Top 10 Movies About Teachers

Everyone agrees education is important. Most people agree teachers are valuable. Few people know the difference between learning and teaching. Learning happens naturally when children are fully engaged. Teaching happens when teachers love what they do and share that enthusiasm with the children they teach.

After spending years lecturing at private schools across South Africa, including elite schools like Michaelhouse, I gained a new appreciation for education. As a product of the public school system in the Eastern Cape, the poorest province in South Africa, I overcame substantial obstacles to become a regular guest speaker at elite private boarding schools.

Award winning teacher, John Taylor Gatto reminds us it’s just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.

The Ultimate History Lesson - John Taylor Gatto

To celebrate 10 years since I started my company, NETucation, here’s my top 10 movies about teachers – some great and others not so great.

  1. Stand and Deliver (1988): Together, one teacher and one class proved to America they could…Stand and Deliver. The story of Jaime Escalante, a high school teacher who successfully inspired his dropout-prone students to learn calculus. John Taylor Gatto talked about this story many times in his lectures and interviews, so I had to watch it.
  2. Mr Holland’s Opus (1995): We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life. A frustrated composer finds fulfilment as a high school music teacher. One of the most beautiful movies about how teachers can change lives.
  3. Dead Poets Society (1989): He was their inspiration. He made their lives extraordinary. English teacher John Keating inspires his students to a love of poetry and to seize the day. Carpe diem!
  4. Detachment (2011): A substitute teacher who drifts from classroom to classroom finds a connection to the students and teachers during his latest assignment. A powerful performance by Adrian Brody as a teacher who is broken inside.
  5. Dangerous Minds (1995): Louanne Johnson is an ex-marine, hired as a teacher in a high school in a poor area of the city. She has recently separated from her husband. Her friend, also a teacher in the school, got the temporary job for her. After a terrible reception from the students, she tries unconventional methods of teaching (using karate, Bob Dylan lyrics, etc) to gain the trust of the students.
  6. The Great Debaters (2007): A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College, Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school’s first debating team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championships. Even though this is not about school, the teaching influence is primarily in inspiring the students.
  7. Half Nelson (2006): An inner-city junior high school teacher with a drug habit forms an unlikely friendship with one of his students after she discovers his secret. Ryan Gosling shows glimpses of what makes him a great actor.
  8. One Eight Seven (1997): After surviving a brutal attack (the weapon used was a board with nails in it) by a student, teacher Trevor Garfield moves from New York to Los Angeles. Samuel L. Jackson is always convincing as an authority figure.
  9. Freedom Writers (2007): A young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education beyond high school. Some parts of this movie appeal to the sentimental part of me.
  10. To Sir, With Love (1967): About an idealistic engineer-trainee and his experiences in teaching a group of rambunctious white high school students from the slums of London’s East End.

Honourable mentionRushmore (1998): The film is a personal favourite because the main character reminds me of myself. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a precocious and eccentric 15-year-old, who is both Rushmore’s most extracurricular and least scholarly student, and his businessman friend Herman Blume (Bill Murray) both fall in love with the same female teacher.

More than any other, I recommend you watch The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto, free on Youtube. And if you enjoy it support the Tragedy and Hope community who produced it and receive a discount using the coupon code “RAMONTHOMAS” below.

 

 

Using MOOC to upgrade Education in Rural Areas

online courses MOOCUNISA has made distance learning a common practise in South Africa. It’s position is entrenched more so after the 2004 merger with Technikon RSA. The next evolution in distance learning beyond e-learning or computer-based training is Massive Open Online Courses or MOOC. This is made possible with the pervasiveness of broadband Internet. MOOC is a virtual delivery model that allows participation in learning activities at convenient places and times,rather than forcing students into set time frames; blended learning, which can facilitate widespread, often global collaboration with other students and teams of specialized instructors (Bujak,K,R, et al, 2012).

Recently we enrolled for three modules on Coursera.org after listing to Daphne Koller’s TED Talk. The initial appeal to using this platform was the flexible time schedules and immediate access via the Internet. We’ve already opted out of one and there was no real downside because there was no financial commitment in contrast to traditional universities.

Benefits for Teaching

E-learning has been around since the earliest stages of the Internet. It is well know the origins of this global inter-connected network began in the military and expanded quickly into academic research facilities in the US before becoming available to the general public in the 1990s. Expanding access to and the availability of e-learning programmes for students, teachers and government is an important step in furthering continental development and growth (Rupp, 2012).

Even though Rupp (2012) points out the availability of e-learning technologies provides expanded opportunities for countries in Africa to make education available to their whole population. Clearly these same information and communication technologies (ICTs) allow students from the rural or remote areas to access opportunities for scholarships to academic institutions they may not otherwise have identified.

Benefits for Learning

MOOC introduces students to a new type of experience called “Blended Learning” by Bujak,K,R, et al. (2012). It combines face-to-face interactions with communication enabled by ICTs. A key consideration is that ICTs compliment not replace traditional pedagogy. Whereas e-learning was online only experience, more blending the online and offline experience takes shape in self organised groups meeting similar to traditional self organised groups of students who attend the same campus, except this takes place even easier in the virtual world. Initial research suggests that students are not only accepting blended learning approaches, but also they are improving learning outcomes.

Conclusion

Two challenges reduce the adoption of MOOC. Firstly they do not lead to a widely recognized credentials and workable revenue models are not available at present (King, J.W. & Nanfito, M. 2012). Until both are addressed by institutions and investors in the platforms, MOOC, may be a blip on the radar and future of online learning solutions.

Even though MOOC have caused well established institutions from UCT in South Africa and MIT in United States to invest resources, clear impact in Africa continent remain limited. One segment that stands the most to gain, are people who do not gain entry to traditional universities for reasons financial or otherwise. Internet literacy will delay the adoption further among the rest of the population in Africa irrespective of the availability of broadband Internet. As with all technological innovations MOOC will take a number a few years before we know whether it is viable platform or not.

Reference

Bujak,K,R, Baker, P., & DeMillo, R. (2012) The University: Disruptive Change and Institutional Innovation Centre for 21st Century Universities. Paper number 22012. Available online: http://c21u.gatech.edu/sites/default/files/u21/C21U_22012__University.pdf [03 December 2012]

Rupp, S. (2012) Technology, e-learning and education in Africa. In Consultancy Africa Intelligence. Available online http://tinyurl.com/9dul5he [04 December 2012]

King, J.W. & Nanfito, M. (2012) To MOOC or Not to MOOC? Available online: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/11/29/essay-challenges-posed-moocs-liberal-arts-colleges [05 December 2012]

Koutropoulos, A. & Hogue, R.J. (2012). How to Succeed in a MOOC. Available online: http://www.cedma-europe.org/newsletter%20articles/eLearning%20Guild/How%20to%20Succeed%20in%20a%20MOOC%20-%20Massive%20Online%20Open%20Course%20(Oct%2012).pdf [05 December 2012]

 

Mxit education takes off

MXit Education Technology Mobile South AfricaMxit has signed up 5-million subscribers to its educational content, and 600 000 to its eight exam revision applications. Mxit believes this provides ample evidence that the average mobile phone can become a transformative education tool for learners.

Andrew Rudge, Chief of Insight and Reach at Mxit says, “mLearning is powerful because it breaks through the traditional barriers of time, location and the cost of delivering educational content. The power of the Internet in an educational context has always been that it simplifies access to content and the experts on that content. With Mxit we are taking that power and making it easily accessible on the average feature phone.”

QuizMax, which gives learners access to Maths, Physical Science and Life Sciences quizzes for grades 10, 11 and 12, is the most popular exam revision application on Mxit, with over 200 000 subscribers.

“The potential for QuizMax to improve learners’ ability to pass exams is undeniable. Last year our top achievers got over 92% in Maths and Physical Science and achieved their goals of securing scholarships and bursaries to study further,” says Ian McDougall, the founder of Learning to the Max Foundation, which developed QuizMax.

“Because our 1500 questions are always available, the learner is able to learn independently. It doesn’t matter where they are, what time it is or what their current ability level is. This flexibility and independence, combined with the emergence of a technology generation, means that mLearning tools like QuizMax have the potential to truly empower learners and possibly transform education,” concludes McDougall.

The revision apps available to all Mxit users include:

  • QuizMax: Maths, Physical Science and Life Sciences quizzes for grade 10,11 and 12 learners
  • Class of 2012 (DOBE): Tips and advice on study methods and additional study materials
  • ExamZone: Chat room for exam discussions
  • Everything Maths: Curriculum aligned textbooks with embedded videos, simulations, PowerPoint presentations and more.
  • Everything Science: Curriculum aligned textbooks with embedded videos, simulations, PowerPoint presentations and more.
  • CellSchool: Free video revision lessons to assist with exam preparation
  • Crunch The Numbers: Put Maths skills to the test, and possibly win a bursary
  • Dr Math: A Maths-tutoring programme developed by the CSIR Meraka Institute.

source: Gadget Technology Magazine

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#edchat Join Weekly Twitter Chat on Education

Twitter workshops Ramon Thomas South AfricaA twitter chat for the South African education community takes place from 20h30 to 21h30 each Monday evening GMT+2. Private school teachers and public schools teachers have an open conversation about children, teaching, learning and technology.

To vote for your choice of topic for the coming week, please head over to #edchatsa website and add your voice!

General Information

  • Who? Any person with an interest in education in South Africa.
  • When can you participate? The community will gather for specific chats on a Monday evening from 20h30 until 21h30. However, the conversation can continue at any time by simply adding the #edchatsa hashtag to a tweet.
  • What should you contribute? Anything of value to the conversation – ideas, thoughts, arguments, links, resources.
  • What should you avoid? Please do not spam the stream! Do not add your own website unless it is related to the conversation and would be of value to the participants.

How do I keep up with the chat?

There are several ways to do this, but it is important to note that as the chat becomes more popular it will become almost impossible to see all the tweets and be involved in every conversation thread. This must not put you off being involved! With a bit of practice it becomes easier to filter out the ‘noise’ and focus on a few threads which interest you.

Contact our office to get assistance with Twitter. We conduct Twitter workshops for Teachers or Parents at schools across South Africa.

 

SMS' Can Relieve Stressed, Lonely People

SMS Text Messages Relieve Stressed, Lonely PeopleBERKELEY — Text messaging often gets a bad rap for contributing to illiteracy and high-risk behaviour such as reckless driving. But a social welfare professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has found an upside to texting, especially for people who feel stressed out, isolated and alone.

Text messages in cognitive behaviour therapy can make people feel less isolated

Adrian Aguilera, a clinical psychologist who treats many low-income Latinos for depression and other mental disorders, said his patients report feeling more connected and cared for when they receive text messages asking them to track their moods, reflect on positive interactions, and take their prescribed medications.

“When I was in a difficult situation and I received a message, I felt much better. I felt cared for and supported. My mood even improved,” reported one Spanish-speaking patient in Aguilera’s cognitive behavior therapy group at San Francisco General Hospital.

The project began in 2010 when Aguilera developed a customized “Short Message Service (SMS)” intervention program, with the help of UCSF psychologist Ricardo Munoz,  in which Aguilera’s patients were sent automated text messages prompting them to think and reply about their moods and responses to positive and negative daily interactions.

The psychologists published the results of the project last year in the journal, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Aguilera has since been awarded a $75,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“We are harnessing a technology that people use in their everyday lives to improve mental health in low-income, under-served communities,” said Aguilera, whose passion for addressing mental health issues among the poor was sparked while growing up in a Mexican immigrant community in Chicago.

Recent statistics bear out Aguilera’s outreach strategy. The 2011 Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project survey found that African American and Latino mobile phone owners send and receive more text messages than do Caucasians.

Of the 2,277 adult cell phone users surveyed by the Pew Foundation, the most active senders and receivers of text messages (at least 50 messages a day) were non-whites, earned incomes below $30,000 and did not graduate from high school.

Aguilera came up with the texting idea when he realized that many of his patients had difficulty applying the skills they learned in therapy to their daily lives, possibly because of the many stressors they routinely faced. They could not afford laptops, electronic tablets or smart phones, but most had a basic cellular phone and a prepaid monthly plan.

“The people I wanted to impact directly didn’t have as much access to computers and the Internet,” Aguilera said. “So I thought about using mobile phones to send text messages to remind them to practice the skills covered in therapy sessions.”

The feedback from patients offers new insight into the human need for regular contact or check-ins for mental health professionals, even if only through automated technology, Aguilera said.

While the text-messaging sessions are designed to last only a certain number of weeks, about 75 percent of the patients requested that they continue receiving the messages. When the program stopped for a week due to technical problems, some really noticed the difference.

“When it stopped, I missed it,” the patient reported. “My life is so crazy, I need a reminder to think about how I feel.”

Adrian Aguilera, a UC Berkeley social welfare professor and clinical psychologist

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Chip Conley: Measuring what makes life worthwhile

Recently my guest lecturing slot at Stenden SA, the leading hospitality management or hotel school in South Africa, was confirmed. In preparation for a week of lectures I started doing research on my favourite resources, TED.com and found this gem. His reference to Abraham Maslow and the application in business alone is worth watching this video for.

When the dotcom bubble burst, hotelier Chip Conley went in search of a business model based on happiness. In an old friendship with an employee and in the wisdom of a Buddhist king, he learned that success comes from what you count. Chip Conley creates joyful hotels, where he hopes his employees, customers and investors alike can realize their full potential. His books share that philosophy with the wider world.

 

Using Skype for Teaching in Virtual Classrooms

The classroom has continuously experienced advances in the fields of computers and technology for decades. These technological advancements have even reached the education field, with numerous virtual classrooms emerging left and right. You no longer need to be physically present at the classroom in order to learn anything and everything under the sun. You can complete ordinary courses as well as university courses by using Skype, a computer software application that allows for voice chat, text chat and video chat between users in a global scale.

Using Skype to teach in a virtual classroom is very easy. This is due to the fact that this software has been developed in order to be as user-friendly as possible. Both old folks and young ones alike will be able to use it with ease. If you want to learn from a virtual classroom somewhere in South Africa then this is the perfect tool for you to use. The good part here is that more and more schools and universities in South Africa will credit all of the units and hours that you spend in a virtual classroom, allowing you to save on the travel time to and from the school.

Skype is now considered the teaching technology of the future. Children and adults alike will no longer be required to personally attend classes in the near future in order to save on the expenses. Skype is the first step through the numerous innovations to come in the near future since experts say that it will be around for a long time. Earning general education, further education and higher education in South Africa will no longer be a problem with the help of this powerful communication software tool. Use skype for anything and everything related to video communication, calls, text chat or voice chat in order to learn, study and absorb the teaching of your virtual teachers and professors alike.

Skype in the classroom is a newly developed feature of Skype that allows teachers, professors and educators alike to collaborate with each other during class hours. These educators can easily stay in touch with each other using the Skype application, allowing for a more interactive discussion not only between themselves but also between their respective classes as well. Typical examples that this feature provides is that it allows for global languages, joint projects and guest lectures by professors and their colleagues in South Africa and other parts of the world.

Currently, there are more than 7,000 users of this collaboration feature provided by Skype. In a recent exchange of information regarding earthquakes, a U.S. based classroom and a Chilean based classroom interactively exchanged pieces of data and information regarding earthquake safety tips and things to avoid during an earthquake. All of such information exchange is through the use Skype perspective. The best part here is that you will be able to earn all of the required certifications, graduate’s degree, master’s degree or even doctor’s degree in any Skype based university situated in any part of the world with the help of this powerful communicating tool.

 

Leadership in a Technology Driven World

Worldwide there is a crises in education and schools and perhaps even more so in Africa. All you have to do is open any newspaper and you will read stories like this letter from a very concerned parent in the Namibian. This keynote speech was delivered to over 240 Deputy Heads of Independent Schools at St John’s College in Johannesburg. There are a number of questions that I explored in this speech for the first time.

They include:

  1. Complexity > Clarity (Paradox of Choice, etc)?
  2. Confusion > Confidence (Leadership, Wisdom, etc)?
  3. Conflict > Collaboration (Web 2.0, Open Source, etc)?

Anyway enjoy the presentation from my Slideshare.net account here:

 

Gauteng Online is a failure doomed from the beginning

What where they thinking when the Gauteng department of Education promised to connect all the schools in Gauteng to the Internet within 5 years? This is a rhetorical questions about the stupidity of infrastructure projects of this nature. The government themselves are the most inefficient users of technology and with this project they were meant to install computers and Internet access for all the schools in the richest province in the country. It remind me of my time in the United Arab Emirates. These Arab people had money coming out of their ears but did not know how to use it and relied on foreign workers from South Africa, India, Pakistan, Europe, UK and America to do their thinking for them.

Anyway back to South Africa. If you think about the lack of mathematics and science teachers we have in the country, it’s certainly no surprise that Gauteng Online has been such a dismal failure. While doing research for this article most media mentions and even blog postings date back from 2005. So that means people either forgot about it in the last 2 years or have blatantly ignored this project.

The original amount set aside for this project was R500 million! Now tell wouldn’t that money could not have been better used at the schools. For example to put in telephone lines to the thousands of schools with no telephones, or better yet fix the sanitation and make sure they all have running water.

A few years ago I came across Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He basically says that our physiological needs must be met, before we move onto safety, love, self-esteem and eventually self-actualisation. Now for kids to have Internet access is a need that most likely falls between love and self-esteem because it allows them to communicate with others, as well as express themselves by publishing websites. All I would like to say is that we should put pressure on the national Government to get its priorities in order.

It’s probably safe to say that this project is costing the Gauteng Provincial Government more than R500 million with all the disappointments from the previous companies involved. It’s no surprise they have re-issued the tender once again.