Teaching phonics in Nigeria

For the past few years I have been working (for Cambridge University Press) on the development of print and digital material for the Nigerian schools’ market. With a large and competitive schooling system, this has proven a challenging and engaging experience. In order to differentiate ourselves from our competitors we have tried a number of strategies. One of the more successful ones so far has been the development of an integrated digital phonics course, provided with our print English textbooks. Phonics are already included in the NERDC English curriculum and covered by the teacher in the classroom, but with many Nigerians second or third language English-speakers, correct pronunciation is highly valued.

But first, what is phonics?

Phonics is used to teach reading through the development of a child’s phonemic understanding. The aim of teaching phonics is for a learner to associate the smallest unit of sound (or phoneme) with the corresponding spelling patterns they represent. Learners will eventually be able to decode new words by sounding them out. It is a very successful approach to teaching reading and pronunciation, used in schools globally. 

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The Digital Classroom Resource

I recently published a new technology resource book for South African schools, with award-winning ICT teacher Matt Hains. The Digital Classroom Resource is a print and digital reference tool to support learners in their understanding of the theoretical concepts presented in Computer Applications Technology. This book covers terminology for the FET Phase of the South African Computer Applications Technology curriculum, as prescribed by the CAPS (Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement), and is written in clear, easy-to-understand language with diagrams and images to illustrate concepts. One of the key assessment standards is being able to “describe the terminology of relevant computer hardware and software” and this title responds directly to this curriculum requirement.

Videos

We created a number of short video clips on topics in the book. These could be used by a teacher to introduce a lesson or material to engage learners in new ways, perhaps in a Level 2 activity structured according to the Digital Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Operating System

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Interactions in English

Over the past few years, I have been putting my English degrees to good use and publishing a series of English language books for Francophone schools in Cameroon. The series is called Interactions in English and follows the new curriculum, introduced in 2015, which focuses strongly on communicating in English in the real world, and aims to provide the language skills necessary to function successfully at home, at school, work and in the wider world.  

The textbook is organised into five modules which include Family and Social Life; Economic Life and Occupations; Environment, Well-being and Health; Citizenship/Human Rights; and Media and Communication. Each module has 3 units with an assessment section at the end of each module. 

The series was selected by the Cameroonian Ministry of Education as the approved textbooks for use by all Cameroonian pupils, which I was well chuffed about.

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Are South African schools ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution?

As a developing country still dependant on labour-intensive industries such as mining and agriculture, South Africa is at a risk of not optimally taking advantage of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the rapid advancement of new technologies that is building on the developments of the third industrial revolution (the advent of electronics and automated production). According to Klaus Schwab, the Founder and executive chairman of the WEF, the fourth industrial revolution ‘is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres’.

The increasing intersection between physical and digital technologies is changing the world of work in several key ways. As Schwab says, ‘physical products and services … can now be enhanced with digital capabilities that increase their value’. Today’s worker needs to understand how digital and physical components can combine to create faster, more efficient and effective products and hybrid solutions.

In education, the challenge is to equip learners in South Africa to function effectively in the 21st Century, and use technology to innovate, collaborate and create.

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Literary tourism: walk in footsteps of Alan Paton

KwaZulu-Natal artworks are finally getting deserved recognition and are being likened to British modernism, while writers and poets are also getting accolades in A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal. This is an authoritative literary tourism guide that helps readers trace the steps of famous authors and poets from the province. While this can be considered a niche audience, the literary history in the book forms an important part of the South African identity, which makes the guide a must-have.