Linda Bradfield and her students know how to turn trash – eight tons of it, in fact — into treasure. The six and seven-year old students collaborated to collect plastic, glass, paper and cans. Each day, the collection was sorted, weighed and the amounts recorded, and money raised was donated to charity.
The students, working with their parents and teacher, created a Wikispace and e-Books.
They then (sometimes even using Skype) presented to other schools to motivate them to collect waste.
The project, which earned Bradfield recognition at the South African, Pan-African and global Partners in Learning Forums, demonstrated the power of technology tools and of 21st century skills. But just as important, it taught the students – and their families – a critical lesson on environmental responsibility. We asked Bradfield about what she learned in the process.
What has changed in your school as a result of your efforts?
The teachers have become so much more aware of how important the learning process
is rather than always focusing on the end result. They eagerly participate in our in-house Innovative Teacher Competitions which are the culmination of a particular ICT tool that I have taught them to use.
In asking for motivations for classroom computers, I have been overwhelmed by their insight into how they would use them in their teaching and learning. They feel confident to meet with me individually to learn about new tools. I have also had an incredible response from teachers who would like to try to implement project-based learning incorporating ICTs.
How can other educators facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through this project?
One has to be able to work collaboratively with one’s teaching colleagues. Because the project was multi-disciplinary it involved the Mathematics, English and ICT teachers. I found that involving the parents at the start of the project was hugely beneficial. Be prepared to make changes to the project as you go along as circumstances sometimes dictate that you will not be able to stick to the original plan. Make the children aware of how the project will be showcased as they love to work towards this grand finale.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
I have been in independent education for the past 18 years which has provided me with many resources and opportunities. The obstacles that I have had to face are miniscule compared to South Africa as a whole. In South Africa, there is a massive discrepancy between independent and state education and I think it is the role of educators in the independent schools to assist and encourage teachers and students who are less privileged than themselves. I have just started a grade six project called Digipals in which the grade six students share their math and English learning using ICTs and recording some of their activities on a Wikispace.
What is your country doing right to support education?
Primary education is provided for all children from six to 13-years of age, and a fair Number go on to high school. However, classes are overcrowded with under-qualified
teaching staff. There has been a laptop roll-out program for teachers in previously disadvantaged schools, and in some provinces computer labs have been installed. These labs have not always been maintained so in many instances many of the computers are not working at all. The Western Cape is the province that probably has the best-case scenario of all provinces. There are many extremely well functioning ‘township’ schools.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
I think it is a case of finance. The existing teachers in our schools need to be given more opportunities for professional development. The teachers need to be valued and recognized for the impact that they are making on society. Once the existing educational infrastructure (teachers and school buildings) has been upgraded, more schools need to be built and more teachers trained and more resources placed in the
schools. Both the teachers and the students need to become engaged in the learning process to motivate the students to stay in school.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
Technology is what engages children today. So to be able to be innovative in educating our children, teachers need to embrace technology. Mentors are essential in each school to take the teachers through the process of using technology and 21st century skills in their teaching.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Plan the learning environment carefully and precisely in such a way that the students are able to take control of their own learning and work collaboratively and creatively using technology. This will give you the opportunity to engage them and consequently produce better results. Don’t be afraid to learn from the students that you teach.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be?
A solar-powered and web-enabled smartphone.
Experience global collaboration
with the Partners in Learning Network!
Innovate in the classroom, help your students build the skills they need for the future—such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity—with Partners in Learning.
You’ll meet other innovative teachers for collaboration opportunities, get access to free teacher resources, and learn about great ways to improve your personal teaching practice using technology.
About Linda Bradfield
Linda Bradfield is the ICT Coordinator at St Mary’s College, where she mentors and teaches her colleagues about the integration of ICT skills and 21st century learning through project-based learning.
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
Current residence: Johannesburg, South Africa
Education: Higher Diploma in Education, Psychology and Geography degree, MCSE, ICDL
Websites I check every day: http://headthoughts.co.za/edchatsa/ and Facebook
Person who inspires me most: Nelson Mandela
Favorite childhood memory: The day my brother was born
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Pleasure: St. Francis Bay, Eastern Cape to meet up with both my children who are away at university; Work: Cape Town to visit St Cyprian’s, a mentor school and Elkanah House, an innovative school in the use of ICTs
Favorite book: April Fool’s Day by Bryce Courtenay
Favorite music: 1975-1985 genre and classical music