The introduction of technology in university lecture halls of developing countries like South Africa has been one of the significant advancements in the history of higher learning institutions. Advanced technologies provide effectiveness and enable local universities to compete globally. (more…)
Over the years when I meet my new students in first year mathematics at university, I notice something very unusual about their understanding of quadratic equations. It seems they always want to use the quadratic formula all the time and very few use the factorization method.
It seems that when they are introduced to quadratic equations they treat the quadratic formula and completing the square as two very different methods. Due to this problem many students do not know why the quadratic formula is used and there do not appreciate its use. This situation carries on until students are third year mathematics class resulting in them failing to solve more advanced quadratic equations.
To clarify the issue, I suggest that in the teaching of quadratic equations it is important to explain to students that the quadratic formula is obtained by completing the square. This means that completing the square on any quadratic equation is deriving the quadratic formula. Another method that many students fail to use is the method of factorization. This is usually caused by early introduction of calculator use in the mathematics curriculum. Given the general quadratic equation of the form; ax2+bx+c=0
, the method demands that one needs to think of two numbers such that when they are multiplied ac
is obtained and when they are added b
is obtained. Since calculators cannot perform this operation, the method of factorization is hardly used. I suggest that students learn about factors and multiples of numbers at an stage.
Details of how to complete the square on the general quadratic equation is shown on the site http://www.purplemath.com/modules/sqrquad2.htm If there are others who would like to comment on this please to not hesitate.
As a lecturer in higher education in the area of mathematics, I attended the annual HELTASA (Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa) conference which was held at the North-West University at the Potchefstroom campus in Potchefstroom. I have been working on quite advanced applications of differential equations in mathematics, until recently I decided to apply these to teaching and learning.
I began applying differential equations to knowledge acquisition. In my masters’ thesis I worked on differential equations in disease modeling, in particular malaria. These mathematical models have been widely used to predict the persistence of a disease and how it can be controlled. I then started applying these models to knowledge acquisition, I wrote my first paper on this and submitted it to HELTASA. I presented the paper at the conference and I was surprised that there were quite a lot of people who were interested in the idea.
At this conference there were quite a lot of other speakers who highlighted the need to improve higher education in South Africa. Comparison of South African higher learning was done by presenters such as Dr. Leonel Lim of the National Institute of education in Singapore. He reported on the higher education in Asia on how it is influenced by socio-economic and political issues. This was cemented by other talks from Professor Diane Grayson who talked about the involvement of academics in the designing of learning spaces. She also pointed out that the design of learning spaces in some South African institutions do not promote learning and this need to be improved.
In this conference there were also useful workshops that I benefited from among others were the talks presented by G Wisker on the developing academic writing and publishing career and F Mudavanhu on advancing and enhancing teaching through blogging. These talks contributed to my understanding of the world of article writing and online interaction with other academics in my area of specialization. There were numerous other talks that were presented, for more information on these you can visit: www.nwu.ac.za/heltasa.
the issue of fees must fall campaign, HELTASA adopted the position that they support all the transformation in the universities being called for by the students. Those who are interested in these useful conferences should visit the website indicated above.
It very seldom if ever happens that a student comes to the Write Site with his or her assignment without some form of plagiarism. It has become clear that there might be a few reasons for this, among others: students plagiarise deliberately; students don’t know how to avoid plagiarism; students don’t know what plagiarism is; or students are simply ignorant about the rules of plagiarism. Apart from these, we have also noticed other interesting contributing facts, i.e. students struggle to paraphrase and summarise and put ideas into their own words. But even more concerning is the fact that most students don’t understand what they have ‘copied’ or plagiarised. They will copy and paste from a book, article, or sometimes blatantly from the Internet. When asked to explain what they have written, they are not able to do so. This implies that students don’t understand what they have read, if they have read it at all. In conclusion I can say the following, starting at the end: students don’t really read the original text; they lack basic reading comprehension skills; they don’t know how to paraphrase or summarise; they lack basic academic writing skills; they either deliberately resort to plagiarism or plagiarise because of ignorance.
South Africa’s water resource is currently under distress as it is unable to meet the demands of its population as we see people running short of drinking water and cooking water among many needs. This situation affects people garden owners and lovers and retail and whole sale businesses within the horticulture landscape industry. Watering of plants can also contribute to large amounts of water use and wastage, so how garden owner’s landscape and horticultural organisations contribute towards reliving pressure off our water resource?
I think garden owners need platforms which will create and emphasize the importance of water wise gardening. Just the other day I realised that even with the current situation that we find ourselves in (water scarcity) some people are still not following the water wise tips of watering their lawns at a certain time of the day and also watering their pavement’ s instead of sweeping among many other bad practices by members of my community. This made me think, what roles can our landscape and horticultural businesses play with this regard? Maybe government may need to introduce laws restricting breeding and selling of exotic plants? Horticultural businesses may need to consider breeding, selling and promoting only indigenous species that require less water to survive. The role would be also to promote plants indigenous to our country through various horticultural plant propagation bodies and landscape companies. Landscaping companies also have a role to play as it would be there duty to sell a product (landscape design) that is considerate of the country’s water situation. Design and implement a water-wise garden and also inform your clients of times to water their gardens, this is of utmost importance. How many times have your neighbours watering their gardens at mid-day during the summer? How many times have you seen your neighbours leaving their irrigations systems on for too long? How many exotic plants have you seen at your neighbour, relatives or friends house? These situations all play a part in unnecessary usage of our water.
In conclusion my experience made me think a little and to ask myself questions from which possible solutions came about. I really think the gardening community needs to promote indigenous vegetation and replace the exotic options purely based on the water requirements of some plants. Again, I think that various stake holder’s needs to make as many people aware of their wastage of water through gardening. This involves, government, various landscape and horticultural businesses and of course the gardener themselves.
Young graduates find it difficult in getting a job related to their qualification after a completion of their bachelor’s or graduate degrees. It is frequently the case for students within black dominant or previously disadvantaged institutions. My thought in this is that institutes need to play bigger roles in training and employment of the students. The institute could subject contractual or part-time posts for graduates
Young people find themselves standing in the crossroads of nowhere after completing their graduate degrees. This is a point where they feel that all that time spent in a three or four year programme and addition of two to three years was a waste of time and money. It is a time I am much familiar too. I basically had no idea what was next-either I go search for work or continue doing my graduate studies. Months and weeks went on till the next the year, until such a time I decided it was better going back to university. This was a difficult decision to make, because my parents expected me to find work after a bachelor. Without employment I was overwhelmed but at the same time I was happy-I mean heading back to school for my graduate studies was great. The numbers of bIack South African institutes in country are below the worst of national rankings. Now this creates a stigma in the quality or the weight of a degree obtained from the different institutes around South Africa. This is to say for an example; if you as an individual obtained a physics graduate or an undergraduate degree from the University of Limpopo or University of Venda –it would not be of equal quality as that of a student who obtained a degree from perhaps University of Cape Town. These Grads (graduates) from these institutes are victims to prejudice because of the quality or the standard of an institute. In my opinion I think the institutes in which the graduates is eligible of qualifying, the instates ought to provide at least a part time or a contract job opportunities for these graduates for example internships, junior lectures etc.
The use of Whatsapp mobile application has become one of my favourite modes of communication with my students. I chose this mode of communication because most of my students have smart phones.
In the beginning of last semester I began forming class groups for all my courses on Whatsapp mobile application and this helped a lot in communication with my students. When I first introduced this in my mathematics class it was very interesting in the beginning because I could take pictures of some methods of how to work out certain problems and post them. I also allowed students to respond certain questions asked by their peers providing an interactive forum. Communication is faster than their e-learning facility. By the end of last semester most students were aware of what was happening in the course and were eager to ask question. Most students are more comfortable with this communication method. I also found out that there are certain problems associated with this; such as misuse of the platform. To get round this problem I had to hand out a few rules and regulations on how to use the platform. I found this helpful.
If there are other people who want to try it please do and do not hesitate to reply if its works or does not work for you.
Recently I challenged my anatomy students to do a video assignment in which they showcased their talents, whilst teaching us the skeletal system. They were allowed to write and record a song or rap, choreograph a dance or build a model of the skeletal system, any form of delivery was allowed, provided they used this to teach and to learn. Assessment for this particular assignment was rubric based and I as lecturer was the only one to assess it. Comparison to the previous year’s student throughput indicated very significant improvements in their knowledge of the skeletal system.
So I succeeded right? Well I suppose so, but the students expressed a need to contribute to the assessment process. They argued that they worked hard on this assignment and that receiving a percentage mark from me alone was not satisfactory. The question is now, what can I do that is different and what would stimulate these Millennials’ need for recognition and incorporation of technology (to address just two of their many needs)? Upon reflecting on this dilemma and after attending a pre-conference workshop on Blogging at HELTASA today, I’m starting to think that I could provide them the recognition they strive for through social media platforms and perhaps Blogging. The current idea is to, after showcasing each groups’ assignment to the class, that the class should vote for their favorite video(s), and that the winning video could then be uploaded to a social media platform, perhaps in the form of a VLOG for the video assignment, and a Blog for the written content?
Keeping up with this generation sometimes proves to be a difficult task, but as a young lecturer myself, I’m up to the challenge. What are your thoughts? Do you agree or perhaps have other suggestions?
The promotion of entrepreneurship in higher education has been recognised as an appropriate response to declining graduate employment in turbulent and unpredictable economic environments. In South Africa, higher education is expected to provide the labour market with high-level competencies and expertise necessary for the growth and prosperity of a modern economy, including entrepreneurs. This places significant pressure on higher education to produce graduates who have the necessary attributes for creating their own economic opportunities. One of the ways that South African Universities could respond to these challenges is by placing emphasis on entrepreneurship education as part of all universities programs. Do you think students enrolled in at university programs could have an interest in an entrepreneurship course, and would they be motivated for such courses?
After reading a number of different perspectives about online learning penetration within South Africa, I can conclude that we are in the right direction. This is despite the fact that, on one end of the spectrum we have schools and higher education institutions who are fully utilizing the power of the internet, and yet on the other we still have institutions battling with the basic needs such as toilets, (more…)