How edtech will shape the school of the future

Cape Town, 25 July 2018: eLearning, analystics, mobile apps, learning management systems, learning content repositories and tech enabled communications: jargon to many, but essential to shape the school of the future.

In South Africa, there is a chasm to cross.  In 2011, 49% of grade 9 learners* had access to computers at school, low in comparison to Botswana’s 86%, Ghana’s 78% and Indonesia’s 82%.  Only 17% of schools in the Eastern Cape have access to the internet, despite the United Nation’s 2016 declaration that access to the internet is a basic human right.   

But Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is becoming so widely used in society that an education without them is rapidly becoming an incomplete education. 

Felder and Soloman (2001), as cited by Bitter & Legacy (2008:23), point out that learners retain more information with the help of sufficient visual content in their learning materialsBitter and Legacy (2008:152) who investigated the effects of technology on reading comprehension, found that learners tend to be more intrigued with the visuals and animations offered by the use of technology. Students have higher comprehension scores after reading the South African Journal of Education; 2013; 33(2) 5 electronic stories versus reading printed texts. The interactive effects of sound, animation, narration and additional definitions that make up electronic texts motivate students to want to read the stories again, which happens less often with printed text.


The reading of online stories that are augmented with visuals, animations and other interactive effects have greater impact. 

Inspired by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, high school principal Wendy Horn took his words to heart when she took over the helm of a high school with big dreams to establish it as one of the most technologically advanced and successful schools in the province.

Speaking at Eiffel Corp’s 20th year celebration in Cape Town recently, Horn, Principal of Protea Heights Academy, reiterated that embracing technology is essential for survival in a rapidly changing world.  In just five years and a very limited tech budget, Horn has created a world-class digital environment.

“My mission is to create productive citizens that are prepared for the world. With this as a backdrop and underpinned by effective learning management systems such as Staffroom and Google school, we are producing young people who embrace the fourth industrial revolution,” said Horn.

“We can’t use lack of technology to hold learners back, it’s our responsibility as educators to embrace technology.”

“The gamification of the syllabus has become standard practice and by Grade 9 our students have completed a 3D printing course and competency programme in Scratch and Solo Line.

“This year they have taken part with  a number of schools across the world in an innovation project that is aimed at addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in line with the vision of developing global citizens. They are also introducing robotics in line with this vision.”

Principal at Zwaanswyk High School, Shandre Otto said prior to the introduction of technology the school processes were uncontrolled and erratic.

“Staffroom has revolutionised the way we run our school administration and communication,” said Otto.

“This school information system has improved efficiencies, provided valuable extra time to staff and improved communication between the school’s parent body and students.”

“When asked about the cost of investment, I believe that it’s been worth every penny.  There is no comparison between the cost and the benefits,” she said.

“We teach generation Z, the child born with a cell phone in one hand and dad’s wallet in the other, tech is what they breathe, eat, sleep and know. Digital learning must be part of our schools operation, otherwise we are not educating,” said Otto passionately.

Ian Houston, Headmaster at Unicorn Preparatory School in Limpopo believes technology is essential to education.

“In my school environment, educators have 24/7 access to the Staffroom system, which means they can mark, prepare lessons and stay up to date with administration wherever they are located. Mobility, that’s a bi-product of technology,” said Houston.

If technology is your goal – five tips to grow a school for the future:

  1. A leader driven and committed pioneering technology
  2. A supportive management that embraces change
  3. A staff compliment familiar with technology and able to transition and mentor older staff members in technology
  4. A culture or risk and trust
  5. Parent and learner buy in – effective communications is essential to achieve this
  6. Learners that lead