Convention will highlight technology

This year’s Education Week Convention and Learning Expo will put the spotlight on technology as an innovative tool to enhance classroom teaching and learning.

To focus on this, organisers have incorporated the Education Technology Indaba, which will serve as a platform for teachers and technology solution providers to look at creative ways of integrating information and communication technology (ICT) into education.

Government, which has invested huge resources into ICT, will be represented by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Derek Hanekom.

A fitting example of how to harness the power of technology in the classroom is a program called Talking Stories. Developed by Kathy McCabe, director of Radical Learning, it shows that technology can be fun while teaching foundation phase learners how to read. McCabe said all learners at the primary phase can benefit from the program.

McCabe, a self-taught computer genius, said the idea came about after she realised that many learners in Western Cape schools could not read.

“I thought of ways of harnessing technology to teach learners how to read while also becoming hands-on with technology,” said McCabe.

Radical Learning supplies customised learning software and training to underprivileged schools in Cape Town. McCabe said that, although the project started in the Western Cape, the program is spreading to other provinces.

Talking Stories is linked to the national curriculum. It is easy to navigate, providing worksheets for each story as well as notes for teachers and caregivers. McCabe said teachers using the program have hailed it saying it “improved reading by up to 71% in reading scores of grade one learners over a period of two school terms”.

With just a touch of the text and pictures on a computer screen, children who read a Talking Story, prompt a voice in different languages such as English, isiXhosa, isiZulu and Afrikaans. Each story comes with three interactive, fun reading activities, said McCabe. “There are 64 graded stories across a variety of genres, providing for the different reading levels of individual learners.”

Macmillan South Africa has come to the party and it will “provide back-up, reading books and wall charts to support the program’s software at schools”. The software is compatible with all networks and individual workstations, laptops and interactive whiteboards in Windows and open-source environments.

Plans are afoot to partner with cellphone operators to make the technology available on cellphones. McCabe said the company is capitalising on the fact that a majority of South Africans, especially those in the rural areas may not own books or computers but have cellphones.

“Why not use these powerful devices to promote a reading culture in the home? Kids love to use cellphones and they love stories,” said McCabe, adding that the software is not complicated and “very little would need to be done to make it cellphone-compatible”.

She said a partnership in which children will not incur any costs to access the technology is being explored. “We are really looking to team up with a cellphone operator with ‘heart’ because the intention is not to make profit,” she said.

The Education Week Convention and Learning Expo will take place on September 28 to 30 2010 at Emperors Palace, Gauteng. For more visit:

Thabo Mohlala

Thabo Mohlala

Thabo reports for the Teacher newspaper, a Mail & Guardian monthly publication. Apart from covering education stories, he also writes across other beats. He enjoys reading and is an avid soccer and athletics fanatic. Thabo harbours a dream of writing a book. Read more from Thabo Mohlala

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