generator, Timelines, and some of the others with their potential for being used in the classroom.  


Now the Apple presentations started, mainly iPad presentations, and unfortunately there are no presentations for these in the Dropbox folder as they were all hands on demonstrations..so I can’t show the opening slides.

6. You can play games at school!
7. You don’t even know you are learning

8. Making friends all over the world

These three were all presented by Dianne de Villiers who is the librarian at Somerset College ( another school in Somerset West). She spoke on gaming and told us how she uses critical thinking apps which are presented as ‘games’ as rewards for work completed. These are exceptionally motivating, Di says, and the students love them. Di demonstrated some of these apps and I must add that they were very indeed captivating.

8. Foundation Phase kids have fun in the library
9. Foundation Phase and Story Apps

These two presentations were by Kerry Dunkley from Somerset College. She showed us some of the ideas she used in her stop animation club. The club made the most gorgeous stop animation videos using iMotionHD. These videos were accompanied by lively, enjoyable music. Kerry’s second presentation demonstrated iBooks, e-books and story apps on the iPad. What is great about these books is that they can include text, images, videos and some form of interaction with the reader which makes them really engaging. She also showed some of the story apps she uses for reading on the iPad and how appealing they are to the students.

Kerry demonstrated a lovely Cinderella story that has interactive features. I m not sure if this is the one – but it was captivating!


10. Zanzibar – Hakuna Matata

Carolyn Bruton gave a demonstration of how Book Creator on the iPad can be used to give a scrapbook-like effect when recording a holiday or an event. She used her recent holiday to Zanzibar as an example where she used video, sound, pictures, and  words to easily create a wonderful memory of a holiday. This could be made into a fun task for students in their holidays.  


Tweet archive

Here is a summary of the tweets for the night archived in an application called Storify: You can read the tweet summary at: Tweet summary of the TeachMeet at Somerset House on 13 Feb 2013


This was a really wonderful and inspiring evening. I must say a big thank you to Michele Botha and the Somerset House staff for hosting this TeachMeet. I believe the next one is going to be hosted at Somerset College which is also in Somerset West – so we look forward to that!

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