Information Technology has revolutionised our world, and a generation of children are growing up with no idea of how the world ever managed to communicate before the internet, texting, Mxit, YouTube and instant messaging.
Yet many in the older generation fail to recognise that Information Technology (IT) is so pervasive and powerful that it must be brought into the classroom to help achieve the goals of education.
That is something I become aware of as I saw the challenges my own kids faced at school. They attended a good school with great leaders and great educators – but often they ‘switched off’ and were just scraping by. One concern was their language learning, as they were struggling through daily worksheets to build their vocabulary. There had to be a better way; a way that gave them the tools to master a language without the friction - and could maybe add some fun.
The problem was not with the educators, as they were hard working, dedicated, and equally frustrated. The problem was not with the syllabus or vocabulary. The problem was, in fact, very simple.
We needed to stimulate the kids using methodologies that were familiar to them, and to do it in a way that enforced the disciplines of language learning. Having developed IT systems for many businesses and governmental organisations we recognised that IT provided the perfect answer.
Whuzoo partnered with the school’s language teachers to identify which aspects of the syllabus could benefit from interactive technology, and then combined subject matter and IT expertise to develop an IT solution for innovative language learning.
We used my kids as guinea pigs and almost immediately the friction disappeared. Now they were in charge of determining when to tackle their language homework or test their own spelling. By evaluating the marks they achieved and their attitude towards learning we could see how they had ‘switched on’ to language learning and how their confidence was developing.
Trial programmes for the grade 4-7 Afrikaans and isiZulu syllabuses showed encouraging results and the school evaluated their effectiveness against a broader sample of learners and their parents. The results confirmed the benefits.
We were now in a position to review the programme with the school management and academic heads who endorsed the language programmes as required resources for the relevant language syllabuses.
This ‘partnership in language learning’ fosters the collaboration that is essential to language learning, and allows everyone to identify areas for improvement or suggest ideas to enhance it.
The language programmes have been introduced to feeder schools, with new programmes developed for senior grades and in other languages.
The results continue to confirm the effectiveness of providing an education resource that appeals to kids by using technology, a language they are already familiar with.
The language learning initiative is still in its infancy, but its continued growth bears testimony to the fact that the innovative use of IT can help kids with their language learning – and with others areas of education, too.
About Whuzoo BrightSparks
Whuzoo BrightSparks CC was launched in 2008 and has developed language programs for English students learning Afrikaans, isiZulu, seSotho and Sepedi from grades 4-7. The programmes were initially developed with De La Salle Holy Cross Junior School in Victory Park, Johannesburg and have now been adopted by leading private and government schools including St David’s Marist, Cowan House, Randpark High, Michaelhouse, Grayston Prep, Knights Prep and St Andrew’s School for Girls.