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.
The myths of microwaves
We all know microwaves make cooking a breeze and it helps save those minutes, we rarely have enough of these days. However, some people do have those lingering doubts about whether microwaving food destroys nutrients or that it emits harmful radiation. However, the truth is a lot more comforting and positive.
“The microwave makes life so much easier,” says Tracy Gordon, Head of Product – Home Appliances at Samsung South Africa. “It’s human-centred technology at its most helpful. The Samsung Hotblast for example, has revolutionary functions, which are tailor-made to create fast, tasty and healthy meals in minutes.”
A recent article by Harvard Health Publishingclaims stated that “microwave ovens cook food using waves of energy that are remarkably selective, primarily affecting water and other molecules that are electrically asymmetrical. Microwaves cause these molecules to vibrate and quickly build up thermal (heat) energy.” The article debunks two common myths about microwaving food.
Myth 1: Microwaving kills nutrients
Whether in a microwave or a regular oven, some nutrients, including vitamin C, do break down when exposed to heat. However, the fact is, cooking with a microwave might be better when it comes to preserving nutrients because it takes a shorter time to cook. Additionally, as far as vegetables go, cooking them in water robs them of some of their nutritional value because the nutrients seep out into the cooking water,” states the report by Harvard Health Publishing. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), food cooked in a microwave oven is as safe and has the same nutrient value, as food cooked in a conventional oven.
Myth 2: Microwaving food can give you cancer
The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that microwaves do not make food radioactive. Microwaves heat food but they do not change the chemical or molecular structure of it. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that microwaves pose a health risk to people when used appropriately, the organisation added.
With those myths well busted, it’s comforting to know one can make full use of the convenient kitchen appliance. And when the time comes to use a microwave to heat up a tasty meal in no time, one can trust the Samsung Hotblast to do the job. The HotBlast has multiple air holes blowing out powerful hot air, which reduces cooking time. Samsung claims the Slim Fry technology ensures that food is perfectly crisp on the outside and delicious and juicy on the inside. Additionally, this versatile microwave has a wider grill, making it easier to brown food fast and evenly. The turntable is wider, measuring 345mm, making it possible to prepare bigger portions of food. And with its Eco Mode power, it significantly reduces energy consumption with its low standby power. Its intelligent features and stylish design makes it very useful and as we now know – a safe, healthy way to enjoy a meal.
New BMW 3-series ushers in autonomous future
The new BMW 3-series is not meant to be an autonomous car, but it is so close, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers.
It was not meant to be a test-drive of an autonomous vehicle. But the Driving Assist button on the steering wheel of the new BMW 330i was just too tempting. And there I found myself, on Sir Lowry’s Pass near Cape Town, “driving” with my arms folded while the vehicle negotiated curves on its own.
Every 10 seconds or so, yellow or red lights flashed to alert me to put my hands back on the wheel. The yellow lights meant the car wanted me to put my hands on the wheel, just to show that I was in control. The red lights meant that I had to take over control from the artificial intelligence built into the vehicle.
With co-driver Ernest Page, we negotiated a major highway, the bends of Sir Lowry’s pass, and the passes of Hell’s Heights (Hel se Hoogte) above the Cape Winelands.
As the above video of the experience reveals, it can be nerve-racking for someone who hasn’t experienced autonomous driving, or hasn’t been dreaming of testing it for many years. For this driver, it was exhilarating. Not because the car performed so magnificently, but because it tells us just how close true autonomous driving really is.
There was one nervous moment when the autonomous – or rather, Driving Assist – mode disengaged on Hell’s Heights, but fear not. A powerful sense of responsibility prevailed, and my hands hovered over the steering wheel as it took the curve. Assist disengaged, and the car began to veer towards the other side of the road. I quickly took over, and also sobered up from the giddiness of thinking I was already in the future.
In reality, Driving Assist is part of level 2 of driving autonomy, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. A presentation on the evening of the test drive, by Edward Makwana, manager of group product communications at BMW Group in South Africa, summed up the five stages as the driver having Feet Off, Hands Off, Eyes Off, Mind off, and finally, only being a Passenger.
However, the extent to which the hands-off mode of Driving Assist mimics self-driving, and easily shows the way to eyes-off and mind-off, is astonishing.
Click here to read about the components that make the Driving Assist work.