GWF Hosts First Ever Bilateral Youth ConservationTech Conference

An exciting milestone was reached at Good Work Foundation (GWF) this week as the organisation hosted its first ever bilateral youth conference, titled: “Education, Technology & Conservation: a Rural Convergence.”

In collaboration with the US embassies of South Africa and Swaziland, the conference, hosted at Hazyview Digital Learning Campus, was a ‘future study’, asking young Africans to imagine how the possibilities of “edutech” are going to converge with efforts in conservation.

Delegates from GeneratioNext Mamelodi and Soshanguve in Pretoria, GeneratioNext in Swaziland, as well as GWF’s Madlala Digital Learning Campus engaged in the two-day workshop that included discussions on blended learning, drone technology and ideas for incorporating conservation into the syllabus of rural, low-income South African schools. Part of the programme included observing GWF’s Open Learning programme, which allows local primary schools to outsource elements of their digital, mathematics and English learning to the Hazyview campus.

US Embassy Pretoria’s Cultural Affairs Specialist, Bonolo Cebe, tweeted after one session in the Open Learning Academy: “I’m being schooled by grade 4s on how to fly an aeroplane. Tech has made so much possible.”

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Twitter post courtesy of Bonolo Cebe.

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Instagram post courtesy of Zanelle Thabede from Swaziland.

Most of the delegates agreed that the digital age allows curriculums to be more creative and flexible, but that a lack of digitally trained teachers is restricting a revolution. “Tomorrow’s digital: we need more academic excellence workshops for teachers,” said one delegate.

The delegates concluded the workshop with a game drive in the Kruger National Park. Of the 30 delegates, only five had ever visited Kruger, one of the largest trans-frontier conservation parks in the world.

GWF’s rural Hazyview Campus provides learning in the “languages of access” – digital and English – to rural school-leavers as well as primary school students in grade four and five. The organisation recently added a Conservation Academy that has two primary purposes: (1) emotionally connect rural South Africans to the natural beauty of our planet; and (2) connect rural South Africans to a future in which they are participants in the economy of wildlife, specifically one in which the “silicon bushveld” is supporting conservation.

“We can use technology to engage and educate South Africans about the natural world” said GWF CEO, Kate Groch, “and we can also use technology to monitor and protect the natural world. At our campus of the future in Hazyview, we are interested in doing both.”

GWF’s Conservation Academy – powered by Konica Minolta South Africa, and in partnership with the SanParks “Kids in Parks” programme – will take 40 rural schoolchildren per week into the Kruger National Park in 2016. In addition to a digital learning experience that focuses on mathematics and English, each one of those children will have already spent a year at GWF’s Open Learning Academy engaging with conservation apps and videos. The programme currently reaches 3000 schoolchildren in Mpumalanga per week.

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GWF CEO, Kate Groch, discusses the opportunities and challenges of rural education.

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Group photo showing all of the delegates under the Digital Tree of Knowledge.

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Follow GWF on Instagram, @goodworkfoundation.

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