Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your current role.
I hail from Oxford, England, arriving in SA four years ago. I am currently working as an educator in the English Department of Parklands College. Having obtained a Masters Degree in Sociolinguistics and an Honours Degree in English, Linguistics and Psychology, I have a great interest in language and education innovation. I have been invited to present at a number of 'Tech in Education' conferences including the first South African Google Summit in 2013 and ‘ADESSA’, ‘Inspired Teachers 2014’ and ‘Innovate 2014 Schools’ conferences this year. I am particularly interested in collaborative and 'project-based' education and was awarded the 'Curriculum Project of the Year' for the Apple in Education competition in 2012. I am also attending the Super Teachers Gala Dinner on 17th September this year, having been nominated as a Top 10 candidate for the national Cozacares ‘Super Teacher’ competition in South Africa this year.
Tell us about Parklands College and how technology is used to enhance teaching and learning?
All our learners own either an iPad or a MacBook as we are a One2One school. iPads are prevalent in the Prep Faculty, while most of the devices in the Secondary Faculty are MacBooks, with about 25% owning an iPad. Next year the Grade 6 learners will enter the Secondary Faculty with their iPads and so the iPads will infiltrate up in the following years. Technology is used across the board at the College with Google and Apple technology being the main platforms. Technology is used over a plethora of different subjects in order to engage learners, enhance their understanding of concepts and unleash the unlimited realm of imagination within each of them. The constructivist approach to learning is very well utilized at Parklands and through using a wide range of versatile Google and Apple technology, learners are able to demonstrate their understanding of academic content through creating authentic, imaginative and extremely high-quality work. I follow the philosophy that school should be enjoyed and never endured and by using the myriad of free apps available, this can be guaranteed in every lesson.
It is often stated that many of the jobs that students of today will have are unknown. What skills do you believe are essential in preparing students for the future?
Aside from the expectations of each subject’s curriculum, learners are taught how to utilize the digital tools with which they are provided (e.g. presentation software including Keynote, PowerPoint, Powtoon to name but a few). In this ever-advancing world and with the technology revolution with which we currently find ourselves, it is of the utmost importance to empower the learners with as much knowledge as possible in order for them to successfully navigate their way through society after completing their studies. Computer skills are a quintessential entity in today’s modern society. Skills such as referencing, particularly within the field of English, are invaluable for learners to understand. Within the ever-increasing ‘suing culture’ that is fast becoming the norm, it is of primary importance that learners know how to protect themselves from this, as well as learning the rigorous academic expectations for effective referencing. Having been taught the intricacies of features like referencing, learners are then taught how to use apps and extensions like Google Scholar, which saves time, energy and makes sourcing one’s data far more reliable.
Can you share a few examples of how the use of technology has created opportunities for students that would not otherwise be possible?
I created a complete year’s worth of Grade 9 resources that are focused entirely on app-integration and I am currently doing the same for Grade 8 this year, to be followed by Grade 7 next year. My reasons for this are listed below.
The main reasons that I thoroughly enjoy using technology within every given lesson are three-fold and I wholeheartedly believe that ‘successful/awesome lessons’ are often missed opportunities when there is so much free technical innovation around us which is not used to its full potential.
Learners love using technology in every day life now, so why not use this in lessons so that love is transferred to the academic setting? When learners get the opportunity to use it in lessons, they are automatically attentive to the content of that lesson (provided it has been utilised in a way to fulfill the demands of the curriculum and class objectives, as well as being used for interesting tasks).
Constructivism: It has largely been accepted that using a variety of apps to ‘vamp up’ the presentation element of a lesson is quite a good way to maintain learner attention via the ‘Wow Factor’. However, going beyond this, the benefits are even more plentiful. If learners are encouraged to use various apps (which they have invariably mastered beyond us teachers!), to ‘construct’ and manipulate the knowledge they have acquired within the classroom setting, they are then free to explore it even further and consolidate what they have learned in a far more unique way.
Release of imagination: This third point ties in quite closely with the second. After the learners have been exposed to the rules of say, informal writing, they can then be unleashed upon all the free technology at their fingertips to create not simply a handwritten letter unique to their own peers and family members, but a moder-day authentic example demonstrating a purpose, audience, register and authenticity.
Your Open Design Event modeled how augmented reality can be used. Can you tell us about this fantastic event?
The second OPEN DESIGN Cape Town festival takes place from 13-23 August 2014, growing on the success to be bigger and better. This event was organised in partnership with the Parklands College Secondary Faculty Design department, Rabbit, a Cape Town 3D printing startup, Digicape, Core and OpenDesign Cape Town.
OPEN DESIGN Cape Town is an annual cross-disciplinary citywide event creating an educational, informative, inclusive and collaborative platform where design and its numerous disciplines galvanise Cape Town’s design community to openly share their design with each other and the broader public.
From 13 August – 23 August 2014, OPEN DESIGN Cape Town will bring together all the design disciplines through a full and varied programme encouraging design practitioners, managers, media, educators, students and members of the public to share their design concepts.
By sharing your design, you are showing how design has the potential to create an impact from an everyday scale to a broader social, cultural and economic scale. Learners of Parklands College hosted an event in the ‘playroom’.
What happened in the ‘playroom?
We went down to the Cape Town City Hall. In the Playroom we saw how design, creative energy and technology can enable change in the most surprising and exciting of ways.
Open Design invited the Design department of our school of technology to collaborate with a 3d printing place, some app-ware’s and cool sculpt- ware for an unusual interactive experience, to design and 3d print your own sneaker!
Our project is called Rapid Design from Augmented Reality to Real Life and you can design your own sneaker. There are four stations and you should try to complete each one in 15 minutes so you could experience that you can visualise, design and 3d print a prototype on the spot!
So at Station 1 is where the Augmented reality happens! This is where you visualise your shoe design. So you have different triggers. If you click on a trigger, it links you to a different multimedia reality.
At Station 2 you get a page with the outlines of a sneaker and it’s up to your creativity to play around with colour. After the colouring-in is done, you open the ColAR app and hover the iPad above your design. You will see your design come to life in 3D in exactly the colours you’ve used.
At Station 3 you sculpt and paint interesting and realistic 3D shapes. We have two shoe ‘templates’ to choose from. Basically you choose a shape and a object and change it into your own shoe design. This is a lot of fun!
You can bulge, flatten and refine your creation to get different effects.
You can also add shades, tints and hues with the built-in digital painting brushes or rub areas of an image directly onto your creation.
At Station 4 is the 3D Printing. And now for the final station... This is where everything comes to life! The 3D Printing! We project your design on a big screen for the 3d printers to judge if your design is printable and share your design to be viewed.
So your design is sent to the 3d printer. It uses a single PLA to print your prototype. It takes about 25 minutes to print. And out comes a 3d object of your design!
It will not print the surface design or colour, but the sculpted shoe design that you’ve created.
And rapidly, there you have it! From your concept, to your design to your own prototype sneaker! Who knows, maybe just the next “GOTA HAVE!” item.
What’s really cool here is that you can enter your design in a competition at the Mix and Sculpt Stations and 1st Prize will win you a pair of sneakers in your own design and the second prize is a 16GB iPod Touch. The winners were announced on 25 August on the Open Design website & Parklands College FaceBook Page.
What advice do you have for other educators who are interested in embracing innovative methods for teaching and learning?
As innovative and extremely reflective educators ourselves, we acknowledge two vital facets of successful learning:
Having fun (by recognising the psychology of excitement and interest when working with young people).
Thorough holistic understanding
My firm belief is that lessons should be exciting and achieve the ‘Wow Factor’. If this is maintained, learners will focus far more attention and energy onto the content matter of their various academic subjects. There have been many publications as to the efficacy of technology’s impact on education. From my experience, utilising such technology has been extremely beneficial (based on learner engagement, higher (and deeper) order thinking and the ‘constructivist approach’ to education). However, it is vital to remember that one should not simply use technology and apps, just for the sake of trying to be ‘cutting edge’ and ‘relating to the learner’. Instead, they should be used to increase lesson variety (thus encouraging ‘interest’ for both educator and learner alike), enhance the unlimited realm of imagination and finally, to create an environment that stimulates and engages learners and channels their creativity and energy towards achievement.
Anthony it's been a privilege to speak with you, thanks for making time for us and we look forward to more exciting lessons from you in the future!
You can connect with Anthony on Twitter @APeters522
FACETIME: Anthony Peters
The Dragons Den