Tinny Molepo, a grade four and five English teacher at Pulamadibogo Primary School in Mankweng, near Polokwane, Limpopo scooped the annual 2015 Super Teacher of the Year Award at the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) awards event held recently in Cape Town. She is the seventh teacher from Limpopo to win an award since they were introduced in 2001. Molepo got the judges’ nod with her project “Techno reading goes viral through Skype”.
The ISPA awards are designed to help teachers improve teaching through creative use of technology in the classroom. CoZa Cares Foundation, the association’s partner, provides ICT training to teachers at under-resourced schools. To date over 4 000 teachers have benefitted from the initiative.
Molepo said her project was inspired by the relationship that the school has with an American-based philanthropist, Julie Humbree, who has made generous donations of books to the school. “And as I began to master the technology, I came across Skype, which I then used to communicate with our benefactor. I wanted the learners to share with Humbree stories of the books they read. I must say it was so exciting to see learners communicating with her in real time,” said Molepo.
She said not only does she use ICT to teach English but also exposes her learners to applications such as Movie Maker, AutoCollage and Songsmith. “These are important skills that they can use even after they finish school. Who knows, some of them may even pursue a career in one of them,” said Molepo.
But what really impressed her, she said, is the interest the technology generated in the learners to write their own short stories and improve their reading skills. “I came to realise that learners from schools with ICT perform better. For instance, my learners’ level of enthusiasm and participation in my class is always unbelievable,” Molepo said. “I think,” she added, “teachers should tap into technology because our learners are already familiar with it. They may even discover a lot of amazing things that can benefit learning in the classroom.”
She said most of her colleagues have also begun to use ICT to teach their own learning areas, and said that 90% of teachers’ administrative school work such as capturing learners’ marks, setting and marking tests and monitoring the learner register is done through computers.
Molepo said she uses her experience to help other teachers embrace technology, and that winning the award has inspired her to continue exploring the latest technologies to enrich teaching. To teachers who still have to overcome their fear for technology, Molepo said: “The first thing they need to do is to get an email address, so that they can access a range of valuable curriculum-related materials such as the Microsoft education network. They can also connect with teachers from virtually every part of the world to exchange ideas. They should not be shy to ask questions and they should explore new things on their own so that they can develop confidence.”
Other winners at the event were Matthew Hains of Woodlands International College, who took the ISPA TechTeacher of the Year Award and Mabore Lekalakala of Toronto Primary School in Limpopo, who won the ChampTeacher of the Year Award. Prizes for the winners included trophies, sponsored attendance at a national education conference in 2016 and Mustek’s donation of an ES500 BenQ projector and an eBean classroom tool.