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Internet | Using digital tools in the classroom


By Amy Johnson

If you are interested in this topic, take a look at our University of Cape Town Internet Super-User course.

Chalkboards, paper workbooks and manual marking could become obsolete in the next few decades if predictions are anything to go by. This is an exciting prospect for teachers who have embraced technological advances. Conversely, many educators still remain apprehensive about these drastic changes.

No matter what your thoughts are on this topic, the digital revolution in education is already happening. In many private schools across South Africa, a laptop is compulsory for every learner in attendance and interactive white boards are becoming a classroom staple. This is not to say that there isn’t a vast digital divide. Many South African schools are forced to survive on the bare essentials, let alone think about the prospect of utilising technology. Despite this sobering reality, digital tools are revolutionising the classroom environment, as well as saving teachers time and money. A wealth of information, including image rich content and videos, is now available at the click of a few buttons.

Government, in conjunction with the Department of Education, have seen the immense value that digital tools offer educators and learners alike. In 2009, government rolled out a five-year plan to provide permanently employed state teachers with laptops. More recently, several local and international ICT companies teamed up with the Department of Basic Education to launch the Vodacom Mobile Education Programme. As part of this initiative, an ICT resource centre has been established in each province to allow educators access to quality educational resources.

Educators who are uneasy about the fast-paced changes in education need only look at the ways that some of these digital tools can enhance their teaching to be convinced of the overarching benefit of e-learning. Here are five teaching tools that are transforming the face of education.

Twitter (www.twitter.com)

It’s fast paced, accessible, and a ground-breaking resource for educators. A tweet is composed of just 140 characters or less, and yet so much is being said on this dynamic platform. High school educators in particular are discovering that Twitter is a very useful high-order thinking tool, as learners have to summarise and discuss concepts as succinctly as possible. Educators are able to share links to insightful content, interact with their students, and draw on the knowledge of other educators in their network.

Edmodo (www.edmodo.com)

This free, secure social learning tool is useful for teachers, learners and schools. The Edmodo platform allows teachers and learners to post classroom material, share links to interesting content and videos, as well as access homework and school notices. With special institutional features for schools administrators, Edmodo is becoming one of the most innovative ways to incorporate tech in the classroom.

Slideshare (www.slideshare.net)

Recently voted one of the World’s top ten tools for education, this presentation-sharing platform allows educators to share their work and draw from the work of others. For teachers interested in the move towards open education, this is a tool that shouldn’t be ignored.

YouTube (www.youtube.com)

One of the best ways to engage learners of all ages is through the use of video content. YouTube has become an educational favourite, providing a wealth of informative video content to enrich lessons. With tools like Silentube it! (www.silentube.com), it is even possible to remove the distracting advertisements that are not always appropriate for the classroom environment.

Blogs and e-learning content

In addition to the abundance of educational applications available online, the internet as a resource in itself should not be ignored. Search engines like Google offer infinite research possibilities, and Google images have become a firm favourite among educators in the earlier grades. Many teachers now share their lesson plans and ideas on blogs and e-learning websites. No educator need feel alone anymore – there is a vast global network of educational professional who are always accessible.

For many educators, these advances in the field of education are as intimidating as they are exciting. If you’re a teacher, why not take the leap of faith and dive into the digital world of education? Enhance your lessons with digital tools and witness how dynamic and engaging these technological instruments can be for the learners in your class.


This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license.


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