Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Being proudly South African on heritage day

Heritage day, also known as national braai day, is the public holiday that we as South Africans get to celebrate on the 24th of September each year.  On this specific day we  are encouraged to celebrate our culture, diversity in beliefs and traditions and the fact that this beautiful county belongs to us all.

Former South African president and father of our Rainbow Nation concisely explained it when he said the following in a heritage day speech: “When our fist democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has  profound power to help build our new nation”.

The unique opportunity we have with heritage day is to define our cultural identity. It has the power to affirm our diverse cultures and in so doing shape our national character as a “Rainbow Nation”.  We get to be one, be at peace with who we are.  South Africa has many achievements especially in addressing past inequities, Heritage day gives us the opportunity to reflect and teach our youth not about our history alone, but also about what we can accomplish with unity.

This day also promotes the need for a new South African identity, fostering reconciliation and promoting the notion that variety is a national asset rather than  igniting conflict.

Having 11 official languages and coining Table Mountain, as one of the 7 natural wonders of this world is what makes this country great.  We have the power to accomplish anything we want to achieve, overcoming Apartheid is but one of this country’s many successes.

This word says it all; ‘simunye’ we are one! Tell us, what do you enjoy most about South Africa?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Enhancing reading through technology

Being part of the twenty first century and the technology it offers deems an uncertain and sometimes scary future, but not necessarily for our youth as they are an integral part of the way technology is shaping our future.
Children nowadays are digital natives and for them the future isn’t moving at a fast enough pace. Technology is part of their everyday lives and many of them are adept at Internet research, cell phone browsing, social sharing, navigating through interactive books and multi media production.  Thus this dooming technology, as we sometimes perceive it, is providing valuable support in attaining reading and writing skills.

In literacy, instruction technology has both traditional and authentic uses, the traditional instruction implies skills reinforcement; for example, students who need additional practice in reading might work individually on computers that are equipped with reading-comprehension software.  Whereas the authentic instruction will be using technology to achieve a complex task; for example students who need to write an essay will need the internet for research and word processing tools to write and format text.

Considering assistive technology is no longer a subject to linger about, but one that is vital to help those that struggle with reading related issues such as; reading fluency, comprehension and decoding.
Assistive technology that assist with reading fall into several categories:

Audio books
The recording and presentation of text, referred to as audio books or books on tape, promotes students interest in reading as well as better their comprehension of text and some studies have shown this technology to have been used successfully by students who are visually impaired.

Paper based computer pen
This technology records and links audio to what a person writes using a pen and special paper. It basically assists the person to record audio whilst taking notes. The user will then be able to later listen to the recording when going through his/her notes.  This technology may be beneficial to those that struggle with reading in recognizing words as well as those that suffer from memory loss.

Screen readers or electronic text
Screen reading technology is programmed to read the text as presented on the screen of your computer. This digitized reading offers assistance in the pronunciation of words and supports as well as coaches the student as they are reading text. This helps in the decoding of text as well as promotes reading fluency.

Tape recordings
Tape recorders allow a student to listen to pre-recorded text or to capture spoken information.  The student can then later listen to the track in an environment that he/she feels safe to study in. This has proven to be valuable to students who struggle with attention deficits and reading.

Whether this technology is used to improve the skills of those you teach, the primary goal or objective should be to utilize digital natives to use their technology to address their own needs.  Although much is still in the grey as to the promise these technologies offer, and researchers still warrant a cautious approach, the reality is that this technology is available and should at some point be used to benefit the educational approach.