Screen time: While many pupils — such as these children at Delft South Primary school in Cape Town use computers, some teachers struggle with the technology. Picture: REUTERS
Screen time: While many pupils — such as these children at Delft South Primary school in Cape Town use computers, some teachers struggle with the technology. Picture: REUTERS

South African teachers are struggling to adapt to new technology in the classroom even though it is seen as important in the quest to improve education.

This was one of the discussion points at the annual Eduweek conference in Johannesburg last week, when experts discussed the role of technology in education.

Internet access is limited in rural parts of SA, while more affluent schools — largely in urban areas — are already using apps and other technology to augment teaching.

Teachers are trained to teach the curriculum, but knowledge of technology is not a strict requirement.

Douglas Hoernle, director of Karri, a school fee-payment app, said it was taken for granted that pupils were often ahead of their teachers when it came to technology use. Schools and the government needed to hone in on this by including pupils in curriculum planning.

"We need to look at things from the point of the learners and mould the curriculum around that," said Hoernie.

Steven McKee, president of software company Labtech, said technology played a big role in education, but teachers often experienced difficulty in transitioning and becoming accustomed to gadgets and software. Teachers needed to be more engaged in how to use technology as a teaching tool, he said.

However, he warned against a one-size-fits-all approach as socioeconomic contexts differed across the country.

The Department of Basic Education announced earlier in 2017 that it would be looking East in a bid to improve SA’s dismal education outcomes.

McKee said countries in the East had rapidly improved education and led the pack internationally but SA had to work with its available resources to achieve its own unique goals.

Brian Wafawarowa, executive director for learning services at Pearson South Africa, said South African pupils lagged their peers in other developing nations. Stakeholders needed to collaborate to ensure schools used technology to make education more solutions-oriented to tackle SA’s unique needs, he said.

Rianette Leibowitz, CEO of SaveTNet, said theft of equipment remained a huge issue and she urged schools and parents to be vigilant and put security measures in place.

Access to technology also came with its own issues such as cyberbullying, she said.

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