The Cape Town Siyavula team was met with wintry weather in Durban as we touched down early on Friday morning. This did not dampen our spirits as we made our way to the Southern Sun North Beach Hotel to set up for the workshop. With a turnout of 21 AMESA teachers, we were A-for away and the workshop began.
As often happens when one has a set agenda, we veered off course straight away and got stuck into building topic trees, for assigned school Grades. Amidst much discussion the topic trees emerged, and it was then felt that a break for tea was well deserved. This was followed by an interesting talk by Prof Michael de Villiers of UKZN, who spoke about maths and symmetry in everyday life. As early evening approached, Mark initiated the introduction to uploading questions to the FullMarks website (agenda item 1!). He also demonstrated how to create equations using MathML, and how to take screenshots to upload diagrams.
This brought us to 19h10 which meant we had to hot foot it to uShaka for our dinner reservation at the Cargo Hold. There we spent an enjoyable evening getting to know one another and watching the fish and sharks swimming peacefully past us in the aquarium, as our 3 course meal was served. Despite our previous threats that the slow uploaders or those who misbehaved may end up being shark food, I am pleased to announce that everyone behaved themselves and so were spared this terrifying fate.
We were greeted by a beautiful summer’s day on Day Two, which began with a lovely breakfast buffet in the dining room of the hotel. The workshop then kicked off just after 09h00, with the goal for the day being to upload as many questions as possible.This had also been the goal from Day One which unfortunately was not realised, but we were determined to see success by the end of the afternoon. With a quick revision to start with, and internet voucher numbers entered, the teachers were ready to go.
The Siyavula team were on hand to provide tech support to the uploaders, especially as they attempted to use the maths editor on the FullMarks website. The maths editor is not particularly difficult to work with, it just takes a bit of practice to understand how to enter the data. It didn’t take long before everyone was getting the hang of things, and so the team agreed it was time to throw a spanner in the works and show the AMESA teachers a new system for uploading questions and answers!This was presented to them in the form of an OpenOffice template, which Mark promised was a very simple and far more efficient system to use. A fairly quick demonstration was given, which was greeted with exclamations of “why didn’t you show us this from the start?” and “this is so much easier than the other way!”. So much for being worried about confusing everyone further!
We had a very productive afternoon as the teachers’ confidence increased as they practiced using the OpenOffice template, and uploaded multiple questions and answers to the FullMarks website. As the sounds of success echoed around the room, another tea break was due and the chance to discuss our learnings amongst ourselves. It’s amazing what milktart and tea can do for conversation!
That was to be the final feeding and watering of the troops, and so once that was over Mark began the wrap up of the workshop weekend. Tasks were assigned to different teachers, and a discussion took place over what the next step would be. With tentative plans in place for the next workshop, everyone went their separate ways amidst smiles and hugs, and the Siyavula team was left feeling satisfied at the knowledge that was imparted and the progress that was made.
The Southern Sun North Beach Hotel provided a great venue for the workshop, despite the issues with holding an online workshop using internet vouchers. The vouchers had to be purchased in denominations of minutes to spend online, as opposed to MB or GB usage. It didn’t take long before vouchers were expiring and thus logging the users out of the FullMarks page, usually mid-upload; or if the page was left idle for too long, the same thing would happen. This hindered progress somewhat and caused frustration, especially as the uploading process is relatively painless and straightforward. However, the teachers were very patient, and understood that when they upload from a stable line, they will not have this problem.
Overall the Siyavula team had a great weekend of meeting new people, imparting knowledge, eating far too much delicious food, and most likely not getting enough sleep! Well done to everyone that attended and to the Siyavula team for organising this great event.