The school teacher using free content to change tech education

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Warren Sparrow has been teaching at Rondebosch Boys’ Preparatory School – the third institution in South Africa to become a Microsoft Pathfinder School – for the last 15 years. He’s currently the head of ICT.

“I never used a computer while at school as the technology was not available. When I started studying, I started using computers and by my third year, I was lecturing first year computers. I loved the things that you could do with technology and ever since then I have been involved,” says Sparrow.

“From my first few years teaching, I have not always taught at affluent schools; in fact, quite the opposite. The schools had very little resources and it was always a struggle to get any form of finances to purchase anything. We relied very heavily on donations of old equipment which we then used in the school,” he explains.

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Warren Sparrow, head of ICT at Rondebosch Boys’ Preparatory School

Having a background in these types of school, Sparrow believes that one person can make a difference in the lives of others. This is the reason he creates free content, sharing it on both his website and blog, for other teachers to use.

He also only uses open source or free software in his classes, something that allows the students to do the same things at home at no additional expense.

“I also allow the students to bring in technology that they are familiar with, then use it in creating their projects. The students have great fun with videos and other multimedia content, publishing the videos onto websites so that parents can see what they have achieved,” adds Sparrow.

This year, Sparrow’s grade seven students completed a project in collaboration with schools in Singapore, Canada, Croatia and China. But this is not his first international project – Sparrow was invited to attend the Annual iEARN Conference in Taiwan (with Adobe) where his students’ work was viewed as part of the movie night. And through the National Teachers Awards, his students’ multimedia work around HIV and AIDS was recognised on a global level.

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Over the last year Sparrow has presented several different workshops around South Africa about implementing technology into classrooms. And, more notably, he was one of seven international speakers presenting at the E2 Educator Exchange held in Redmond (Microsoft’s head office) this year.

“There is not one thing that has made this a great journey, but the culmination of all the different things that have made this a success story and the journey is not over yet,” says Sparrow. “I am always inspired by what certain teachers are doing with very little resources and what they are achieving. I think to myself if they can do that, then each person who has the knowledge and expertise needs to make a contribution. I hope that I inspire people to use technology by what I have done.”

Sparrow’s passion for technology has given him the ability to be innovative and change the way in which people teach using 21st Century teaching and learning and creating the environment for the students to achieve their full potential.

[su_box title=”How Sparrow integrates ICT into the classroom” box_color=”#f37021″]“As part of my daily tasks I assist teachers in obtaining electronic resources for the class that they can use in their classrooms. I run weekly workshops where I show teachers software that they can use in their class. These are short, normally about 30 minutes where I show things that I have found on the web, software, web tools, apps, etc. that the teachers can implement or use. Lastly I teach in all the different grades and classes: I make an appointment with each teacher and discuss the learning outcomes for that lesson. The point of this is for the teacher to see how to use the different types of technologies that are available to them in their class.”[/su_box]

“I change what I teach the students all the time, so it keeps me stimulated, motivated and excited as we are all learning at the same time. As I discover new things I incorporate that in my teaching so it also keeps the students focused and enthusiastic to keep doing new things as well.”


Sparrow does believe that the Department of Education Department is making real strides in creating and improving digital content and portals (although financing for the improvement of infrastructure, as well as on-going teacher training, remains a struggle).

“There are so many departments and schools doing really incredible things, but so often this happens in isolation. A place for the entire country to have the resources that they needed in a central place for all learning to take place would be great… I wish that every student through the use of technology became a 21st Century learner and a truly global citizen.”

This story is part of a special series focusing on IT in Education, brought to you in association with Intel. See the complete collection (so far) by clicking here.



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