Posted on February 28, 2010 · Posted in Siyavula

On the 22nd and 23rd February, the Siyavula team ran a workshop at the ATKV Buffelspoort for Mathematics and Languages Subject Advisors for the North West Province’s Department of Education. This workshop was a joint undertaking in partnership with the Department of Education. They are providing the venue and catering as well as coordinating attendance.

img_0216The workshop was well attended with 50 subject advisors (also often called curriculum advisors) participating. We were missing some of the Mathematics advisors, as there was a parallel mathematics workshop elsewhere, but are expecting them to attend our next workshop.

Technical / Content Training

From the team’s side the event was a resounding success. On the technical front the stand-alone server and wireless network worked extremely well and we were able to conduct our training with more fluidity and focus than in previous workshops where internet access challenges had proved a large distraction. img_0274

A particular highlight of the opening technical session, our hula-hoop activity in which we explain all the Connexions concepts with rope, books and hula-hoops, was when one of the advisors pointed out that this was the ideal technical approach for realising the objectives of the outcomes-based national curriculum.

Community Building

img_0283The community-related activities of this workshop were different from our previous Siyavula workshops in that we focused our discussion more on what it takes to support a community as well as giving the participants an opportunity to discuss and present their own strategies for taking things forward. Subject advisors support many teachers in a learning area so they are in a superb position to create an enabling environment for communities to form.

The formation of communities, and ultimately communities of practice, amongst the teachers they support will have many benefits beyond improved sharing of content, classroom-practice, and ideas. Communities of practice provide a powerful support structure for participants as well as being a powerful vehicle for professional development. Subject advisors that are able to support the formation of communities of practice will automatically be working towards their mandate for curriculum delivery in the classroom.

Many of the advisors asked for more information, material and training sessions on how communities work and how best to support them, another highlight of the workshop.

The Way Forward

The participant had many group discussions on various topics. In the final session where they were discussing the way forward the groups unanimously identified the following needs:

  • department support,
  • recognition for participants,
  • resources, and
  • senior managment team (SMT) support.

The particularly exciting part was that all groups committed to:

  • distributing the workbooks using the provided DVDs,
  • introducing their teachers to Connexions, and
  • supporting their teachers to form communities.

The participants remained engaged and enthusiastic right up until the end and my favourite piece of feedback during the closing session was when one subject advisor said it was the first workshop he’d been to where everyone had stayed until the very end.

Special thanks to Quinton Davis for all the photographs, click on any of them to browse the full set on flickr

About the Author

Mark Horner is the CEO of Siyavula Education, a social enterprise working in the school sector in South Africa. While working as the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow for Open and Collaborative Resources, Mark was able to transform the Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project, which he co-founded, into Siyavula Education. In this process, openly-licensed, collaboratively authored textbooks have been printed and distributed nationally in South Africa. Working at the intersection of community, openness and technology; Mark intends to leverage this success to make Siyavula an innovative, technology provider in education that works effectively as part of the education community to ensure better learning opportunities for all. A recent notable event being the delivery of Siyavula's textbooks over Mxit, the most popular mobile chat solution in South Africa. Mark has a PhD in physics from the University of Cape Town and conducted his research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California on the results from the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. His work is carried out in the belief that the liberation of information and support of education in South Africa will lead to a peaceful and prosperous future for all South Africans.