Last week I attended the launch for the “Post-School Access Map” at the Wits Business School, Johannesburg. The web-based resource that was launched gives information on opportunities and choices for after school, and has been developed by BRIDGE with funding and support from the Zenex Foundation.
I was inspired by how well the launch event was attended, with people from all levels within the education sector and many organisations and schools represented. It was a very focused event, which was great, as one can easily get lost and overwhelmed discussing the myriad of challenges in education, resulting in the discussion being diluted. But, the majority of the discussion was acutely focused on how to enable learners, and their support structures, to identify and pursue opportunities after school.
In this post I want to outline some of the details of how we structured the workshops, the different sessions we ran and the content we decided to focus on. We also created and used a number of openly licensed resources, which have all been made available online for anyone else to build upon and adapt for their own use. You can read more on the project goals and design in the first post here.
At the end of 2014, Siyavula was involved in planning, designing and conducting training workshops for the Gr 4-9 Natural Sciences subject advisors in all 9 provinces in South Africa. I coordinated the training project from our side and learned an enormous amount, from designing training workshops, to working with different stakeholders in the education system, to delivering training and teaching concepts, to working with a diverse team, and importantly, interacting with the subject advisors and building relationships across the country.
This blog post, and the few to follow, are reflections on the training, including how it was designed and conducted, our experiences, challenges we faced and recommendations for going forward with future, similar training programmes.
South Africa is a beautiful country. We have much to celebrate and be thankful for, such as our 5th democratic elections since the end of Apartheid, which took place in May this year.
But, as most people are acutely aware, both locally and internationally, although our government has one of the highest spends on education in the world, our state of education is in a crisis, and we are failing the majority of our learners, especially in rural areas.
Since I have been involved in the open movement, I have come to realise the crucial role of creating awareness of open education in an easily understandable way, contextual way. Most people do not know what we mean by the term “open”, and often only associate the word “free” with the content. But, there are many more benefits to being open, than something just being free. And, it’s up to us to promote this.
I recently held a workshop at Siyavula for the Pan African Open Advocacy Programme to discuss open education, OER and the African context. We had some really interesting and insightful discussions about the barriers to access to education, specific to Africa, and the potential for open resources in our various countries. You can view the slides from the workshop here.
At the end of April I attended the OER14 conference in Newcastle in the UK to present on our work at Siyavula within the context of building communities of open practice. This was the first time anyone at Siyavula had attended this specific conference, and I found it really insightful into what is happening in open education in the UK and in Europe. Although the focus was mostly on higher education and developed countries, I found that I could add a crucial dynamic to the discussions and themes due to our work at Siyavula within the school (K-12) space and in a developing country. I feel it is really important that we at Siyavula continue to connect with people and developments in open education around the world, not only to learn from others, but also to share what we are doing. I am always encouraged by the enthusiasm with which people want to know about and learn from our work within South Africa.
Having gone through 2 major projects now to produce open educational resources (OER) from scratch, I know what it takes! We produce, source and aggregate all the different pieces together, whether it is text, illustrations, photographs, videos, simulations, concept maps, or all of the above. The result is a complete package, under an open license, for a specific purpose or context.
I actually really enjoy making concept maps. I find it quite a satisfying process to take several pages of content, a whole chapter, or a curriculum document, and present it all on one page, showing the links and creating an overall, cohesive graphical representation. And, of course, adding a dash of colour.
I started at the OER Research Hub as part of my open fellowship on 20 January and spent two and a half weeks with the group within the Institute of Education Technology. I am now back in Cape Town at Siyavula, as we continue with our research into looking at the impact of our OER on educators in South Africa. So far, my fellowship with the OERRH has been extremely beneficial and a wonderful learning and sharing experience. Following are some of the highlights from this experience so far.