Tech Talk – by Justin Harper, MIEExpert and IT Manager at SAHETI School, a Microsoft Showcase School in Johannesburg

Justin Harper and Saheti School came into the spotlight recently in a Business Day newspaper article entitled ‘Hi Tech approach to education’. We have mentioned Justin in a few blog posts before. He was one of the five teachers from South Africa selected to attend the Microsoft Global E2 Exchange in Toronto in 2016. You can read about him in the post  ‘Meet the five South African MIEExpert Educators attending the Microsoft E2 Education Exchange in Toronto’

In this article Justin shares what was written in the Business Day article.

“TECHNOLOGY is a way of life almost everywhere you look – and the classroom is no exception. Schools are increasingly integrating technology into all aspects of teaching to provide quality education. Some, like SAHETI School in Bedfordview, have carefully mapped out programmes to ensure learners and educators have on-going access to and a good grasp of the most effective technology available to enrich learning both at school and home. SAHETI was recently acknowledged as a forerunner in digital education when it became the fifth only South African school to be selected as a Microsoft Showcase School.

The Microsoft Showcase Schools programme is a global community of schools that recognise and amplify the use of technology to drive education and efficiencies school-wide. The announcement, in September, that SAHETI had been co-opted to the programme, followed information and communication technology (ICT) manager at the school, Justin Harper’s selection as one of five ‘innovative educator experts’ to represent South Africa at the Microsoft Education Exchange (E2) Global Forum in Toronto, Canada in March.

The E2 event brings together approximately 300 educators from around the world every year. Recognising their efforts and achievements to combine content, pedagogy and technology to enhance education, the forum provides delegates with opportunities to collaborate, create and share their experiences over three days.

Inspired to try new applications, full of fresh ideas from his peers and having participated in challenges to brainstorm ideas for future Microsoft products, Harper says he returned from Canada keener than ever to continue to drive SAHETI’s technology programme – which was already well established due (in part, at least) to the school’s bring your own device (BYOD) and training initiatives.

The BYOD plan was introduced because SAHETI believes technology introduced to learners should not only be device-agnostic, but also browser-agnostic. “Learners are encouraged to bring devices that they are familiar and comfortable with,” says Harper. “All the products we’ve introduced work on any platform at any time. We then link the educational material to learners’ devices so that they can access the content both at school and home.”

Training is central to the rollout of SAHETI’s technology programme. According to head of department of ICT at the school, Rhoda van Niekerk (who is also responsible for staff development), staff have “embraced” Microsoft Office 365 – including applications such as OneNote and Microsoft Teams – thanks largely to a comprehensive, on-going training programme. (Van Niekerk and Harper attended the Education Exchange E2 Africa Forum earlier this year, where Van Niekerk’s team emerged winner of the (video game) Minecraft group project, which involved coming up with a South African problem and then modelling a solution in a ‘Small South Africa Minecraft’ world.)

Most recently, Microsoft Office 365 was successfully used for interaction between students and teachers during SAHETI’s third term subject assessment module (SAM) project, which is a project based assessment introduced by the school for Grade 10’s as a replacement of mid-year examinations.

Applications used by the school also enable teachers to capture their ideas and to-do lists in one place wherever they are, says Harper. Microsoft Team keeps students up-to-date with assignments, announcements and grades. Technology also makes it possible for discussions to take place outside of class and gives teachers “a one-stop shop to create and grade assignments,” he says. SAHETI is equipped with more than 75 smart interactive white boards, 50 Aruba Wi-Fi access points, HP 3PAR and SAN data storage technology, and fibre break out.

The school’s approach is firmly based on the premise that correct use of technology in classrooms has the potential to enhance teaching and the student’s ability to learn.  “Creating a space for collaboration that takes learning far beyond the reach of the classroom is one of the reasons we use of technology in the classroom. Students can now easily participate in group projects even when they’re at home,” says Harper, adding that ensuring technology is in good working order and that the physical design of classrooms supports the best possible use of technology are also crucial to SAHETI’s on-going technology-driven success.”

SchoolNet congratulates Justin and SAHETI School on this achievement.

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