Teachers, websites and coffee.

As mentioned in a previous post, I want to start posting some in-depth blogs about the various aspects of the Siyavula project plan. The most pressing issue that external stakeholders seem to be interested in is the reasoning for our platform choice.

Ultimately, we chose the platform that is most aligned with our primary needs and whose development roadmap we would complement most effectively. The first task (in hindsight) was to establish our primary needs. I will blog about the various distinct processes we went through in defining our needs before presenting our final platform choice and reasoning.

Establishing the distilled requirements for the Siyavula platform began with an expanded process of talking to teachers, individually and in groups. Amongst other things, we discussed:

  • sites and applications they use
  • what they do and don't like about them
  • current challenges they have in the classroom
  • what they think of current online educational resources

In South Africa, teachers are required to make a large amount of material for the new curriculum (not so new anymore). In OER circles I have heard people say that content is no longer the issue, however, the teacher's I have spoken to are very frustrated by the fact that they cannot find content aligned with the South Africa curriculum. In SA content creation is still very much an issue.

They do try to search for content and there are bits and pieces that they do use. On the topic of searching I found that it is very hard to find the material that they can use and sites which are repositories of links tend to be more frustrating than useful. The general remark being that teachers don't know what they are actually going to find at the end. There is some UI work to be done to resolve this.

New teachers can spend upwards of 3 hours preparing material every day, in addition to a full day's work. Tools for the automated generation of worksheets (Testbase for example) can make their lives much easier and would be welcome. I think that these tools would also allow teacher to deal with multi-grade classes. How data is stored in the repository will affect the viability of building tools for mining the data effectively.

A couple of mainstream relatively new SA repositories were described as having only very superficial content and the websites as too slow and confusing.

Not a comprehensive report but these were the key points which would relate to our platform decision which came out of the discussions. We also discussed many possible tools, ideas and other products and tools teachers use.


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