Noxolo Buyeye had to shrug off her initial anxieties about using technology in the classroom; today she feels she can’t teach, let alone live without her tablet
Noxolo Buyeye was born and schooled in the Eastern Cape. She taught for many years in the Eastern Cape before coming to the Western Cape. She is currently a permanent staff member at Solomon Qatyana Primary, in Asanda village near Somerset West, where she teaches grade one. She is also head of department responsible for both grade R and grade one. Buyeye believes that like building a house, learning must be built on a strong foundation. She describes herself as a teacher who loves challenges and always requests that difficult learners be placed in her class so that she can help them build a firm base.
Buyeye is one of the project teachers in the SchoolNet project Learning Gains through Play (LGP) funded by the DG Murray Trust. She is the first to point out that she has benefited from the LGP Project by growing her personal technological skills. At the start of the project she had never used a tablet or a smartphone. Her skills were limited to typing on a computer and printing her work — that was all! She was unaware of the email and Facebook. The LGP project motivated her to learn to master technology. It began with creating her email address and being able to use it to communicate and share her photos. Now if her tablet’s battery dies, she is lost without it. And recently, when it was sent for repair, she said she wasn’t sure she would survive!
Buyeye has enjoyed collaborating with other teachers and schools throughout the project. All the teachers at her school are isiXhosa-speaking. She values meeting a range of different people at workshops and being exposed to their cultures. Buyeye also believes her confidence in interacting with others — especially when speaking in English — has grown tremendously. She feels that the project has raised her profile, as she is now better known. The opportunity to travel to Durban to participate in the SchoolNet SA conference was her highlight. It exposed her to a great number of people and boosted her confidence, passion and reputation. When she was requested to make a presentation at the Reading Association of South Africa international conference at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town, she handled it with finesse.
She feels that her teaching practice has been completely changed through the LGP project. Buyeye has always believed that learners love technology and that as teachers “we must move forward with them, not back”. She believes that it is critical for teachers to have their own personal tablets before they can use them in the classrooms for their work. She feels that schools must invest in teacher technology first, saying “you must have a car to learn to drive”. Buyeye says that when she trains teachers she starts with smartphones to get them on board, as they can see tablets are not very different from their phones. Teachers who don’t have smartphones find the tablets more difficult to use. Buyeye believes that technology must always play a part in lesson planning and learner assessment.
Xboxes improves playing
Buyeye believes that her views about the value of play at school have changed a lot through the LGP project. The use of the Xbox introduced more play aspects. The indoor games have solved problems of being unable to do physical education outside when it rains, which happens frequently. Her school has two Xboxes and this has made sharing between the eight classes much easier. The Xboxes have even been used at school fundraisers — the parents eagerly pay to take turns playing the games, and this has generated funds for the school.
Buyeye has registered for an online course as she wants to learn more and upgrade her skills and knowledge. She wants to grow so that she can help teachers beyond her own school. Her school is the highest overall achiever in the project. At the start it was ranked ninth out of 12 schools, based on Annual National Assessments results. Not only did her school make the largest learning gains over the three-year period of any school project, but it also achieved the highest actual overall results when compared to all the other schools. This is an extraordinary achievement and testament to the commitment and focused energy of the teachers and the senior management team as embodied by Buyeye.
Buyeye’s advice to teachers who are introducing technology in the classroom is to be totally committed to seeing it through to the end. She says there must be no half measures. The now famous quotation from Buyeye very early on in the LGP sums up her attitude as an early adopter: “I am 50-something years old; I had not touched a tablet before this project. Now I cannot live without it and I cannot teach without it.”
This article is part of the SchoolNet South Africa’s series of articles on the innovative use of digital technology and learning in the classroom. Visit: www.schoolnet.org.za