24 Replies Latest reply on Nov 19, 2010 3:57 AM by Saul.Pila

    Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.

    Saul.Pila

      I have been involved with Intel Essentials course and Thinking with Technology for some time in SA. What I have realised is that most of our schools (Black schools), I am not sounding racist, are not familiar with PBL. Having been involved with these courses I know that they are interesting and teachers involved with them enjoy being engaged with them.

       

      Now the big question is "How do I bring the PBL across to them ?" so that they realise the importance of using the ICTs in the classroom for teaching and learning. We try to workshop and train them but the quality of the profiles we get from them are of a poor quality. Sometimes the teachers drop-out from the workshops at an alarming rate because they do not cope.

       

      I am looking forward for a strategy that I can use from you out there.

       

      Regards

      Saul

        • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.

          Hi Saul

          I don's know if this makes you feel better or worse- but I do empathsize with the challenges of getting teachers to believe that they can overcome odds and make a difference.  We see this in our evaluation data- where teachers spend more time explaining why they can't do a project than they do planning it in the training. It is disheartening because there is emerging research that shows something that should be obvious to all of us- low student results are the result of simplistic assignments by teachers- uplevel the assignment (meaningful / demanding projects) and you uplevel the achievement.

           

          Hope some other experts can chime in with more practical/ helpful advice.

            • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.
              Saul.Pila

              Hi Paige

               

              I cannot agree with you more. The only way to up the results of the learners is to start with teachers. Once the teachers know exactly what they need to do and try to think more deeply and focus, then we will be slowly but surely going forward.

               

              Thank you. I will still welcome more comments on this issue.

                • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.
                  janet@schoolnet.org.za

                  Hi Saul

                  We have always thought that Essentials is a 'big ask' for teachers to accomplish  - and particularly teachers unfamiliar with projects let alone the technology.  However we all know that the sense of accomplishment is even greater when one has to overcome seemingly insurmountable barriers.  One of the strategies that we think will help overcome these barriers is to ensure that our South African teachers have a learning pathway that takes them gradually but thoroughly through the necessary stages.  We have very large numbers of teachers currently engaged in basic courses but as you say Saul, they will not easily jump to mastering Essentials and embracing PBL nor will they be able to easily see how to apply their basic ICT literacy to their teaching.  We are therefore expecting that the new Elements courses will be the bridge we need to introduce teachers to sourcing materials and creating resources that will support them as they embark on project work on a smaller scale before they embark on the full Essentials course. We are starting now with Elements: Project Based Approaches and hoping to be able to start with the other two Elements courses next year -  just my two penneth Saul - I hope you will keep us focused on this endeavour.  Kind regards Janet

                    • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.
                      Saul.Pila

                      Hi Janet

                       

                      Thank you very much. The learning pathway you are envisaging will help a lot. Maybe that will change their mindset. One problem that I think fuels the negativity amongst teachers is that they only access the computers during the period of the training. When they go back to their schools, they do not see a link of what they did at the training and what they can do with other ICTs at the school. That is one barrier. There many barriers but I hope the new Essential course will help.

                       

                      What I think will also help is if PBL can be emphasised by the Minister of Education. We are talking about this during our e-Learning meetings but we do not see with the same eye as officials.

                       

                      Regards

                      Saul

                      • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.
                        tdiener

                        Janet, I'll use your quote if that's OK " We have always thought that Essentials is a 'big ask' for teachers to accomplish  - and particularly teachers unfamiliar with projects let alone the technology." We find Essentials is a "big ask" for our teachers in New York too. I always find teachers a bit frustrated at the end of Module 2, but once they get through it...."clear sailing the rest" of way. Every teacher I have ever taught has said Essentials was perhaps one of the most challenging courses they have ever taken but ultimately the most rewarding. We find the Elements series a good alternative too. We are still waiting to see if Elements participants go on to take Essentials. We are hopeful.

                  • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.

                    Hi Saul, I'm so glad you started this discussion. It's a big issue for us in SA. We have two main problems in training teachers. Firstly many of the schools are under-resourced and secondly our connectivity is stll poor. The connectivity one is a general one for the whole country, but compounded for schools. However we live in hope that the new undersea cable will make connectivity faster and cheaper for all.

                     

                    I have had training sessions where one gets to a school to train and the internet is down or too slow. In that case one just has to keep moving forward with the principles of PBL and the pedagogy and hope the connection will be better tomorrow.

                     

                    In the case of poor teacher skills you mentioned, that can slow the group down enormously. I remember what one of my previous principals once said when we were discussing some of our disadvantaged pupils. "Every little bit you can do is better than doing nothing because you think they aren't up to it". I believe that for our Intel courses too. Even if a teacher comes to a course and doesn't appear to "get it" they will nevertheless have a different perspective on teaching and learning and perhaps they'll attend another course later where they will "get it".

                     

                    Inevitably when facilitating a course the discussion on under- resourced schools and difficulties comes up. I always remind the teachers that performers who enter SA's Got Talent or Idols don't just get up on stage and perform. It takes years of practice and training - sometimes under very difficult conditions. So if we as teachers do the best that we can do to increase our skills, we will be trained and ready when someone comes along and says, "We'd like to install computers in your school."

                     

                    Saul I'm sure you're facilitation and support for the teachers you train have made a difference to them. We all have to just keep the vision and move forward one step at a time. The more good practices teachers see the more they will learn and grow. Keep up the good fight, Solly. We're right behind you!

                    • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.
                      vkajones

                      Saul

                      Thanks for sharing your story. I think drop-out happens in any PD no matter what the PD is and no matter the location or the population of educators. I think the main thing to consider is clear expectations. It is important to make sure the educators understand what they will be doing, learning and creating. One way I have done this is with visuals. Showing an overview of the program and most importantly examples with pictures (students participating in PBL). I used to think it was just me, but most teachers like to see examples. They love to see what other teachers are doing and they need examples of how other educators were successful.

                       

                      Another strategy I use is collaboration. I recruit my teachers in pairs to attend the training as well as I have my Master teachers train in collaborative teams.  First off, it is less scary for all involved and they can also provide a support system to each other in addition to my support system I provide them.

                       

                      Also just like we sometimes need to sit and conference with students, we must do the same thing with educators. We need to make sure they are “Getting it” and know what they are thinking. The Pair and Share activity is a wonderful time for participants to share out load and for others to hear what they are thinking. .  To educate is to individualize. Hard, but we do it with our students, so we have to do it with our educators.  Just asking the right questions and hearing their thoughts, sometimes alleviate the anxiety some teachers feel.

                       

                      Another thing to keep in mind is an assessment of their needs, knowledge and skills. For example, it you start teaching about ‘wikis’ and the participants have no clue what you are referring to, you have lost some of them there. You may also want to consider pairing someone that is great in curriculum with someone that has great technology skills. Again, you get that support system. This has helped me in a lot of situations when teachers want to drop out.

                       

                      Also before the courses, is there a way to bring some of these teachers into the classrooms of teachers that are embracing PBL in their classrooms. Give them time to ask questions, get excited and want to learn more and transform their teaching and learning. Sometimes they need to see PBL in action and being used in the classroom with the students.

                       

                      Hope this helps. Please keep us posted. We will continue to brainstorm ideas with you. Thanks again for posting this situation that happens to all of us.

                       

                      Vanessa

                      • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.
                        glen_w

                        Saul, you bring out one of my major concerns with teachers who take Intel Teach courses. I have included Project Based Learning in my classroom for almost ten years. Many teachers at my school have taken Intel Teach courses. They still do not see PBL as a way to teach their core. I have found a few successes. Probably the greatest success comes by demonstrating PBL in my classroom. Several times other teachers at my school have come to me asking if they can work on a project with me. I get excited to help them learn PBL by doing it together. Each of these teachers enjoyed our project and felt their students grew from the process. I found I must have a LOT of patience because it happens one teacher at a time. My payback from PBL came last year when a former student returned to my school and told me how much she missed the "way I teach". We talked about what she missed and it was having projects and the ability to learn and share that learning in different ways.

                        • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.
                          sshott

                          Hi Saul,

                           

                          Agree with Vanessa - she gave lots of valuable suggestions of how to help teachers work through the training.

                           

                          But I want to talk about what Janet mentioned. The Elements: Project-Based Approaches course will be bridge for your teachers in moving from a teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered classroom - and an important strategy for success in your country. This course will be excellent for introducing your teachers to the concepts of PBA in much smaller more focused steps - and we all know PBA can be overwhelming, especially for a teacher trying to learn those concepts plus the technology integration. What I also think is important is that teachers understand that projects do not have to be "months long" - they can implement a small project that could take a week, which also makes it much more manageable. Good exemplars will help pave the way for your teachers so that they can see what doing a project based approach looks like in the classroom. From the Elements course, then your teachers can take the Essentials course - and having already been introduced to PBA, the chances are they will more likely be able attend with a positive attitude that they can do this and thus create a solid unit plan to use with their students.

                          • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.

                            For me project based learning is the way to go.  Being a visual learner, I embrace the hands on creative strategies of becoming and being a better learner/teacher.  You need to spark a fire and find a desire in the teacher's of South Africa by empowering their need to teach and learn project-based learning application.  Maybe it is not as simple as not wanting to participate in the PBL but a deeper more sensitive road block.  Failure can be debilitating and can passion the willingness and openness to invite new learning strategies in.  Find the reason of the resistance and you may be lucky enough to find an embedded solution.  Hope it all makes sense in the end.

                            • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.
                              tdiener

                              Saul, You've recieved some wonderful suggestions in this discussion.  What I like best about the Engage Community is that there's always someone here to help you. Vanessa, Glen and Shelley hare some of the most talented educators I have ever met. They offer good suggestions, many of which I will adopt.   Replies from Janet and Brenda offer support and encouragement. Somewhere, in one of the postings, Naomi Harm provided a link to a YouTube video called Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy. I think it's worth mentioning again here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ You have the leaders advocating Essentials and Project Based Learning, what you need now is a few earl adopters. I'm not too good with embedding, but I'll try to embed the video below.

                              • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.

                                Wow this has been such a great discussion. I am waiting to hear if we have enough teachers registered for Elements from 7 to 10 December and another online course during December. I am so encouraged and motivated by all the suggestions that I can't wait to get started. Thank you Saul for starting this conversation and each one of our community who have responded. Intel Engage is great.

                                • Re: Project-based learning in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa.
                                  Saul.Pila

                                  Dear Colleagues in Intel Engage

                                   

                                  I would like to thank all of you who contributed to this discussion. I really had good suggestions  from you all and I will use some of them. I am closing this discussion, lest I become confused with a lot of good ideas.

                                   

                                  You all managed to drive home a point that we all share. Now I know that most of the teachers all over the world are almost the same. They look at and face the PBL in  the same way. Thanks to all of that.

                                   

                                  I wish you all well and may you have a very "Blessed Christmas" and a Prosperous New Year.

                                   

                                  God bless