October 2015
Contents / home
Global science engagement project
National Science Week activities
Science breaks barriers
Hydrogen fuel cell technology
Science that no classroom can teach
SAASTA empowers community
New CEO takes over reins at NRF
Hydrogen awareness website
Work shadowing at SAIAB
Field school for students
Meet Dr Zikhona Tetana
Improving technology education
Weather stations in schools
Street science
Space science appreciation
International Year of Light
Monitoring river health
Sasol Techno X prizes
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

Partnership to improve technology education takes off

  An education specialist is equipped with technology teaching skills in a pilot project ultimately aimed at upskilling educators and driving technological innovation
Sixteen technology education specialists from the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape gathered in Pretoria from August 31 to September 2 for an upskilling project of the South African Agency for Science Technology Advancement (SAASTA) and the national Department of Basic Education (DBE).

The role of the education specialists (formerly called subject advisers), who are based at the provincial offices of the DBE, in the schooling system includes educator support and development, and monitoring implementation of programmes. The ground-breaking workshop held at DBE offices aimed to equip them with skills in technology teaching that they, in turn, would impart to educators in their provinces.

But more importantly, the training ultimately aims to make school technology lessons "more realistic and practical" for learners, says Moloko Matlala, manager of the Science Education Unit at SAASTA. "This will also make learning more interesting and unlock the potential of the learners to be more innovative when dealing with practical assessment tasks."

Driving technological innovation

Matlala says the bigger vision of the project is to drive innovation in technology that will result in new inventions – for the benefit of society at large. To this end, once the education specialists have trained the educators in new innovative ways of teaching technology, their learners will be grouped into teams to work on new technology-based solutions for societal challenges.

"It is envisaged that the initiative will also promote a culture of research to the learners by ensuring that those participating in the pilot project come up with projects that address challenges in their communities," Matlala adds.

Intra-provincial competitions will be held to identify the best projects. "We envisage a stage where we will organise technology expos where learners will exhibit their inventions and/or compete in technology-based innovation," he says.

Resource materials for educators

The recent workshop for education specialists is the culmination of a collaboration between SAASTA and the DBE that was established in 2014. The immediate objective of the partnership was to develop resource materials for educators teaching technology in grades 7 to 9.

As a result, resource materials on structures and the strength of structures were developed as a starting point. These were done in line with the curriculum assessment policy statement for grades 7 to 9. Using the new resource materials, SAASTA and DBE trained 499 educators in five provinces – KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Free State.

But the realisation dawned that more comprehensive training in technology teaching is needed, Matlala says. "Structures are just one component of technology." Therefore, SAASTA procured 70 technology kits from teaching solutions provider Lasec and the company volunteered to train technology education specialists in their use.

The training was the pilot phase and involved only the three provinces mentioned above, but it will eventually be extended to all nine provinces of the country. The second phase of the project will involve the technology education specialists who benefited from the pilot training of grade 8 and 9 educators in their provinces with the support of DBE and SAASTA.

"We are excited about this initiative, which firmly anchors SAASTA in the technology space," Matlala concludes. "We believe that it will benefit our country's educators, learners and the community at large."

Staff Writer, SAASTA