SchoolNet South Africa is a public benefit, not for profit company established in 1997 and acts as an advocate for effective digital learning as a catalyst for positive educational change. Digital learning is at the core of our focus and our work strives to engage learners, to encourage and motivate teachers and senior managers to enhance their teaching approaches and to build an inclusive society through Digital Skills for All. SchoolNet SA serves the vital function of changing the dialogue around technology in education and advocates for change leadership as an essential factor in the success of any technology in education initiative in South African schools. Our rationale is closely aligned to Chapter 9 of the National Development Plan and output goals of the national Action Plan 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025 SchoolNet’s work over the last 24 years has been in the following ways: 1. Advocacy related to the effective use of digital learning; 2. The evaluation of learning gains in schools adopting technologies; 3. Nurturing a national digitally-confident professional learning community; 4. Managing and sustaining high-quality professional development interventions; 5. Fostering engaged teaching and learning methodologies and practice; 6. Developing courseware for technology integration across the schooling curriculum, youth development, community centre management, women’s empowerment and ICT Leadership in digital learning.

SchoolNet’s vision is to act as a catalyst for positive change in education and to improve opportunities for knowledge creation through digital learning.

SchoolNet’s mission is to harness the power of learning technologies to:

 create communities of life-long learners
 to sustainably enhance teaching and learning pedagogies
 to shift the culture around knowledge acquisition and knowledge creation
 Provide inclusive opportunities to reduce the digital divide and improve digital skills for the world of work

Current SchoolNet activities fall into the category of educator ICT professional development and capacity building among senior management and government officials in South Africa as well as in other African countries. In addition, our work has expanded to higher Education
Institutions and Community centres to build capacity in digital learning for faculties and out of school youth.
Our values of People, Innovation, Integrity, Accountability, and Empowerment are lived-in body, mind, and spirit, both internally at SchoolNet and with our external stakeholders.

The methods of implementation used by SchoolNet is effective as it relies on adult learning principles that are deeply rooted in problem-based, practical learning. The implementation is dependent on the needs expressed by schools or as articulated by particular projects or initiatives and always, in consultation with the institutions concerned.

The professional development opportunities in South Africa are deeply varied and currently are displayed in different forms; it can be limited to attending meetings and conferences, advocacy around new ideas, or as is the case in many instances, is a one-size-fits-all training session that dulls the brain and crushes the soul with impractical methods that are not easily implementable in the classroom. Research has shown and our practice depicts that professional development should engage teachers, school administrators, and educators as learners themselves, and accompany them on the path as they grow, both personally and as professionals, to do their jobs even better, and make a positive difference in the lives of children.

SchoolNet facilitators are skilled in the cognitive apprenticeship model of training so that teachers cohesively gain technological, pedagogical and content skills and are not at a loss about how to apply their skills and knowledge in the design of classroom activities. Shaping and fading techniques are used to encourage teachers to develop self-reliance in order to become independent learners. The instructional design of our materials is framed by the context of the teacher as an adult learner and scaffolds just-in-time learning strategies and not just-in-case.

Our twenty-four years of experience has caused us to be skeptical of educational software that does not require 21st Century learning skills. Furthermore, we are wary that some m-learning and e-Learning projects merely provide content with little or weak pedagogical design or are limited to access of digital infrastructure without the key threads that support optimal use of digital technologies for learning. The SchoolNet courses are, therefore, based on pedagogical and technological considerations; and most importantly focuses on how the technology can support instructional content or learning objectives. 21st-century teaching and learning as well as project-based learning feature prominently in the SchoolNet philosophy.

SchoolNet SA has welcomed the national Professional Development Framework for Digital Learning² that was published in 2018. The SchoolNet portfolio of courses aligns itself with the principles and recommendations for teacher competencies within the framework.

We strive to support and evaluate the success of teachers’ implementation of what they have learned during our courses. Where SchoolNet is not expected to conduct its own research, external evaluations have been commissioned for almost all initiatives. A reliable indicator of success is that funders and sponsors have asked us to implement more projects after the successful implementation of initial projects. Other indicators of success include examples of teachers progressing through the learning pathways to work in their classrooms at the seamless higher levels of ICT integration and achieving awards for innovation at national and international levels.

We believe firmly that for us to “see the impact in education”, we must change how learners articulate their learning; we, therefore, do not view a large volume of teachers trained as an indicator of success in itself. In recent projects, the impact of success has been measured through attendance of professional development, portfolios of evidence attesting to mastery of skills through implementation, and finally through in-classroom support with focused suggestions for improvement in the integration of ICT in teaching and learning activities.

SchoolNet has had responsibility for major roles in the following sample of interventions:

  1. Telkom Foundation – SchoolNet is responsible for ICT Integration in the ground-breaking Connected Schools program, which provides ICT infrastructure and connectivity, teacher professional development, digital curriculum content, and electronic administration. This project further aims to support learners from Grade 8 to matric and then post-schooling to economic empowerment through internships, bursaries and entrepreneurship. The Connected school's program offers ICT professional development, academic support for learners, and psycho-social support for learners, parents, and educators. SchoolNet’s role is to provide teacher professional development to grow teachers’ skills in competencies aligned to the digital learning framework. This involves intensive tracking of teacher progress and evidence of change. This project has also given rise to an innovative internship program where eight unemployed youth are based at each of the project schools. All interns were provided skills and capacity building in technical expertise, teacher development, and learner support so interns could act as on-the-ground peer support and provide learners with digital literacy skills. In the last year, our work has focussed on a dual certification model for learners in FET who are able to work through digital online courses in order to gain international certifications to build their repertoire and portfolio of digital skills required for economic activity.
  2. Intel Teach – for the past seventeen years SchoolNet has been the Regional Training Agency for all Intel Teach programs. Intel were sponsors of SchoolNet conferences and provided funding for training interventions at public sector schools, nationally. Intel Learn has expanded its programs to include aspects related to Digital Training for women and girls, youth empowerment and entrepreneurship, which SchoolNet has been implementing in various projects across the country. In 2015, Intel-sponsored professional development of teachers in a national project where the Department of Communication with Telkom and the Department of Education collaboratively installed hardware and connectivity in 1 650 schools and SchoolNet provided the teacher professional development. In 2017, Intel used SchoolNet’s leadership course to build their Sustaining Leadership program which is available Internationally as part of the Intel Education Portfolio. The Intel Learn Tablets in the classroom course has had much success with teachers gaining skills in finding and using digital resources and designing online assessments with automated marking opportunities to make a diagnosis of learning and concept gaps easier to see and mitigate.
  3. Microsoft Partners in Learning – For over fifteen years, SchoolNet has developed materials and undertaken quality assurance for courseware as well as management of the Partners in Learning Teachers’ Forum and PIL Network (now called the Microsoft Educator Centre). SchoolNet continues to provide professional development in digital learning on behalf of Microsoft to provide advocacy and skills in the use of Office 365, Microsoft Teams and to develop and support Microsoft Innovative Experts. SchoolNet is contracted by Microsoft Philanthropies to roll out their Youth Spark program in South Africa as from 2018 which supports Hour of Code and Minecraft computational thinking and coding principles. Our work is now extending to special needs schools and inclusive education.
  4. SYSPRO – A new partner to SchoolNet, SYSPRO initiatives focus on providing digital skills for out of school youth, women and girls. Over 250 youth from rural contexts in KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, North West and Gauteng benefitted from coding, technical skills and basic digital literacy. Our work continues in the area of developing youth in rural contexts to optimise digital affordances for economic activity.
  5. RandWater Foundation –This project involved the provision of digital infrastructure and tutoring of learners and teachers using Apps for Learning. The RandWater Foundation partnered with SchoolNet and the Gauteng Department of Education to work in primary schools in the Braamfischerville area to provide tablets with pre-loaded digital content appropriate for primary school learners. In addition, unemployed youth were provided with development and skills to improve digital literacy and provide tutoring for learners during classroom activities using digital apps for learning. This project included teacher development and learner tutoring using apps for learning in Science, Maths, English and has shown gains in learning with the majority of learners across Grades 4-7 showing a positive differential in learning outcomes when compared with the average marks between 2016-2018.
  6. Siyavula – Everything Maths and Science - Siyavula embarked on a project to roll out Mathematics and Sciences eLearning services to a selection of Gauteng schools in partnership with the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE). SchoolNet SA was contracted by Siyavula to assist with implementing the online platform at schools and providing support for learners and teachers during the activation phase of the project. This project allowed learners to experience learning through digital means and to have access to curriculum resources for Maths and Science. This project was extended to provide peer support to champion teachers at the project schools.
  7. DG Murray Trust – Learning Gains through Play. This research, conducted from 2014 –2018 has tracked the development of two cohorts of Foundation Phase learners and recorded significant learning gains across foundational literacies, most noticeably in English language acquisition. Learners at project schools have experienced a technology- enabled, play-infused learning environment from Grade R. Intel tablets loaded with carefully selected apps and games were integrated into learning activities to stimulate and enhance fine-motor skills and to develop and practise visual literacy and numeracy skills. Xbox Kinect games have engaged learning through play, developed gross-motor skills and have provided opportunities to reinforce visual and number literacies. Teachers have been excited to discover that digital games have been able to assist them to achieve the outcomes listed in the Curriculum and Policy Statements. Teachers use apps and games to identify teachable moments and stealth learning opportunities which trigger learners’ imaginations and target specific literacies. Our key finding currently is that Oral English skills can be improved simply by teachers engaging learners with tablet apps and video games which use English as the medium of learning. The learning gains in English acquisition are happening at a crucial time, immediately before entry into Grade 4 when the language of learning and teaching suddenly changes from mother tongue to English. Participant teachers have expressly noticed that their learners are far more prepared for entry to Grade 4, whereas the control schools in this initiative showed a stagnant trajectory in acquiring higher levels of language literacies. SchoolNet was invited by the DG Murray Trust to extend this study into Grade 4 in 2018 to confirm these findings. In 2019, the final paper was published documenting the research findings.
  8. Sun International - Strengthening and Capacity Building in Hospitality studies. Sun International partnered with the national Department of Basic Education to develop digital resources, and provide hardware and teacher training to support teachers of Hospitality Studies in Grades 10 to 12 at schools offering Hospitality Studies across South Africa. An online learning management system including a content portal with customized video resources were developed and SchoolNet was responsible for the professional development of hospitality teachers as well as the overall project and budget management of this program.

SchoolNet currently offers, through its various projects, free professional development opportunities for teachers. These include webinars on interesting topics for teachers and advocates for the pursuit of professional growth through professional learning communities.
SchoolNet continues to support teachers through hosting discussions across its social network platforms including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the SchoolNet Blog. Reports on all SchoolNet initiatives are accessible from our website.

In 2017, SchoolNet SA was one of three finalists in the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) awards category of Non-governmental organizations (NGO) for an outstanding contribution to science, engineering and technology, and innovation in South Africa over the last five to ten years. The Awards are intended to recognize and celebrate individuals and organizations for outstanding contributions in science, engineering, technology (SET) and innovation, for a range of purposes including the achievement of sustainable economic growth for South Africa, improving the quality of life of its people, promoting excellence among SET and innovation practitioners and in research and
development. SchoolNet has been a nominee in the UNESCO ICT Prize over the last three years.

Contact Person

Omashani Naidoo
+27 11 403 5777

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