Life. Time. Education.

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So I haven’t made any blog entries for a while now as I have decided to take some ‘time out’ to live life a little, just to reflect and observe and to enjoy life.

During this time I have been faced with many complex and beautiful situations, some that have caused frustration and confusions and some that have lead to inspiration and hope. I have been thinking a lot about our country (South Africa) and it’s people. About who we are, about what we are faced with and towards what we are moving. I have thought about introducing change, addressing situations and systems and initiating growth and emancipation. But how?

Today I watched this video and it reminded me of the incredible, life changing impact that Education can have in the life of the individual. It gives perspective, it empowers, it liberates.

I encourage and urge you to think about and talk about education. Education not only in our classrooms but also in our communities and individual lives. Education not only as a systematic social construct, but education as a natural part of life.

Become educated. And educate.

Educational Apps for the Foundation Phase

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The Educational app that I have chosen to discuss is the app called Endless Reader by Originator.

This app is perfect to expose young learners to phonics, letters, word construction and sentence construction. It could help learners develop and build on initial concepts of sounds, letters and reading, in a very fun and interactive way. The app has a very simple layout and structure making it easy for young learners to use as it guides them visually, showing them where to focus and what to do. The app is also filled with fun animations and sounds that support learning and that will keep the young learner stimulated and engaged and having fun!

Suggested age and developmental level:

I would suggest a parent or teacher to use this app with children who are in the beginning stages of reading, or parents/teacher who would want to start exposing their children to the conventions of reading (phonics, letters, words and sentences). Depending on the child’s developmental level, I would recommend that they could enjoy and use this app from the ages of 3 up until 8. It can thus be incorporated in the classroom in Grade R and Grade 1 as an extension activity to support phonics and reading development  (it might be too easy for Grade 2’s, but if the teacher feels that learners could still benefit from it, then she should use her discernment).

Benefits of using the app for learning:

As I have mentioned the app is an excellent platform for beginning readers or non-readers to learn about the conventions of reading and text. It has fun interactive activities that expose learners to and teaches them (indirectly through play) about phonics, letter names, constructing words, identifying words and constructing sentences. Not only does it teach and help develop these key concepts but it does it in a very fun and exciting way. The animations and sounds are very cute and even I got a thrill from playing around with the app and interacting with the animations and characters. Using the app in a classroom or as an educational tool at home will ensure that the learner will be exposed to and develop substantial reading skills, and that they will have a lot of fun while doing so.

Potential challenges of using the app as a learning tool/in the classroom:

The app is a very user friendly app, even for children, and it has a very simple layout and way of presenting the activities. The activities are all arranged in alphabetical order, each initially constructing a word with that letter/sound, and then building a sentence with that word, having an animation that illustrates the sentence. Every activity along the alphabet follows this pattern, and I could imagine that this could potentially become rather boring for a learner. Even with its wonderful animations, illustrations and sounds, the repeated pattern of activity could be a bit too consistent and predictable for the learner (as I found it to be eventually). In a review about the app, a British mother commented on the fact that the voice that pronounced the phonics and letter names had an American accent and that it could be confusing and misleading for learners who are not used to that accent (geek mummy, app review). When I played with the app, I did not notice an accent at all, and I did not experience it to be a problem, but it is good to be aware of it in case you do feel very strongly about specific pronunciations of letters and words.

The app chosen is relevant and practical to use in a learning setting:

As I have mentioned, the layout of the app is very user-friendly and it is evident that it has been created and designed for young learners to use. A learner could most probably be able to use the app independently, by simply experimenting and following visual clues. This independent discovery will also lead to the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills, causing learners not only learn about phonics and reading, but also how to navigate their way around the app. The fact that learners can work with the app independently makes classroom management much easier, as the teacher wouldn’t have to help the learner through every step. She can rather instruct learners to try and figure it out themselves, and if learners really get stuck she can ask probing questions to make them solve their own situation. The app is also filled with fun and lively animations that will keep learners captivated and motivated to learn. The sounds may be a bit distracting in a classroom, so I would suggest giving the learners earphones, as the sound really does contribute to the whole learning experience and should not just simply be switched off.

Over all I would say that Endless Reader is a lovely educational app that will bring a lot of joy and excitement to any learning environment.

For further information and an additional perspective on the Endless Reader app go to:

http://www.geekmummy.com/2013/12/app-review-endless-reader-ios/

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Flipped Learning: Education Turned Upside Down

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Flipped learning, a possible solution for more effective and learner-centered teaching and learning?

Flipped learning is an educational approach which focuses on learner participation and engagement. It reduces the amount of direct instruction in the classroom, which allows for more time and space for creation and critical thinking. Learners are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own education and to actively engage with the content knowledge, and to collaborate with their peers and teacher.

But what if a learner lacks the necessary support at home? What if the learner does not have access to the internet or to suitable resourses at home to assist with his learning in class? Will the gaps between those with resourses and those without get even broader with this approach?

What do you think?

“If technology can replace the teacher then it should.”

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I have been contemplating this controversial topic for quite a while now, and avoiding writing about it as my disposition towards technology in the classroom is still indefinite.

I do however feel that it is vital to address as it is becoming a very prominent reality in our schools, homes and social environments.

Personally I have experienced technology to be distracting and delusional, causing several barriers and limitations to the holistic development of the individual. I have found it to be time consuming and draining, often bombarding me with too much information that simply was not relevant to my reality. I love working with people and life, one one one and face to face. To interact, to teach, to live in ‘real time’.

Then in a Digital Literacy lecture I was confronted by this quote: “If technology can replace the teacher then it should.” This made me realize that technology in the classroom is not about me, its about my learners. Education should not be about the teacher, and her agenda, it should be about the learners and their needs. How are your learners going to learn and engage more effectively? What can you as the educator do to create an environment that will allow for optimal development and interaction? Are you going to teach the way you were were taught, because it ‘works’ and it is comfortable? Or do you dare take risks, involve your learners in their own learning to make school and educational encounters worthwhile and meaningful? Do you dare step out, and learn from your learners, to listen to their needs and to prepare them for their futures?

Next time when questioning and contemplating ‘technology in the classroom’ think: what do I do and why do I do it? If you as an educator are not meeting your learners needs, what are you doing?

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Changing Education Paradigms

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I came across this video clip while researching reviews on different educational apps and I was astonished by the intensity and accuracy of the content of this video. It shines some much needed light on the shadowy grey which is public education today. Sir Ken Robinson, a world-renowned education and creativity expert, explains the contexts of education, where it went right, and how it’s going wrong. Truly enlightening. Enjoy.