Designing Professional Development/South Africa
In its document entitled “white paper on education”, the Department of Education of South Africa (DOE) set out its beliefs, vision and recommendations for a 21st century system of education in South Africa. DOE (2003)  underscores the necessity to equal distribution, equity and redress of education for the social economic development that leads to the reduction of poverty and enhances global living conditions of the citizens of South Africa. However, according to DOE, in order to achieving the desired quality of learning, South Africa, like many developing countries, has to triumph over the global educational challenges, including financial issues and place constraints. DOE identifies ICT as a key strategy to contribute to the improvement of the quality of the educational system and reduce the digital divide. The effectiveness of the ICT implementation in education partly depends on the competences and capacity of the frontline users, mainly the teachers and administrators. “Every teacher, manager and administrator in General and Further Education and Training must have the knowledge, skills and support they need to integrate ICTs in teaching and learning” (DOE, 2003 p. 19). To this end, DOE recommends a vast program of teacher professional development, including principles, and a framework of teacher competences. The teacher development and training programs are conducted by a not for profit, non-government organization SchoolNet SA. The organization describes itself as “South Africa’s leading innovator in professional development programs in ICT integration and school ICT leadership” (SchoolNet, n.d.).
The Driving Principles
The ideas that underpin teacher professional development in South Africa are clearly set out by DOE. Teacher development programs aim at providing ICT knowledge, skills, values, attitudes, and infrastructure to all teachers for an effective utilization of ICT in teaching and learning. The knowledge and skills are not limited to the technical use of technologies. Teachers’ knowledge should qualify them to learn about ICT, learn with ICT and learn through the use of ICT (Department of Education [DOE], 2007). The teachers are thus expected to learn how ICT can be used to supplement traditional teaching and develop new ways of teaching with ICT. Other underlying ideas of the teacher training programs are continuous support, the flexibility of the programs and incentives. Teachers should be provided constant pedagogical and technical support by team of advisors, and through learning communities. The flexibility refers to the capacity of the programs to adapt to the teachers’ needs rather than being a rigid one. In addition, programs should allow the teachers to take part in training programs and continue to carry on with their normal teaching activities. Finally, the motivation of the teachers is driven by their intrinsic desire of professional growth and incentives such as awards, for example the Most Improved Schools Awards in the category of Technology Enhance Learning Award.
The Teacher Development Framework
The teacher development framework identifies five level of training: entry, adoption, adaptation, appropriation, and innovation (DOE, 2003).
- Entry: computer literacy, able to use computers and teach learners to use computers;
- Adoption: able to use various technologies, including the computer, to support traditional management, administration, teaching and learning;
- Adaptation: able to use technology to enrich the curriculum and to use integrated systems for management and administration;
- Appropriation: able to integrate technology into teaching and learning activities and to use integrated systems for management and administration within a community context;
- Innovation: prepared to develop entirely new learning environments that use technology as a flexible tool, so that learning becomes collaborative and interactive. Technology is integrated as a flexible tool for whole-school development.
Teacher Development Programs
Teacher development consists of four programs managed by SchoolNet. Intel Teach, Microsoft Partners in Learning, Premium Member Program, and the Educators Network. Intel Teach focuses on different ICT skills through various training programs. They can be listed as follows below:
- Intel® Teach skills for Success: for developing primary school learners ICT literacy. Primary schools teachers are trained using the snowball effect strategy. Only a limited number of teachers are invited to join in groups for the training. Then return in their schools to train others.
- Intel® Teach Getting Started: an introduction to computer skills, that is, student-centered instruction, critical thinking, and collaboration. It is entry level course.
- Intel® Teach Thinking with Technology: the course focuses on the use of ICTs as thinking tools, including establishing cause and effect relationship, evaluating evidence to support or refute a claim.
- Intel® Teach Essentials: a blended face-to-face and web 2.0 course for the integration of ICT into the curricula.
In addition to these courses, teachers are offered a number of training in assessing and designing projects, and an open teachers’ network for support and collaboration.
Like the Intel Teach program, the Microsoft Partners in Learning offers a variety of training at different levels. Microsoft training takes 3–5 days, divided into two sessions one month apart.
- ICT Skills for Teachers: it is a dynamic introduction to ICT skills program.
- One Step Further: it aimed at developing teachers’ skills in ICT at a deeper understanding level.
- ICT Integration (WebQuests): it aims at introducing WebQuests to teachers for a future adaptation to their classroom activities.
- ICT Leadership for Education Managers: the course trains education managers in ICT leadership for a better understanding of ICT in education.
- 21st Century School Leadership: the course targets school leaders and education managers to introduce them the 21st century teaching and learning skills.
- Peer Coaching: the program promotes collaboration learning of ICT skills among teachers to identify the ways and means ICT can be successful used in teaching and learning.
- Deploying Student Technical Support Solutions: it aims at bringing technical help to learners through the installation of help desks in schools.
SchoolNet’s Tools for Teacher Development
SchoolNet’s training programs are flexible and engaging. For example, training takes place during holidays. Some programs are the face-to-face, others use web 2.0 such as blogs, wikis, and social networks. Collaboration is promoted among teachers through peer teaching strategies and the train-the trainer model. Facilitators are trained per school and they return to teach their peers in their schools after certification. Another important aspect to mention is the support offered to teachers. Help desk in schools and constant online support is available for teachers. Some of the support tools are YouTube videos, SlideShare tutorials, blogs, Facebook, podcasts and webinars, Diigo network, and Twitter.
One Step further: Public Schools Supplied with Tablets
Recently, SchoolNet was awarded the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) tender to supply every government school in the Western Cape with one tablet computer and to conduct training for WCED department officials. With the tablets to government school children, SchoolNet is preparing training on how to use tablets effectively to enhance teaching and learning. The training for the Western Cape schools will start in January 2013, succeeding the essential training on the Tablet for WCED department officials. However, as DOE mentioned in the White Paper on Education, it is no use having state of the art technology if it is not used effectively (DOE, 2003). The next challenge will be how the tablets will be used. Janet Thomson, the Executive Director of SchoolNet wrote: “too frequently the hype and excitement is around the devices themselves – just like the interactive whiteboard buzz – when the excitement should be around what teachers and students are going to do with the devices and how that in turn is going to improve learning” (personal communication, October 22, 2012).
- Draft white paper on e-Education: Transforming learning and teaching through information and communication technologies. http://www.schoolnet.org.za/sharing/e_education_white_paper.zip. Accessed on November 22, 2012
- Guidelines for teacher training and professional development in ICT. http://www.schoolnet.org.za/sharing/DOE_Guidelines.pdf. Accessed on November 30, 2012