Wednesday, 18 October 2017

SchoolNet turned 20 on Friday 6th October at the SchoolNet conference - and what a celebration it was!

SchoolNetSA turned 20 years old in 2017! This 20th Anniversary was celebrated on Friday October 5th at a well- attended cocktail function, and what a great celebration it was! It took place at Brescia House on the Friday evening as part of the SchoolNet ICT in the Classroom conference. The Telkom Foundation not only made it possible for a large number of teachers to attend the conference but also funded the birthday celebration. Telkom was one of the very first funders of SchoolNet back in the 1990s - so it was most appropriate that they were able to attend together with delegates and friends of SchoolNet to reminisce over the past 20 years.

During the event a number of dignitaries associated with SchoolNet during the past 20 years reminisced about the history of SchoolNet and its effect on equipping teachers around South Africa teachers.  This fitted in well with an anecdote from Janet Thomson’s article ‘Standing Room only’ where she mentions an interesting exercise that Sarietjie Musgrave conducted early in her keynote address. Sarietjie asked the delegates in her plenary to stand if they had changed the way they teach because of the impact of SchoolNet South Africa. The majority of the 400+ delegates gradually stood up. It was an eye-opener to see the effect SchoolNet had had on the teachers of South Africa over the past 20 years. Sarietjie confided afterwards that she wanted SchoolNet to see that.

The speakers at the 20th Anniversary provided an interesting kaleidoscope of SchoolNet’s journey during the last 20 years. They included Nathi Kunene Acting Head of the Telkom Foundation; Denis Brandjies, the first CEO of SchoolNet in its foundation days; the current Chairman of the SchoolNet board, Mashala Kapwe, and Janet Thomson who is the current Executive Director of SchoolNet.

Maggie Verster captured the speeches using Facebook Live and the video can be accessed at:

Vis Naidoo, who was one of the founding members of SchoolNet, sent a message of congratulations to SchoolNetSA. Vis currently lives in Canada, and could not attend the celebration. He was the longest serving board member, s well as being the chairman for many years when he was living in
Vis Naidoo – ex chairman of SchoolNet
and founding member in 1997
South Africa. He entitled his note ‘Congratulations SNSA – 20 years of making a difference’ in which he provided further snapshots of SchoolNet’s history. Here is the note, which explains the rationale behind the establishment of SchoolNet SA by the national education department at that time:

“WOW, I guess some things are meant to last.

When we decided to form SNSA, I can say, without any fear of contraction, this is an example of a ground-up movement. The genesis of using educational technology in the classroom started in a few provinces, mainly in ex-model C and private schools. The amazing thing about these teachers who were early adopters, they were keen to take educational technology to all schools and to benefit all learners in South Africa.

In 1996, I was appointed Director – Centre for Educational Technology and Distance Education at the national Department of Education and with my Team, we recognised the value of this ground-up movement and the potential of technology. The leadership of the Ministry and Department of Education recognised this, hence the establishment of the Centre and enabled us to advance various edtech initiatives.

SNSA has had executive directors that provided good leadership and guidance at different times in the history and development of the organization. Denis Brandjes was the first executive director and the right person to set up SNSA. I was fortunate to be part of the Board and represented the Department of Education. It was exciting times, we were starry-eyed about what we wanted to do and had good people both within and outside the country that supported us. Thank you, Denis, for your leadership of SNSA.

Rod Grewen took the helm during a difficult time in SNSA’s development and was able to provide a degree of consolidation that was essential at the time. He faced a tough Board and challenging external conditions in our school system. Thank you, Rod for helping with the consolidation of SNSA.

Janet Thomson is the current executive director and she has been instrumental in shaping the organization’s new vision, led it to become focused and ensured it is well managed and funded. She has also helped SNSA grow and have a presence in all provinces. Janet is an amazing leader who has taken the organization forward and ensured it is a central element of ICT in education processes and keeping the focus on supporting our teachers. Thank you, Janet, for your focus on building the organization and ensuring strong support for our teachers.

During the past 20 years, we have had esteemed and distinguished folks on the Board. I was a member of the inaugural Board and remained a member for the first 15 years, becoming the Chairperson in the latter year. It was a privilege to serve on the Board and to shape the organization. The current Board is tasked with ensuring SNSA does not remain stagnant or go into decline. It is tasked with directing SNSA to keep innovating and raise the bar on how edtech will support our teachers and learners.

To Janet and her team – thanks for believing in educational technology supporting learning and teaching. Thank you for believing in SNSA. Thank you for all the work you put into supporting our teachers and learners. It can seem like an endless task, a thankless task, sometimes it seems there is no progress, you have to put up with unfounded criticism – yet you have continued and I have not doubt you will persevere.

So, what will the next 20 years look like?

This is the challenge to the SNSA Board, Janet and her staff and most importantly, all of you at this conference – the leaders in the use of ICT in education. You need to keep this ground-up edtech movement going forward and keep making a difference to the learners of South Africa – one click at a time.

Thank you.”

After the interesting speeches at the celebration the birthday cake became the focus of attention for a while! 

Janet Thomson Executive Director of SchoolNet
- about to cut the cake
Before the cake was cut many teachers posed with the cake as part of the celebratory and joyful mood that prevailed.

The rest of the evening was spent networking, chatting, taking selfies with colleagues, dancing, eating and drinking, and have loads of fun. Teachers definitely know how to enjoy themselves!

The SchoolNet YouTube channel has many videos that capture the history of SchoolNet over the past 20 years. Here are the links:

- SchoolNet History – from the Beginning
- 20 years of SchoolNet Trainers
- SchoolNet staff from 1997 to 2017
- SchoolNetters 2005 to 2013
- SchoolNetters the last 10 years
- Remembering Nomty
- A photostory from 10 years ago

Further photos of the 20th birthday celebration as well as the rest of the Conference can be accessed on Google photos at the following link:

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Free 365Edu Summit in Johannesburg 28-29th October 2017 at Brescia House School

Here's an event you do not want to miss! It is Microsoft's Free 365Edu Summit to be held in Johannesburg on 28-29th October 2017 at Brescia House School. This will be a fun, high energy weekend networking with renowned educators and with the latest technologies embedded into the event.

What is 365edu all about?
365edu is all about inspiring growth and change in teaching and learning. You are already an amazing teacher, and you will leave this event with confidence in tools and strategies you can put into practice the very next day. Explore the latest in technologies to enhance the classroom like you have never seen before. You control your weekend and choose sessions that match your objectives to become a better teacher. Explore, play and learn in an environment built for growth.

Who are the speakers?

Craig Kemp, Ben Parsons and Paul Crossley are the featured speakers. 

Beginning the program is renowned educator and Twitter chat pioneer Craig Kemp from New Zealand, inspiring attendees on the topic of the connected learner and educator. Next, attendees will separate into concurrent breakout sessions on diverse topics from Skype in the classroom to product design and 3D printing in Minecraft, from English to Maths. Underpinning the event is pedagogical framework for 21st Century Learning. At the end of day one, all attendees will have the option to share something new they have learned in the super fun Demo Slams session

Joining the core 365edu team will be exemplary educators from across the region. There will be a panel session to go along to meet with the presenters and ask for tips or tricks for the classroom.

The 365edu South Africa Summit is being held in conjunction with Brescia House School.

What can you expect to get out of this event?
1. Connect
Network with both local and international educators sharing best practice and innovative education strategies.
2. Grow
Learn and grow with the latest technology tools from Office 365, Minecraft, VR, robotics, drones and much more!
3. Get certified
Participation in the event will count as credits towards your Microsoft Innovative Educator application..leaving certified ready to take your students to the next level!

Can you submit a presentation?
Yes! Session proposals are being accepted. Please email with your proposal. 

How do you register?
Go to to find out more

Don't miss this!

Monday, 9 October 2017

Standing Room Only @SchoolNetSA 2017 Conference - by Janet Thomson

Mr Enver Surty, Deputy Minister of Education and Mr Nathi Kunene of the Telkom Foundation 
The Deputy Minister wowed delegates with his opening address at the 2017 ICT in the Classroom Conference held at Brescia House School in Johannesburg at the weekend.

SchoolNet South Africa proudly hosted the national ‘ICT in the Classroom’ conference at Brescia House School from 5 – 7 October 2017. Over 400 hundred delegates from around the country attended the conference, including educators, provincial and national educational department officials, sponsors, as well as representatives from other development and training organizations.

Shafika Isaacs facilitated the opening ceremony for the 2017 ICT in the Classroom Conference. Shafika Isaacs is currently with UNICEF and working in advisory capacity to the National Department of Wducation. She was therefore well placed to introduce the Deputy Minster to make the opening address. Shafika walked delegates through the context of digital learning in South Africa and provided a brief history of SchoolNet. She mentioned that SchoolNet had been founded in 1997 as a national organisation following the merger of a number of informal provincial groupings of teachers and applauded the work that SchoolNet had been doing for the past two decades. She particularly paid tribute to Nomty Gcaba who had been associated with SchoolNet from the late 1990s in KZN and who had sadly passed away this year. She recalled her infectious enthusiasm and how she had taught a Xhosa dance to hundreds of delegates at a Gala dinner in Russia. Shafika is an independent consultant for digital learning for social equity and a most well-published and well-respected researcher in the field of digital learning. Shafika introduced the principal of the Brescia House Primary School, Ms Ann Owgan who opened the conference with a prayer. Shafika then introduced Ms Benedikte Nott, principal of the Brescia House High School who welcomed delegates to the school and the province. SchoolNet remains indebted to Brescia House who not only took responsibility for much of the planning and organisation but also agreed to host a conference for 400 delegates while school was in session.

Speaking from the heart and not from the script, the Deputy Minister of Education delivered a most engaging opening address to the 2017 SchoolNet South Africa teachers’ conference. Delegates felt they were being treated to a real-life insight into the national department´s thinking. Not only was the address pitched at teachers and the most crucial issues facing them currently but it also outlined the forward planning and wider policy development around digital learning for South Africa. The Deputy Minister included a tribute to Oliver Tambo and also conveyed a broader message for our overseas presenters who were most appreciative of the national and continental context provided by the Deputy Minister. The tweet from Ollie Bray, one of the brilliant keynotes from Scotland provides some sense of the impact of the Deputy Minister’s words,
@olliebray  Oct 5  impressed by @DBE_SA DepMin Enver Surty speaking at #SNSA17 about vision & values without the political rhetoric that we often get in UK."
Maggie Verster, the renowned Maths and social media guru, managed to live stream the Deputy Minister’s address via Facebook. The full speech can be viewed here:

This conference has been a premier event for teachers who are passionate about ICT in education for the past twenty years and has been hosted in different venues around the country on a bi-annual basis. The Deputy Minster made reference to the interesting themes for the conference which were:
  • Digital Learning
  • Innovations in Primary Schooling 
  • Leadership for Change
  • Connecting Classrooms
  • Gaming and Makerspaces
  • Technologies in the classroom – for exhibitors

SchoolNet SA was very fortunate this year to secure the amazing international guest speakers and workshop leaders, Stephen Reid, Ollie Bray, and Peter Rafferty, as well as our own Sarietjie Musgrave, each with their own fields of expertise but all with the same passion for making teaching and learning exciting.

Stephen Reid from Scotland was the opening keynote speaker and shared innovative examples of how to link digital technologies to create rich learning experiences. Stephen’s passion for merging multiple technologies with innovative pedagogy to allow learners to immerse themselves in learning shone through his keynote address as well as throughout the many workshops he ran. Stephen runs a company called Immersive Minds

Sarietjie Musgrave was the keynote speaker for the middle day of the conference and as usual managed to pin point crucial points for teachers and particularly around values and ethics.  Her presentation title was Anywhere, Anytime Learning and touched partially on learning that is enabled by technology.  An interesting exercise that Sarietjie conducted early in her address was seeing how many delegates stood up when she asked delegates to stand if they had changed the way they teach because of SchoolNet South Africa – whether it had been a conference or a training session. It was an eye-opener and a time for SchoolNet staff to feel proud. 

Peter Rafferty from Liverpool had been scheduled to conduct a series of workshops around innovative ideas for digital learning in the classroom. He was more than willing to repeat his popular sessions but also kindly volunteered for some extra sessions where there were gaps in the programme.

Ollie Bray was the closing keynote and made a brilliant job - with delegates tweeting his every statement, but he also worked extremely hard during the 3 days prior, delivering a series of varied and brilliant workshops on a wide range of topics from social media use, Google Earth and Geocaching.

Check out the SchoolNet SA Facebook page for more details around the conference and updates including uploaded presentations shared by most of the presenters.

The sponsors for the conference this year included the Telkom Foundation who not only made it possible for a large number of teachers to attend but also funded the cocktail function for the 20th Anniversary Celebration of SchoolNet South Africa. Telkom was one of the very first funders of SchoolNet back in the 1990s - so it was most appropriate that Telkom were able to be together with delegates and friends of SchoolNet to reminisce over the past 20 years.

The National Department of Basic Education provided the conference lanyards, Microsoft was a silver sponsor, providing the conference bags and water bottles as well as funding Stephen Reid’s attendance. Vastratech donated a SMART KAPP 84” board as a prize and Computers4Kids donated a Windows Cloud book as a prize. Academic Partnerships and Mwabu were bronze sponsors.

The conference included DBE presentations and workshops around the newly-approved Professional Development Framework for Digital Learning. These were delivered by Gerald Roos on behalf of the DBE and provided an overview of the Framework, its premises and key components, including an introduction to the supporting resources with explanations of how educators could use these resources to plan their professional development and how to develop their own subject-related examples of the teaching change frame.

With approximately 400 delegates at the 2017 ICT in the Classroom conference it was clear that teachers considered it well worth the effort to sacrifice their school holidays. Some had not seen colleagues since the previous SchoolNet conference and really appreciated the camaraderie of other pioneering educators and the wealth of innovative ideas packed into one big vibrant conference.

Photo gallery
The various photos taken at the conference will be added to the SchoolNet website's Photo Gallery in due course.

Video footage
To access Maggie Verster's videos that she live streamed on Facebook:
There is also some video footage from Peter Rafferty of the prize giving ceremony which can be accessed at:

Friday, 6 October 2017

Useful Google in Education posts this week #114

After looking through all the Google posts that were shared to various subscriptions recently, these are a selection that look useful for teachers   . (The link to previous posts can be found here

Monday, 2 October 2017

Useful Microsoft in Education posts this week #124

The Internet is currently full of posts about using Microsoft products effectively in the classroom. Here are a The Internet is currently full of posts about using Microsoft products effectively in the classroom. Here are a number of them from this past week. The list is embedded below but can also be found at . The link to the back-dated posts is: