COVID-19 – The highpoints and low points with online learning.

From the perspective of a tech-loving teacher in South Africa.

March 2020

When I was informed by our president last Sunday that we would be ending the term earlier and I would be commencing with online learning I was rather excited. I enjoy technology – and this would be the perfect time for me to try out some new tools. I teach a dynamic and very relevant subject called Computer Applications Technology (CAT). We had just received our Grade 11 Research (PAT) project’s theme of online collaboration.

This is going to be brilliant I thought. We will have collaborative lessons, while everyone is at home. What could go wrong?

Living in South Africa as a person with privilege that doesn’t extend to all South Africans you have to keep in mind there are huge challenges to consider.

Some challenges you will find will include:

  1. Does everyone have access to the internet?
  2. It the internet access reliable? (Cellular data vs Fibre)
  3. Does everyone have access to a computer? (or do they have to use their phone to complete their homework)
  4. What happens if load shedding hits? (No electricity for a couple of hours a day)

Other challenges might also be:

  1. Teenagers like to sleep – not everyone will wake up in time for your lesson.
  2. It is so easy to get distracted when at home.
  3. Not all teenagers will want to join a class video conference.
  4. Some learners lack self-motivation and actually need someone hounding them to do the work.

How do I navigate these challenges as a teacher? Due to load shedding in the previous weeks – I had already completed most of the theory work. I am left with either starting a new section of work – Microsoft Access (Databases) or continuing with a program they are familiar- but it isn’t their favourite – Microsoft Excel. I choose to continue with Excel.


Latest news on #FlipGrid

Holly Clark is one of the Ed Tech rock stars that I follow on Twitter. She has presented a couple of times in South Africa at EdTech Team Google for Education summits and has really inspired me on my EdTech learning journey. Recently I purchased an ebook version of her book: The Google infused classroom: A guidebook to making thinking visible and amplifying student voices.  [Click here for a link on Amazon.]

This is a great read for teachers wanting to change what they are doing in the classroom, as it gives you a way to start doing that. I love books that have great practical advise that can be used. excited bitmoji

This past week I saw her post a tweet that Flipgrid would be free for teachers from 1 August. I really liked the potential of FlipGrid, but when you have to pay US dollars – and you live in South Africa, it isn’t a real option for most schools due to cost.

Microsoft has purchased Flipgrid and so everyone can access this amazing tool for FREE! WooHoo!


Loving the New Gmail Interface

Mid April some channels on YouTube were making mention of some of the changes that were coming to Gmail. This was such exciting news. As someone who has an Android phone – I have been using Inbox by Gmail for a while. It has such great features, but it wasn’t available for my work email – that when I heard some of these features where going to be implemented on G Suite for Education platform – I was dying to see the finished product.

We rolled it out just before the long April weekend (in South Africa) about the 25th of April and me and our IT intern at work tested it for a couple of days before giving staff the option of using it.

It is fantastic for some of the following reasons:

  1. Snooze Function
  2. Calendar, Keep and Task Integration
  3. Left Sidebar
  4. Google suggested answers (Smart Replies)
  5. Attachments

Snooze Function.

The ability to snooze an email until a later date and time. There is even the option of selecting “some day”. You are not even required to open your email to select the snooze option.i know right bitmoji

Also if you have snoozed an email and do want to access it for some reason – on the left navigation pane – you can select snooze, and all your snoozed email will appear.

snooze email
Snooze Function available in Gmail

Calendar , keep and tasks Integration

The ability to have your calendar open while still in Gmail. You can open emails and look for specific dates at the same time! Keep has been integrated successfully in other Google products such as Docs and Slides. Now having them open in Gmail is fantastic – as Keep is of the products I use every day to remind me to do things.

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Calendar Integration
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Tasks Integration




Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 10.56.01
Keep Integration


Left Sidebar

You can hide the left sidebar. Click on the hamburger stack icon. This is so useful as there are times you need more screen space for an email.

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Left Sidebar “Hidden”

oh happy day bitmoji









Click here to view a short Video [This is a video from The Verge – one of the tech channels I subscribe to on Youtube.]

Google Suggested Answers (Smart Replies)

Googles smart replies has been around for a while on the android version of Gmail. This option gives three suggestions for the user. It is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) feature that suggests options after analysing how the user usually responds to email.

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Smart Reply AI Suggestions


You are now able to open attachments without needing to open the email. It is also great to note that you can easily see the names of the attachments, which is useful to see exactly what you are looking for.


If the snooze feature is not working (greyed out) there is a way to fix it:

You have probably turned off email conversations feature in Gmail. You must enable this to be able to use snooze. (Found in Settings)

If you don’t like the new Gmail – you can still go back to the classic Gmail (but why would you?)

You can also download Tasks as an App on to your Android / Apple smart phone – I recently discovered tasks. Its been around for a long time, but recently it just seemed a logical progression to improving my productivity.

Have a lovely weekend.

che take care

Presenter Toy

Hi Guys,che. guess what.png

I recently acquired a wireless keyboard to use as a presentation tool. I have enjoyed using this device so much that I thought I would recommend it – as maybe someone else will love it too. When presenting – it allows mobility, while still having access to a full qwerty keyboard and mouse.



The device I have is the Rii i8 Wireless Mini Keyboard and Touchpad


The device is about the size of a game controller and fits very comfortably in your hands. It is very light and my favourite feature is that it charges using a standard Android charger (not USB C).


Here is a link to a YouTube video unboxing and reviewing the device.

Rii i8 Wireless Mini Keyboard & Touchpad 


If you would like to purchase one and live in South Africa: Here is some prices on (20 Feb 2018)

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Side Note:

che che

I bought this to use from my couch when I connect my computer to my tv, to watch Netflix on it. No getting up to control your computer. 😉

So it even serves an extra purpose.

Enjoy your week.

che take care

BYOD Implementation

How we have decided to implement BYOD at my school.

*Note: this is from the perspective of a Teacher at a government school in South Africa*

We introduced the BYOD policy at my school 5 years ago. While it was a very exciting time for the learners, there were quite a few challenges to work through.

Some of the questions we were pondering was:  Should we help provide some form of security? How do we help learners to be good digital citizens? How can we ensure that they are learning on their devices, and not merely checking their Instagram feed / taking a photo using Snapchat. Should we block social media Apps? or can teachers harness the power of them to provide real learning opportunities? What device should we use? Do we use any?


How we started the process:

We decided to phase in the use of devices. So in 2014 the first group of Grade 8 learners were allowed to bring devices. We only allowed it in this grade to also give teachers a chance to learn how to use tablets.

*Note: Back in 2014 tablets were not as widely used as now days. Majority of our staff had never used a tablet before, and Blackberry was just starting to go out of fashion in South Africa since they no longer offered free BIS. We were learning how to purchase data and manage the use of data on our phones. Creating google accounts so we could download apps on our devices. Looking back it is so weird how these things are the norm now. *

Year 1: Any devicepexels-photo-607812.jpeg

For the first group of learners we allowed any device. We quickly learnt that this can bring a whole host of problems, and so stream lined the process over the year. Smart phones had tiny screens, often ran out of space. Difficult to type documents, etc on these devices. A lot of learners smashed the screens on their devices as well.

Year 2: Android Tablets

We moved to only Android tablets. We suggested from what was available at the time, Samsung Tab 3/4 or Samsung Galaxy Note 2013/2014. pexels-photo-306534.jpeg

Android tablets was problematic probably in two main areas for us in our environment. Firstly, A sizeable amount of parents bought the cheapest tablet on the market, even through spec’s had been provided. The cheap Android tablet has numerous problems, these include: minimal storage space (2GB-including the OS and no option to add an SD card), battery life is at about 2 hours and some of them really struggled to connect to the Wi-Fi. Others gave them their old tablets, and so the devices had really poor battery life and were quite slow., freezing often, etc.

Secondly, given the work requirements of high school learners at a government school in South Africa, they needed keyboards to be able to use them as productivity devices. Tablets are more suitable for primary school activities.

A lot of the work they were required to do was investigations and projects. This required access to word processing software. Also a strong focus was on video editing skills and we needed to consider what our options were there. We had started to look into the power of Google apps for education (now rebranded G Suite for Education) and were convinced that this was going to be the way forward.

What ever devices we recommended in the future, our requirements were: keyboard, ability to use Google Apps, great battery life, storage space (at least to download a fair amount of apps)

For those taking CAT / IT the ability to still use Microsoft Office. To also be able to download Delphi for use by the IT students.  Physical and Life Science students used PhET simulations.

We needed to recommend devices that could possibly cope with all these requirements.

Years 3-5: Cloud books / 2-in-1 devices

We introduced the use of either tablets with keyboards (2-in1 devices) or cloud book devices such as the Chromebook (Acer) or Windows (Acer Aspire, Lenovo Thinkpad / IdeaPad, etc).  These devices work well in our environment. A few learners have brought MacBooks, iPads (with keyboards) and ever Windows Laptops (they are very heavy). Our learners are able to be productive and use the devices effectively when allowed.pexels-photo-597331.jpeg

E-Books, LMS and other things

We have tried e-books with two different companies. I would say that I am not a fan of e-books,  but the only clear advantage for me would be that it can make the learner’s bag a lot lighter. We moved to using Edmodo at first as our learning management system (LMS) and then as Google introduced Google Classroom we have actually moved over to Classroom. While Edmodo had a few more options as to what it could do for us, we enjoyed the easy of working with everything in Google.

Device Protection

A lot of our learners have landed up dropping devices, smashing screens, etc. and this means that the device could potentially be unsalvageable. We have tried our best to install good skills and tips for device protection.

This includes the use of a tempered glass screen cover, strong and protective laptop bag / tablet cover, etc. Most importantly, don’t store your device in the same back as your school stuff.  Have a separate bag and carry carefully around the school. They have access to lockers and can lock devices away when not needed.

In conclusion

I can’t believe that we have been on this road for 5 years already. It has been a worthwhile journey. We are constantly are looking for ways to improve the process, and to help our parents (quite a few of our parents do not have access to a lot of money to through at devices) buy the most affordable device to bring about the best opportunities for their children.

How have you implemented the use of devices at your school. Please comment below.


Twitter Chat

What is a Twitter Chat? 

This is a twitter conversation that will happen around a unique hashtag. It is a public conversation and you are able to discuss and answer various questions.

My First Twitter Chat:

Last night I took part in my first Twitter Chat
for the #ZAEdu hashtag. It was the culmination of a 12 days of twitter challenge given. It was amazing.

Connecting with like minded people over the topic of education.

There were people who I admire, in the industry, friends, and new people all discussing and giving their opinions.

My tips for a successful Twitter Chat:

  1. Make sure your device is fully charged
  2. Be in an area that has a good internet connection (Mine was so unstable last night)
  3. Search the correct hashtag and ensure you filter by latest (took me a few minutes to realize that)

twitter 2  4.  Don’t be scared to re tweet, comment and like tweets.

twitter 3

5. Take time later to research the hashtag to see what you missed – the time goes by so quick.

6. Diarise the date for the next chat in your phone calendar to remind you!

twitter 1

New Google Classroom updates

Google classroom has just released some awesome new updates.

Here are my top three favourites:

1. Rearrange classes


This is a great update, because now you can choose the most frequently used classes to be at the top!

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2. Select a student

When you click on a student, you are able to see exactly what they have done, and what work still needs to be completed.

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3. Class code 

The class code can now be displayed much larger – even with a full screen view.

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Power Up with Chrome Extensions

My Favourite (and most used) Chrome Extensions


Here is a list of 5 Chrome Extensions that I use most often.

1. G Suite Training:
This app works inside any Google G Suite App.
It provides training material to help you to navigate around the app and get to know useful features.

2. One Tab:
This is literally my favourite extension. With one click of a button, you can push all your open tabs into one tab. You are able to reopen those tabs at a later time.

3. Save to Google Drive: 
You can save any image or document straight into Google Drive.

4. Adblock Plus:
You are able to block ads that appear in YouTube videos, banners, etc.

5. Print Friendly & PDF:
Print Friendly removes ads, navigation and junk before your print.

Click to view the short presentation

What are your favourite extensions?

If you don’t know how to add an extension:

  1. Open the Chrome Web Store. (
  2. Find and select the extension you want.
  3. Click Add to Chrome.
  4. For some extensions, you’ll see a box that lists the data that the extension will be able to access.
  5. Click Add to grant the extension access to your data and install the extension.

Published Guest Blog Post from EdTech Team


Here is my first Guest Blog post written for EdTech Team: on my reflections from the recent summit and the amazing Google Keep App.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Cape Town Summit and the Power of Google Keep

I find myself reflecting back after attending the EdTechTeam Summit in Cape Town, South Africa. This is my 4th EdTech Team conference that I have attended and I still find myself walking away being excited to implement new practices in my classroom.

My country has a traditional culture of sharing stories orally. As the internet and technology has developed, so has the amount of learners who have access to digital devices in South Africa. This has been a great addition to classrooms in South Africa, as all of a sudden we are able to have access to resources that can impact our learners. We do not have to travel overseas to accumulate this knowledge. It doesn’t matter that the library is a long walk down a hot and dusty street, and that the library doesn’t have access to the latest books. Access to technology can be a great equaliser in this context.

A generation of learners are currently growing up with access to the internet being the norm and are encouraged to document and share their stories digitally (this is only true in certain sectors of society i.e. middle/upper class). They love sharing video posts to YouTube, pictures to Instagram and short tweets to Twitter. This has become even easier in my city as the local government has begun to connect all schools with fibre optics and Wi-Fi.

One of the keynote speakers at the conference, Lindsay Wesner, spoke on the importance of telling our own stories and getting learners to share their stories. Are we as educators prepared to be brave and do things differently? Are we prepared to meet students at a place that is comfortable for them and to incorporate it in our teaching? If our students have a culture of sharing stories, imagine the creativity that might be discovered, if we were encouraging them to document their stories.

The other keynote speaker Rafranz Davis spoke about Creating Change Beyond Your Zip Code. This talk resonated so deeply with me as it seems like classrooms in east Texas could be similar to a classroom in South Africa. Rafranz explained that by channelling our learners creativity, we can, if only for a moment, help them to forget where they come from and the problems at home, and to create something new. It is also important for them to share their learning. Social media can provide an excellent platform for this.

I’m an introvert, who generally shies away from big group gatherings. But access to conferences like the EdTechTeam summits and social media services like Twitter has enabled me as an educator to develop and grow an amazing personal learning network (PLN). After this conference I have been encouraged to blog more and to record my stories about my moments of learning. As Rafranz puts it: “What we find changes who we become.” Connecting with others is so critical to our development as teachers.

The power of Google Keep for learners:

One of the Apps highlighted at the conference was Google Keep. This is a real hidden gem by Google. I was blown away by the power behind this app and how it could be used by students at my school.

Simply, Google Keep is an application that enables you to take notes, lists and reminders. But it also has some sophisticated features that are helpful to students.

Here is a list of my top 5 favourite features available for students in the App:

#1: Location based reminder: Google Keep allows you to set a reminder based on a GPS location. This means that the reminder can be set for when you arrive at home, or alternatively when you arrive at school.

Watch this clip for an example: Clip 1
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#2: Converting an image to text: Click on the image icon to insert an image. Select the three dots icon to allow more options. Select grab image text. Google Keep is able to grab the text out of the image and paste into the note.

Watch this clip for an example: Clip 2
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#3: Collaborative lists / To-Do Lists: To do lists can be created and shared with other people. They can also contribute to the items on the list. For students this is a really great option, as the list can be worked on by all members in a group, who have come together to complete a project. As items have been completed, they can be ticked.

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#4: Google Keep Chrome Extension: This is a great tool as students can copy links off the internet quickly. They can add this into a google doc when finished.

Go to the Chrome Web Store and search for Google Keep Extension. Open a website that you want to copy and click on the Google Keep Extension.
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#5: Inserting Google Keep notes into a Google Doc: Open a Google Doc. Go to the Tools Menu \ Keep NotePad You can drag any notepad item across from Google Keep into the Google Doc.
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Other Resources:

Here is a link to a presentation slide I have made for the learners at my school. Click to view presentation

I have also created some “rough and not professional” videos for the learners to look through collected in a YouTube Playlist.


Ché Marneweck
Google Certified Educator (1&2)
Educational Technology Facilitator
Computer Teacher
Wynberg Girls’ High School
Cape Town South Africa
Twitter: @che_marnie