Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A screaming need...

Over the past 2 months I have had the privilege to attend two separate and distinct events.

The first was organised by SchoolNetSA and was the initial training for Google Educator group Leaders and Trainers. About 30 people spent a weekend learning everything there was to know about Google in the classroom and how to enable teachers and allow them to use GAFE (Google Apps for Education) effectively in their classrooms.

The teachers and officials who attended the course were all highly knowledgable and had a need to spread the use of tech in the classroom beyond their own schools and into the wider community.

This event was held at a upmarket private school in Johannesburg, South Africa and the facilities available were top notch. We were able to explore all the tools that Google has made available to educators, all free of charge.

At one stage a few of us estimated that the combined technology in the room we were using was in excess of R500000 ($45000), macs, PC's, iPAds, Tablets, phones, Smartboards and all...

The second event was organised by the Corona Schools Trust in Lagos, Nigeria. I was invited to help introduce Google to the invited teachers. The trust had organisied a conference to introduce their teachers to the use of ICT's in the classroom, to show them the possibilities that tech offers them as teachers and to open their eyes to the possibilities of international cooperation. My role was to show the teachers the tools that Google offers a teacher.

This event hosted 1000 teachers over 5 days, 75 in a group and little or no access to computers and the internet.

The room I presented in was barely 6m by 6m and had no air-conditioner.

Two very different experiences, but similar in topic...

What was emphasised was the gulf in technology across the continent of Africa and the desperate need that teachers feel when they cannot access the amazing resources that the internet offers to them and to their students.

For those who are interested I am posting my report on the training:


Over the course of the 1,5 hour workshops I introduced the teachers to 6 tools that Google offers them. All the tools are made more effective using a Google account (
The first tool looked at was Gmail. Gmail offers a free mail service to any person on the planet, and although there are many such services, Gmail is the most common starting point on Google products. In most classes we looked at how to set up labels and filters and then talked about using them to manage email.
The workshop then moved on to looking at Gcal, the calendar functionality of gmail. Gcal is very effective for department meeting planning, parent teacher interview appointments and everyday planning. The workshop looked at how to use Gcal to send and accept meeting invitations.
Tool three was Google Drive, a free, online service offered by Google that allows a user to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more. The power of Drive is in the collaborative aspect of each document. They can be shared with as many users and necessary and only one copy of the document will exist. In the workshop teachers were shown how this might increase learning opportunities, even from a mobile device.
Each of the first three tools require the teachers to have a Google Account, the second group are available without an account, but can be used more effectively with and account. These tools are Google maps, and Google search.
In Maps we looked at virtual field trips using street view, in Youtube we looked at how to find subject specific videos that are relevant and how to download them for offline viewing using and finally in search the teachers were introduced to Google search operators and shown how to use them to make search results more relevant to their topic.
The idea of each workshop was to give an idea of the possibilities that Google offers teachers and students, to open their eyes to the range of free services that are available online and to start them thinking of ways to use these tools in an offline environment.
During each workshop I tried to gauge the ability and interest of the teachers, in terms of both teaching and learning with ICT. In this respect the teachers, in general, and the 150 or so who emailed me afterwards in particular seemed to recognise the importance of getting their students online. In fact, getting students online could boost the economy of the whole country and continent according to “Lions go digital: The Internet’s transformative potential in Africa” by McKinsey & Company (2013) in which they note that “Internet could contribute up to US$300 billion to African gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 if internet penetration becomes as widespread as that of mobile phones”.

I truly believe that by empowering our students we empower the country and continent and therefore my reflections and recommendations are based on the belief that the more students we have interacting with the different ICT’s and, more importantly, doing so online the better it is for all.
The first set of recommendations I make are ‘big vision’ goals that might not be immediately possible. The start of which is to continue the sort of training that was done over the course of the week. It is vital that the teachers in the city continue to experience the power and purpose that the various departments have provided them. Even more helpful would be to have smaller groups that are intensively trained and encouraged to implement the training, or even better, to train other teachers. The ‘ICT champion’ is a well used method of introducing ICT to a school or district.
Secondly, I would ask you to consider ways of getting the schools connected reliably. This can be done through IT labs, or in a more radical way, by looking at the impact of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs at schools around the world. The impact of accessible knowledge on the teaching and learning environment is huge and it allows the teacher to focus on skills development rather than content delivery.

On a more day to day level I would recommend getting Google Nigeria, who have a good education division, involved in your schools. By ‘Going Google’ schools get access to all of Google’s tools for all their staff and students. This allows the school to administer the email accounts and decide which tools the students can access through their email account ( and Once the school is registered and online the tools are free and the process is quite simple. Even if the connectivity is not available immediately I would recommend you register the schools domains and Google Apps for Education licence for future rollout.

Secondly I would pilot a BYOD solution in one or more schools and, from there, consider the impact BYOD has on teaching. Starting small would allow schools and districts to have the correct disciplinary and school processes in place before a larger rollout. BYOD also allows the schools to avoid the costs of assigning devices to students and the maintenance of said devices.

Finally I would suggest that a group of teachers who are really interested and able are trained to be trainers in Lagos. Local knowledge is always more powerful. There will always be a need for ‘outside’ trainers and the knowledge they have but they could train this smaller group and therefore have more impact on a larger number of teachers.


There is a high demand for access to ICT’s and the impact they could have on the teaching and learning environment of a school. By allowing teachers to see the possibilities doors are opened to future opportunities and growth.

Thank you for the opportunity to visit Nigeria, Lagos and CTC and I look forward to meeting more teacher sas this project moves forward


Thank you for taking the time to read this! Please feel free to add suggestions and if you have the inclination and time to connect with the teachers in Nigeria please join our Google Group at!forum/google-in-nigeria