Comments Year 2 StaR Report

Comments Year 2 StaR Report

Comments Year 2 StaR Report


The Year 2 StaR Report focuses on professional development as the necessary link to better learning. In the opening comments, co-chair Therese Crane, acknowledges that “the gap between technology presence in schools and its effective use is still wide.” The fact that this is an American report does not make this comment any less applicable to South African Education. Indeed, one must assume that the situation in South African education is that much more acute than the StaR report suggests it is in the USA. It is appropriate that we study the contents of this report and examine components that are applicable to our own situation. We also need to interpret the report in the South African context. It is an ideal opportunity for us to examine the state of technology (specifically ICT) use in South African schools and to establish a framework of teacher development that represents a common vision amongst all role players in the field.


  • The StaR report recognises that “new and veteran teachers” need to be better prepared.
    • we cannot assume that either new or existing teachers in this country are in a state of general readiness to use ICT effectively in the classroom. This does not only refer to their level of ICT skills, but to the management of their teaching and learning as well.
  • The StaR report places much emphasis on achieving “higher academic standards”.
    • in South Africa we find ourselves in a curriculum of transition. While much attention is being diverted to poor matric results, the implementation of Curriculum 2005 places very different demands on educators, and on their use of ICT in the classroom. We need to decide whether we will cater for the old, industrial paradigm or whether we are going to be forward-looking in developing teachers for the new, learner-centred paradigm. Alternatively, what is the most suitable compromise between the two, given our resource base.
  • The StaR report identifies Schools of Education as important role players in accepting the responsibility for new teachers to be prepared for curriculum integration of ICT.
    • we need to include teacher training institutions as important role players in establishing our framework. New teachers must be shining examples and not replica’s of the old in terms of their integrated use of ICT.
    • no standards or indicators exist in this country that satisfactorily define what the integrated use of ICT entails in terms of teacher practice and learning strategies. The need clearly exists to establish this framework.
  • The StaR report places equal emphasis on “current teachers and administrators (to) be proficient in integrating technology into the curriculum”.
    • it is important that educational leaders from provincial to school level be involved, informed and supportive in driving the change for which effective integration could be the catalyst.
    • the considerable challenge of developing existing teachers for effective ICT integration must be faced with a well-considered strategy.
  • The StaR report acknowledges the need for more data on the integration and use of technology in schools.
    • Whereas an initial framework may be based on insufficient real data concerning the integration and use of ICT in South African schools, such a framework must make allowances for and take cognisance of continuous research and assessment. Only once this is conducted will we know the true or potential impact of ICT in education in this country, and thereby justify a larger investment in this field by government and corporates.
  • The StaR report acknowledges the need for a reward for teachers positive technology integration.
    • this illustrates the holistic nature of a strategy for teacher development. It is important to develop a culture of connectivity and collaboration between teachers and classes in this country. Recognition and reward should be part of this culture.
  • The StaR report recognises the importance of corporate partnerships with the education community.
    • we are fortunate in that considerable progress is being made in the regard through the work of SchoolNet SA.

The report highlights many important, universally applicable points concerning the role of the educator in the connected classroom. These often refer to the need for reformed teaching and learning strategies, and not just the mere acquisition of ICT skills. Worth noting are:-

  • the American workplace requires students who “must learn how to learn, learn how to think, and have a solid understanding of… what it (technology) can do”. (my parenthesis) Teacher development for ICT must focus on learning strategies as much as on the contextual integration of ICT skills.
  • effective use of technology as tools of teaching and learning depends on knowledgeable and enthusiastic teachers. This gives notice of the fact that effective technology use in the classroom is subject to a far wider set of circumstances than mere teacher skills development. Technology alone will not solve any educational problems. What teachers do with the support of that technology is more critical.
  • When not used effectively, technology can have a negative impact. The use of drill-and-practice software and simulation software is being referred to here. This kind of software is not unsuitable, but has a specific and limited role to play in the broader framework of things.
  • Education extends beyond the classroom. Technology as a collaborative tool can enhance the value of “interactive communities of learning for students and teacher alike”.
  • The US Secretary of Labor’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (the SCANS report) identifies necessary skills for students that are a remarkable match of the cross-curricular outcomes adopted in this country. This would seem to lend support to the need for us to focus on the emerging curriculum.
Necessary student skills
SCANS Critical Cross-curricular Outcome(s)
identify, organise, plan and allocate resources identify and solve problems by using creative and critical thinking;
organise and manage themselves and their activities responsibly and effectively;
work with others work effectively with others in a team, group, organisation and community;
acquire, organise, use, maintain, interpret, communicate as well as use technology to process information use science and technology effectively and critically, showing responsibility towards the environment and the health of others;
communicate effectively using visual, mathematical and/or language skills in the modes of oral, written and/or presentation work;
understand the complex inter-relationships and systems understand that the world is a set of related systems. This means that problem-solving contexts do not exist in isolation
work with and apply a variety of technologies to complete tasks  

It is interesting to note the lack of specific reference to technology in most of our cross-curricular outcomes. Clearly, if we are to be a player in a global economy, we need to translate as many of these outcomes into technology-enhanced learning situations. The challenge to do so equitably is as immense in its proportions as it is in its necessity.

  • In the USA the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education has devised a set of technology-related guidelines for schools of education. These must be met before the schools are recognised. 25 states require evidence of “computer education” before licensing teachers. Considering that teachers now need to accumulate 80 hours of in-service training per year, we should seek accreditation for all programmes developed once our framework is established.
  • The teacher technology adoption process outlines five stages of teacher technology adoption.

1. Entry: Students learning to use technology before the teacher. This is not globally applicable in this country since we do not have a technology-rich society. In most cases students’ introduction and only access to technology will be in the school, in the presence of a teacher. There would be much pressure on the use of that IT facility in the school.

2.  Adoption: Teachers using technology to support traditional instruction. This has parallels in this country in that teachers would typically use IT for their own administrative uses after initial exposure

3.  Adaptation: Technology used to enrich the curriculum. Once again, this has parallels in that teachers would eventually supplement their existing practice technology. There are inherent dangers in this in two forms. Firstly “computer literacy” teachers fall into the paradigm of teaching about technology instead of with technology. Secondly, information transferral is too easily regarded as teaching in this country (and in most countries of the world, to be fair) and too many teachers get stuck at this stage of technology adoption, to the detriment of real progress towards effective use of ICT in constructivist, learner-centred learning.

4.  Appropriation: Technology is integrated, used for its unique capabilities. In general this is where the majority of South African teachers have difficulty with ICT. The pre-occupation with exam-driven curriculum and the lack of quality teacher training, especially teacher training with ICT, sees most teachers stuck on old paradigms of teaching that do not accommodate appropriation of technology.

5.  Invention: Teachers discover new uses for technology. “Redefining classroom environments and creating learning experiences that truly leverage the power of technology” assumes classroom management skills and levels of creativity and resources that are generally not found in the majority of South African teachers. This is as much a comment on their training and continuous development as it is on their challenging working conditions.

Six principles of successful technology professional development are suggested. There is no reason why these six principles should not also form the foundation of a teacher training strategy for ICT in South Africa. They are:-

  1. Set relevant realistic goals
  2. Include all stakeholders; capitalise on resources
  3. Link professional development to teacher and student needs and objectives
  4. Model best practices
  5. Encourage learning by doing
  6. Provide resources, incentives, and ongoing support.


This report is extremely applicable at a conceptual level to the South African situation in educational ICT. General recommendations that conclude the summary of the StaR report are:

  • professional development for ICT needs to be provided amongst all educators (pre service and in service) in this country;
  • while there is a need to clarify the final outcomes and who the beneficiaries of such professional development for ICT will be, the need to focus on emerging curriculum development is clear;
  • all stakeholders must be involved, involving all levels of all educational sectors;
  • research and assessment must be integral parts of the process of professional development for ICT;
  • recognition and reward must be an integral part of a professional development strategy for ICT;
  • South African teachers specifically need support and development in managing the appropriation and adaptation stages of technology adoption;
  • the six principles of successful technology professional development should form the foundation of a framework for teacher development for ICT in this country;
  • there is indeed a need for such a framework to be developed and adopted in this country.

Gerald Roos
24 January 2000

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