Tag: schools

Post-it notes with emojis. Locker magnets that resemble pizza and poop. Pencil boxes featuring T.rex. These are some of the many back-to-school items currently sitting on the shelves of a Wal-Mart store in Toronto.

But Rhonda Johnson, of Unionville, Ont., skipped all of that during a recent visit as she was browsing through the store with her nine-year-old son, Jahziah.
“I am the type of parent who buys something that is going to be functional and serve its purpose,” she says. “It’s going to be plain. It’s not going to be glittery.”

Back-to-school supplies, particularly stationery, have changed considerably in recent years, and are now marketed as “fashionable” items. Some feel the items allow kids to express themselves, but others argue that they detract from learning and are a waste of money.
Ms. Johnson finds fun, fashion-forward stationery expensive and “unnecessary.”

“I do not conform to society’s way of dragging you into certain trends,” she says.
The 42-year-old buys only unadorned stationery for her son, and it has always been that way for him and his older brother, Dre.
But that hasn’t stopped Jahziah from asking for a Pokemon binder or a notebook graced with the Minions from Despicable Me.
“I’ve said no for so long … [but] he still asks because it’s attractive,” Ms. Johnson says. “It’s marketing.”
Meanwhile, some 40 students in a small town in Britain won’t be allowed to use fancy gadgets at school, but not because their parents said so.

Ian Goldsworthy, a Grade 6 teacher at a school in Potters Bar, slightly north of London, has banned novelty stationery – erasers in the form of nail polish, that new “it” plastic water bottle, pencil cases almost taller than the child carrying them – from his classroom.
“It was causing too many arguments,” he says, noting that his students would flaunt the latest gimmick and wait for others to notice, get distracted when someone pulled out something shiny or sparkly and become obsessed when things went missing.

He says he had enough around Easter of 2016, when he asked his students to empty their desk drawers and put anything that they didn’t need for the lesson at hand in their backpacks.
“It wasn’t a big revolt,” he says. “There was some disappointment, but they were pretty understanding.”
They talked about the reason behind his decision as a class.
“It wasn’t me just saying from [up] high, ‘This is how it’s going to be,'” Mr. Goldsworthy says. “They could see the logic of the argument. [They] knew it would help [them] focus.”

On the first day of school every year, Mr. Goldsworthy draws up a classroom contract with his students about the rules they think will best support their learning. He’ll be adding “only bring in stationery I need” this time.
Not all teachers feel the same way.

Liane Zafiropoulos, who teaches Grade 5 at a school in Ajax, Ont., doesn’t have a problem with trendy stationery. She says her students already know the general rule that only items that infringe on their learning will be banned.
“As long as the children are writing and learning, I am happy,” she says.
The 40-year-old keeps a treasure box of special stationery in her classroom, which she lets students pick from whenever they exhibit good behaviour.
Ms. Zafiropoulos says children’s stationery is an expression of their individuality. “We might as well put them in uniforms if we are going to give them all plain pencils,” she says.
But what bothers Ms. Zafiropoulos is that some of her students cannot afford certain back-to-school supplies. “They illustrate how commercialism consumes us,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s the corporations who get richer and the families who suffer.”

Households in Canada are expected to spend $883 on back-to-school shopping this year, up from $450 last year, according to a recent Angus Reid poll of more than 1,500 Canadians.
David Lewis, an assistant professor of retail management at Ryerson University, says manufacturers are trying to make stationery – what was traditionally a relatively utilitarian and straight-forward type of product – more “hedonistic.”
“If you can turn a pencil into a toy, then it creates an entirely new market for existing products,” he says, adding that stationery is now “more fun, exciting and pleasurable.”
Mr. Lewis also sees interesting parallels between how cereal and stationery are marketed to children these days. He says both products serve different purposes for the purchaser and the influencer. “Parents are looking at nutrition,” he says. “Kids are looking at fun,” which means cartoon characters and bright food colouring.

It’s the same with stationery, where parents are evaluating functions, while kids are concerned with fun and being unique, Mr. Lewis says.
Patty Sullivan, a Toronto mother of two, doesn’t mind.
“It makes [my kids] more willing to go back to school,” she says. “They complain less.”
She also sees it as a way for children to personalize their stuff and show their friends what they like. She recently bought 18 scented markers – which smell like cotton candy, cappuccino, evergreen trees and brick oven – for $10 at a DeSerres art supply store.
If Canadian schools were ever to follow in Mr. Goldsworthy’s footsteps, she thinks teachers should consult parents first. It would be kind of a big deal for her children, she says.
Her six-year-old, Aliyah, says she would feel “bad,” as would her 10-year-old sister, Veronica.
“I would probably feel disappointed and depressed,” says Veronica. “I like seeing my happy and amusing [stationery] in class.”
A retired elementary school teacher in London, Ont., can still relate to that feeling.
It’s why Debra Rastin discouraged – instead of banned – her students from using pencils with anything at the end, from 2010 to 2015, the last five years of her career. Whether it was trolls with blue hair or soccer balls, she considered them “toys” and too distracting.
But the 63-year-old also remembers what it’s like to be 6 and excited about having something new to bring to school.
“Fifty years ago, a pack of pencil crayons was fashion-forward,” she says.

By Chris Young for The Globe and Mail

Virtual Teacher platform launched in SA

Vodacom and the Eastern Cape Department of Education have launched ‘Virtual Teacher’, a platform that allows teachers to deliver lessons to multiple remote classes. The move follows Vodacom’s Programme for Mobile Devices introduced in the province earlier this year to promote the use of digital technology in Eastern Cape schools.

Virtual Teacher enables teachers or lecturers to deliver lessons through a range of smart devices, learners can join classes from anywhere and at any time. For the first time in South Africa, the technology can be accessed from any personal device.

The platform is supported by portable hardware which delivers high-quality visuals and sound. It can also accommodate unlimited viewer numbers. The technology enables live interaction with the remote audience through a texting Q & A facility for written responses during the lesson.

Vuyani Jarana, Chief Officer at Vodacom Business, says: “Vodacom is working with the Eastern Cape Department of Education to address some of the challenges facing our education system, particularly in rural and underperforming schools. This is all about bringing innovative technology to those who need it most in order to improve learning outcomes for all education segments in our country. The future of the South African education system is digital and we must embrace the opportunities this offers to leapfrog infrastructural backlogs and legacy issues in our schools.”

In order to improve the matric pass rate in the province, the Eastern Cape Department of Education will use the Virtual Teacher platform to provide extra classes to students at selected districts in the province. Lessons will be delivered remotely by some of the country’s best teachers, with an emphasis on Mathematics, Science and Accounting. Students from various locations will be transported to teaching sites in the Eastern Cape, including Mdantsane, Maluti, Lusikisiki and Mt Frere.

The Eastern Cape Department of Education’s Superintendent General, Themba Kojana, says: “The Eastern Cape Department of Education is promoting interactive virtual teaching and learning in the province, particularly in rural communities. Technology such as the Virtual Teacher platform allows teachers to interact with remote learners to increase their understanding of school subject material, with a goal to improve learning outcomes in the province.”

The Virtual Teacher platform encompasses a camera, microphone and streaming unit which can be streamed from any device. Lessons can be pre-recorded if needed and recorded content can also be downloaded to any device. The platform is easy to use and can be linked to a school website. Content can also be zero rated by Vodacom if required.

By Fundisiwe Maseko for www.itnewsafrica.com

Schools involved in price-fixing scandal

The Competition Commission says they have extended their probe into school uniform price fixing to the rest of the country.

The commission says this decision comes after they have received nine complaints since the initial reports in January.

The commission says the investigation will focus on all schools in the country including private schools such under Curro, Advetech and Kayalami, who were among those complained about.

The complaints have come from businesses who have foreclosed because of exclusive contracts schools have with some suppliers and parents who are forced to buy from certain suppliers.

Spokesperson Sipho Ngwema says they have found merit in some of these complaints.

“We are continuing to probe others and once we are finished we’ll take a decision on whether to refer certain schools and contracted business the competition tribunal. If there are other means to address this before the tribunal, we are open to that.”

By Tebogo Tshwane for Eyewitness News

Following years of government budget cuts, parents are now turning to crowdfunding Web sites in order to provide basic school supplies.

Appeals have been launched on websites including Justgiving.com for online donations towards items such as whiteboards and computers, as well as to pay for crossing attendants.

These include one for Camelsdale Primary School, which set up a page to raise money for a replacement whiteboard.

The drastic measures are being publicised by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), who have set up a ‘School Cuts’ website which shares details of the more than 18,000 schools that could face further cuts.

The website contains a tool with which people can check how their school will be affected, while urging voters to petition their local MP candidates to oppose more cuts before the election.

The project, which is also backed by NAHT, The Education Union (ATL) and GMB, also forecasts the future for UK education and claims that by 2022, 93% of schools will have per-pupil funding cut.

According to the National Audit Office, the Tory pledge to inject £4bn into education, thus changing the funding formula, could actually result in 9,000 schools facing more cuts.

In a blog, the Department of Education deny claims made in a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) that schools are not protected from further funding cuts.

They state: “That is not true – we have protected schools from losing more than 3% per pupil and that protection is guaranteed for the lifetime of the formula.

“[…] Indeed, there has been a substantial increase in school funding over the years.”

Basing findings on a National Audit office report into school financial sustainability, a spokesperson writes: “The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at more than £40 bn in 2016-17 – and that is set to rise as pupil numbers rise over the next two years.”

Prime Minister has echoed this claim several times, stating in an interview with Andrew Marr: “The level of funding going into schools is at record level.”

However, Professor Sandra McNally from the School of Economics, University of Surrey, published an article​ fact-checking this “highest level on record” claim.

She explains that only the “per pupil expenditure” (the amount spent on each pupil) is relevant, rather than the total amount of money available.

According to Professor McNally, current spending per pupil was “largely frozen in real terms” between 2010 and 2016.

And as onward spending is frozen in cash terms, this will likely lead to a “real terms reduction of around 6.5 per cent by 2019-2020”.

She explained this would, in reality, be a real-term fall in per-pupil spending – the biggest in 30 years.

“Theresa May’s claim is misleading because it omits important information,” Professor McNally concluded.

By Harriet Marsden for www.independent.co.uk

South Africa’s schools are burning

On 5 May, 19 schools were damaged and burned down in Vuwani, Limpopo. Earlier this year, there were a number of attempted arson attacks at the University of Witwatersrand and the gutting of building at North West University’s Mafikeng campus earlier this year. And now the University of Johannesburg is the latest casualty, after a fire that caused damage estimated at R100-million.

Management at the University of Johannesburg has to find alternative venues for graduations and examinations after a fire caused extensive damage to the main auditorium at the university’s Auckland Park Kingsway Campus in the early hours of Monday morning.

A fire, caused by a petrol bomb that was tossed into another building, was extinguished by security staff at the same campus less than a week ago.

Addressing the media yesterday, deputy vice-chancellor of strategic services Mpho Letlape described yesterday’s fire as horrifying.

She says the fire was caused by a “disappearing minority” who were desperate, but had failed, to mobilise support from the larger student body.

“They have tried, over and over again, to disrupt the academic programme and they will fail again. These arsonists will be found and jailed,” Letlape says.

The 1000-seater auditorium, where graduations normally take place, and computer labs, where examinations and career assessments for students and prospective students were conducted, were damaged in the fire.

“We will do everything, in co-operation with the authorities, to track these criminals down, prosecute them and send them to prison for as long as possible.”

Exams were scheduled to take place in the computer labs, and with graduation ceremonies scheduled for next month, the fire has left the university “inconvenienced”.

It now has to find alternative venues.

Tshireletso Mati, chairman of the EFF student command at UJ, dismissed accusations made earlier by newly elected student representative council president Onwabile Lubhelwana, who told the media the EFF was to blame for the fire.

Mati says the student command had planned to “demonstrate” outside campus yesterday against the suspension of 12 students but it had to postpone.

“We condemn the violence and criminality that occurred. We distance ourselves from such and we condemn the utterances of the SRC president that the EFF was behind this incident,” Mati says.

The City Press reported on Sunday that UJ spent nearly double its monthly expenditure on security from R3,3-million before the #FeesMustFall campaign to R6-million between November 2015 and January this year.

By Poppy Louw for www.timeslive.co.za

Students in Emily Lehne’s sixth grade science class have been charged with the task of building structures to demonstrate motion. To do so, the Beacon Middle School students are using technology not many have heard of: a 3D pen.

The technology is similar to a 3D printer, but on a much smaller and handheld scale.

Lehne wrote a grant to get two pens, which she received in December. By the end of January, the school had bought a dozen more for the students to use.

The pens allow the students to create something tangible to show how a concept works.

3d pens

“Every single kid was actively engaged and is participating which, when it comes to middle school students, can sometimes be a challenge in itself,” Lehne says.

To use the pen, one must insert a strand of plastic filament into the unit, which heats it up. The user then controls how quickly the plastic is dispersed. The pen can be used on paper and the user can then take what’s drawn off it.

As Riley Neall and Hanna Kozach were trying to build a house for the person Zoe Robinson and Keandra Dunning were creating, they were able to use the pen to build up the base of the structure. Then they welded a green roof they had already created on top.

Neall thinks more classrooms ought to have the technology.

“This is something to make learning fun,” he says.

Other students used the 3D pens to create an airplane and the Eiffel Tower, a car and a stoplight and a shark and a piece of coral. After creating the objects, the students will explain the motion theories by using what they’ve created.

“It gets them demonstrating their knowledge they need to know but in an interesting and unique way,” Lehne says.
“(It) keeps them creative and gives them a chance to express themselves.”

By Jon Bleiweis for www.delmarvanow.com

Schools readiness for education technology

As with any technology, there are always early adopters, followed by users who implement the technology when it is already accepted, and finally late adopters, those who implement the technology after it is being widely used, says Bez Sangari, CEO Sangari SA the wholly-owned South African training company. 

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