It can be difficult for educators to remain motivated in the current age. The world is transitioning into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and with this comes the tension between teaching what is advised in the national curriculum, and feeling compelled to introduce learners to the digital future.
Educators from across the Middle East and Africa region agree that the integration of technology into set work can make the teaching experience easier and more interactive, however, infrastructural and socio-economic challenges continue to hinder this process.
Similarly, these teachers believe that current education curricula across the region do not make provision for Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-related teachings.
Studies around the world predict a future where new jobs will almost certainly contain something related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Today, technology jobs make up 50% of the workforce. This number will grow to 77% in the next decade.
As part of Microsoft’s Computer Science Education Week efforts to promote the importance of coding and technology in education, we spoke to a few teachers from across the Middle East and Africa region to uncover some of the challenges they experience:
Phuti Ragophala, former principal of Pula Madibogo Primary School in South Africa, says the country’s school curriculum is still far from preparing learners for careers of the future. “It speaks very little to nothing about coding, web design, programming or technology engineering. There is no free Wi-Fi in schools, let alone using a laptop as a teacher or as learners. We still have many teachers and learners with zero knowledge of basic computing skills.”
Wejdan Mihi, English Teacher at Marran Elementary and Intermediate School in Saudi Arabia says, “Students need technical discipline, teamwork competencies, communication skills, leadership skills, problem-solving competencies and managerial abilities. Our curriculum should, therefore, be expanded to include coding subjects and technology classes, because these subjects train learners on those competencies – which all employers expect graduates of today to have.”
Taking upon themselves
To demonstrate the impact of computer science on future job prospects and economic growth, teachers throughout the Middle East and Africa have begun integrating technology into their everyday teaching methods. These assist learners in gaining a basic understanding of what the digital future holds and brings computer science education to students in the absence of adequate provision being made in national curricula.
Ilker Göler, Information Technology and Software Teacher at Tekirdag AKA College in Turkey, says: “The national curriculum in Turkey for the Information Technology branch is out of date, and I believe it doesn’t add much value to the students. That is why I make my curriculum flexible and in line with today’s technologies. For example, I teach coding, robotics, 3D Design, etc.”
Charmaine Roynon of Edupaths SA in South Africa says: “I work with teachers in many schools across SA to empower them to instil collaboration, skilled communication, Information and Communication Technology use, innovation, self-regulation and other skills in their learners. Sadly, many teachers still use the ‘talk and chalk’ way of teaching, and do not understand the pedagogy of relevant and deep learning. Professional development around problem-based learning and integration of Information and Communication Technology is necessary because it will empower teachers to [train their students in those skills].”
Israeli private school Beta School, teaches coding to kids from the fourth grade. According to Karina Batat, ICT Coordinator and Instructor at the school, “We work collaboratively with Office 365, which allows our learners to express themselves and communicate via Skype around the world. We also use Minecraft and MakeCode to offer the kids experience, creativity and help them prepare for life after school through critical thinking and problem-solving.”
Paula Barnard-Ashton, Lecturer at the School of Therapeutic Science in South Africa uses Sway for student projects, OneNote for work-based learning portfolios and postgraduate course collaboration tasks, Flipgrid and Teams for professional development groups and staff administration groups.
Click here to see how Microsoft makes teaching tools more applicable to students.
Cape Town not so calm – if you’re a driver
Cape Town drivers lose on average 162 hours a year to traffic jams, so will need some tech and a few tips to stay calm
Cape Town drivers lose, on average, 162 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, and the city is ranked 95th out of around 200 cities, across 38 countries surveyed globally, in terms of congestion issues.
That’s according to the latest INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard, which is an annual analysis of mobility and congestion trends. The study provides a data-rich evaluation of information collected during peak (slowest) travel times, and inter peak (fastest point between morning and afternoon commutes) travel times. Together they provide a holistic account of congestion throughout the day, delivering in-depth insights for vehicle drivers and policy-makers to make better decisions regarding urban travel and traffic health.
Of the further five South African cities surveyed:
- Pretoria drivers lose, on average, 143 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, ranking as the 64thmost congested city
- Johannesburg drivers lose an average of 119 hours annually, ranking 61st
- Durban drivers lose 72 hours, ranking 141st
- Port Elizabeth drivers lose 71 hours, ranking 75th
- And Bloemfontein drivers lose 62 hours, ranking 165th
If these hours sound horrific, spare a thought for the poor drivers in Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá who lose, on average, a whopping 272 hours a year stuck in traffic jams!
On average, drivers’ commutes increase by roughly 30% during peak versus inter-peak hours. And the reality is that congestion issues aren’t going away anytime soon. Not here in SA, or anywhere else in the world. So what can we, as drivers, do to make the situation easier to cope with on our daily commute?
Change of mindset
Stressing about the unavoidable, the inevitable, and all the things that are out of our control – like congestion caused by accidents, faulty street lights, or bad weather – is a waste of energy. We should try finding ways of using that time in our cars more productively, to create a less tense, more positive experience. Learning to change our perspective about this challenging time, and associating it with something enjoyable, can drastically alter our reaction to and engagement with it. Rather than expending all our energy on futile anger and frustration, we can channel our focus on things that relax or energise us instead.
Just one more chapter
Being stuck in traffic usually aggravates us because it feels like a huge waste of valuable time. But like a wise man once said, time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. Listening to a podcast or audiobook can not only be entertaining, but also educational, which is a brilliant use of your time. Ifyou think of your car as a ‘learning lab’, a mobile university of sorts, and your time spent inside as away to exercise your brain and grow intellectually, you may even find yourself wishing for bad traffic so you have an excuse to carry on listening to your podcast or audiobook.
Tame your inner Hulk
Pulling up a playlist of your favourite, feel-good songs can do wonders to combat stress levels. Downbeat music has been proven to have a mellowing effect on drivers. Making a quick switch to downbeat music shows measurable physiological improvements, with drivers calming down much sooner, and making fewer driving mistakes. So the next time you feel your inner Hulk emerging, crank up the volume on your favourite tunes.
The power of ‘caromatherapy’
There are numerous studies on aromas and their impact on human emotion, behaviour, and performance. Researchers have found that peppermint can enhance mental and athletic performance and cognitive functioning, while cinnamon may improve tasks related to attentional processes and visual-motor response speed. A study from Kyoto University in Japan revealed that participants reported significantly lower hostility and depression scores, and felt more relaxed after awalk through a pine forest. It makes sense then, to incorporate some ‘caromatherapy’ into our lives. There are plenty of off-the-shelf car diffusers available, or you could add a few drops of essential oil to DIY felt air fresheners. Citrus scents like orange or lemon can provide a boost of energy, while rosemary can relieve stress and anxiety. Take care not to hang anything that might obstruct your field of vision though, and always make sure to test out essential oils at home first, in case a scent makes you dizzy or overly relaxed, which could affect driving focus.
Contemplate your navel
The mind is a powerful thing, and simply willing yourself to relax might be the most effective method of all. While we don’t recommend meditating while driving due to safety reasons, breathing exercises can help you stay focused and feeling calm. One useful practice is the one-to-one technique – breathing in and out for the same count with the same intensity. Deep, measured breaths facilitate full oxygen exchange, helping to slow down the rate of your heartbeat and stabilise blood pressure, as opposed to shallow breathing, which doesn’t send enough air to the lowest part of your lungs, causing you to feel anxious and short of breath. Just always keep your eyes on the road, and take care to ensure you’re not so busy counting breaths that your concentration is compromised.
Not all those who wander are lost
Some of our best ideas come in those moments where we’re alone with our own thoughts, able to really reflect on the ideas we have without having something immediate that needs our attention. Allow your mind to wander, and do a little brainstorming. Alternatively, use the time to simply day dream. Remember, downtime is not dead time. It is both necessary, and important for your mental health. Use this time as an opportunity to take care of yourself.
In-built vehicle tech
“As we spend more and more time commuting, cars are being designed to accommodate longer periods behind the wheel,” says Kuda Takura, smart mobility specialist at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. “Ford uses human-centric design to deliver vehicles that are inviting, accommodating, and intuitive. For example, our SYNCT infotainment system offers nifty, hands-free functions, like allowing drivers to listen to their texts, change music or climate settings, and make phone calls easily with voice control. Our range of driver-assist technologies, like Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and Semi-Auto Active Park Assist, are also designed to take some of the stress off city driving. If our lifestyle means that we might be spending more time in our cars than we do on holiday, then we should make sure we make the most of that time.”
Vodacom exits Africa biz services
Vodacom Group has sold Vodacom Business Africa’s operations in Nigeria, Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire to Andile Ngcaba’s Synergy Communications. The two entities are in the process of concluding the acquisitions, which are subject to the approval of the regulatory authorities within these markets.
Vodacom says the transaction supports the Group’s enterprise strategy in Africa, which has been refocused to grow and strengthen its core business. It will no longer directly service global enterprise customers in these three markets but will rather continue to operate as a pan African telecommunications networks provider through local relationships, like the one with Synergy Communications.
This acquisition represents a significant milestone in Synergy Communication’s quest to be a leading provider of cloud and digitally based services in key markets across sub-Saharan Africa and provides key additional assets in its build out of a regional footprint. Synergy Communications currently has operations in Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique.
Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Synergy Communications said: “This is an exciting landmark transaction for Synergy Communications, providing us with additional momentum in the delivery of our strategy as a pan-African enterprise digital Services Provider. Synergy Communications will partner with major global cloud providers and deliver platform-based services to both multi-nationals and local enterprises.”
Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group, said: “Vodacom has a clear vision for strengthening our position as a leading pan-African business and will work with local service providers like Synergy Communications to grow in these markets. Crucially, Vodacom is not exiting any of the territories related to this transaction and remains focused on continuing to deliver exceptional service to our global and multinational clients in these markets through long-term commercial agreements.
“To support the sustainable growth of pan African digital economies and building connected societies, Vodacom will, via local service providers, continue to service clients in each market. We seek to leverage the collective strengths of Vodacom and Synergy Communications to meet the changing requirements of clients across each of these markets.”