Last week I got back from the US after attending OpenCon in Washington DC from 12-14 Nov. Arriving the day after the US election results came out, the mood in the capital was very somber as people were trying to grapple with what just happened. Even walking down the streets, I caught fragments of many conversations discussing the recent events. I also arrived on Veteran’s Day, and as I had some time to do a bit of sight seeing, I decided to walk along the Mall, and also to the end where most of the war memorials are located.
This is my forth post about the Natural Sciences training that we ran last year for subject advisors across the country. You can read more about the project goals and design (part 1), the programme and resources created (part 2) and how we assessed and exposed key misconceptions in the different knowledge areas (part 3).
At Siyavula, we believe in constantly asking for feedback from a group both during and after a workshop. What often comes to my mind when reflecting on feedback are examples from biology where one can get positive feedback loops and negative feedback loops. Both are necessary for a healthy individual or ecosystem. The same is true for any process where you want to constantly be tweaking, making adjustments, finding a balance between different needs and expectations and using the feedback to respond and evolve. Closing these feedback loops is crucial in developing a successful, sustainable, long-term process.
Open communication is also vital to building and maintaining a community of practice. By keeping the lines of communication directly open with your participants, and following up with correspondence, I believe you also help to build relationships which will last beyond the physical interaction at a workshop. This will have a long term benefit in creating a community that is willing to share and learn from each other. Following is a summary of some of the feedback that we received, via email and in the post-workshop survey, and some reflections on the success of the various sessions throughout the workshops. Personally, I also find it a consolidating process to write all of this down, which is why i have written these blog posts, as it allows me to reflect on my own experiences as well.
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.
Note: This post was originally published on the OKFN Open Education Working Group blog.
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.