By Leo Van Eeden

As a student who has experienced both traditional and online education, I want to share my positive journey attending an online school. Initially, I was sceptical about the idea of virtual learning, but over time, I came to appreciate the many benefits it offers. Today I get to share my enjoyable experience with others and talk about the advantages of attending an online school and how it has shaped my educational experience.

I can best explain my experience in Think Digital Academy (TDA) as most enjoyable. Flexible hours and easy to understand lessons were the main highlight of my experience. The tutors and the learners on the school forum were a big help when I first started out. The students on the forum already had a WhatsApp Group, and I was added by the Admin and, although there were many learners on the group I was soon able to find likeminded people, from around the world. This broadened my horizons and exposed me to diverse perspectives and cultures. I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with students from different backgrounds, which has been an eye-opening experience. All the people were friendly and kind towards me which assisted me to ease my initial stress.

The traditional school environment can sometimes be overwhelming, leading to stress and anxiety for many students. In TDA, I found a more relaxed and comfortable learning environment. There’s less pressure to conform to societal expectations, allowing me to focus on my own growth and well-being.

The fun thing about learning for me was, that no matter my learning style the lessons were structured in such a manner that it was easy to understand and grasp the concepts needed for the specific lesson. TDA provides access to a wide range of digital resources, including interactive simulations, multimedia content and online libraries. These resources have enriched my learning experience and allowed me to explore a wealth of information beyond traditional textbooks.

Although at first, I had a timetable to cover all or most subjects in a single day, I later preferred learning one subject at a time. This personalised approach to learning has been a game-changer for me. I can explore subjects I’m genuinely passionate about and work at my own pace, ensuring a deeper understanding of the material.

The fact that the day started out quite easily, because there was no rushing to get ready and driving from home to school, instead the start to my school day was with the click of a button, made schooling 50% less stressful. One of the most significant advantages of attending TDA is the flexibility it provides. Traditional schools often have rigid schedules that can be challenging to balance with other responsibilities. However, TDA, allowed me to create a schedule that suited my needs. This flexibility has empowered me to pursue my passions, work part-time, and maintain a healthier school-life balance. The lessons were not overwhelming and hard to understand, there were no loud classmates to distract me – as I often found in a public school where you would sit in a class for forty-five minutes at a time and only really learn for 5 minutes.

The biggest thing I’m grateful for, was when it came to writing exams, there was no specific time or place I needed to go to in order to write them; I didn’t have to be in a hall which adds more pressure and stress. I was able to do any subject exam at any time, as and when I was ready. Another bonus about TDA exams is that once written, most of them returned an immediate result – thus reducing more stress about bad results or failure. TDA also has prepared study notes for each subjects’ exams – which is an invaluable perk, and really reduces exam prep time.

The most valuable thing I learnt while attending TDA was personal responsibility. Attending an online school requires a high degree of self-discipline. While some might see this as a challenge, I view it as a valuable skill that has developed during my journey. I’ve learned to manage my time effectively, set goals and take responsibility for my education. These are essential life skills that will benefit me in the long run. With no teacher looking down at me all day, it was completely up to me how much work I would do in one day. It all came down to determination and will power because I believe that no matter which walk of life you come from, you can become anything, and overcome anything – it’s all up to how determined you are to reach your goals and fight for your place as a successful individual.

My positive journey attending Think Digital Academy has transformed the way I approach education and personal growth. The flexibility, personalised learning, self-discipline, diverse resources, global perspective, technological proficiency and reduced stress levels have all contributed to a fulfilling educational experience. While online learning might not be for everyone, I believe that it has the potential to provide a rewarding and enriching educational journey for those willing to welcome a new way of learning.

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By Efterpi Sotiriou

Celebrating Heritage Day in South Africa is a poignant and vibrant experience that reflects the nation’s rich tapestry of cultures, histories and traditions. This day, observed on the 24th of September each year, offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the diversity and unity that define the South African identity.

It is a commonly known ‘phenomenon’ that young people display a lukewarm approach to matters ‘South African’ at best or are distinctly dismissive of such, at worst. This is evidenced, inter-alia, in a diminished interest in South African history at school level and ever increasing non-participation in the electoral process. Why is it that our fascinating past with rebellions, revolutions, rogues, Blood River and Isandhlwana draws less interest than Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland or Stalin’s five year plans? In the recently published “People Who Changed South Africa for Good” (M Blackman; N Dall), the authors ascribe this to a South African inferiority complex which sees us lesser on the world stage. Furthermore, they cite examples of “airbrushing history” in which notable personalities or events are either overlooked or written out of history books on the basis of a political agenda. The one-sidedness has chosen a few key figures to glorify while neglecting the inclusion of ‘others’ who add substance and identification to the South African story.

As we approach the end of Heritage Month – and beyond our collective enjoyment of the prospect of ‘braai day’, we (caregivers and educators) may revisit the ‘South African’ approach we transmit to our children. Such a ‘revisionist’ view has most recently been prompted on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the death of Sailor Malan (17 September). Malan was a Boland farm boy who became a successful fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain. In all the years of his air-fighting, he was never shot down (yet he destroyed over 30 enemy aircrafts). Upon the end of the Second World War, he returned to South Africa to take up the leadership of the 60, 000 strong Torch Commando in protest against the government’s (Dr DF Malan, a distant cousin) unconstitutional efforts to deprive the Coloured electors in the Cape of their vote. Upon his death, a glowing obituary in London was in high contrast to that granted to him in his own country. He was denied a military funeral. Today, he is beyond recall.

In our South African daily lives, it may feel like there isn’t much to celebrate. And yet, there are acts of courage, goodness and excellence amidst the adversity: past and present. Sailor Malan is just such an example. ‘As the adults in the room’, we should not allow disillusionment to extend into cynicism, inaction and non-participation. So, as we gather around the braai and bask in the Springboks’ successes from the couch, let us promote South Afri-CANs – not South Afri-CAN’Ts… and watch them grow! The more we can learn about our ‘real, whole’ history, the more connected we can become.

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By Efterpi Sotiriou

There are hints of green on the trees… the jacarandas are readying to burst into lilac splendour… another year has tumbled forward. Thoughts have begun to turn to end-of-year matters: grade promotion, subject choices, uni-requirements, post-school prospects… and before all that… EXAMS!

How to navigate this trickiest of challenges: as parents, caregivers, students? Most of us harbour memories of nervous cramming, careless errors, frustrating outcomes. On a general level of exam anticipation, you are ‘invited’ to engage with some personally developed observations emanating from the educational ‘front line’.

At the outset, consider the trending view that the exam-focused education system encourages “Teaching to the Test”, focusing solely on the content that is likely to appear in exams. This approach may undermine the broader educational gains of the students and may not adequately reflect the students’ overall abilities or potential. Exams often prioritise subject-specific knowledge over crucial personal development. This mis-alignment can lead to a gap between what students learn in school and what they need in order to thrive beyond it.

Although exams inescapably occupy a gateway position to academic progression, they need to be seen within the wider context of education. Important stepping stones but not perfect! Also – not the sole indicators of capacity or academic application. Educational gains cannot be reflected only within the narrow confines of that notorious maths / biology test! Operating beyond the ‘exam fence’, one may gain a fairer representation of the varying levels of learnt or integrated skills. Here, one may acknowledge related elements of learning outside the exam results, percentages and averages; build on improvements in study organisation and preparation, self-awareness and regulation in testing situations, projections of curious interest and application, language development or creative extrapolation.

Simply stated, work within the system to optimise educational growth but also seek out a balance in personal pursuits within the school ambit – don’t be restricted by it!

A reference point of interest within this review is that provided by Finland; a top educational performer. Finland prioritises learning over passing tests. Schools strive for less stress, unneeded regimentation and more caring approaches for their students. The school environment promotes co-operation not competition. Elements of this individualised and non-regimented approach are well-represented within the pedagogic structure of Think Digital Academy.

In the anticipation of the ‘exam season’ and taking a page out of the above perspectives, let us adopt a ‘softer’ approach to the examination system – driven by sensitive, individualised levels of support, a compassionate engagement, inclusive of on-going, open communication with the students. Banish the fear of failure and the fear of trying. Help build a reservoir of perseverance and willpower. And, while broadening the levels of insight and assessment remember that the ‘fundamentals still apply’ too – strive to provide a safe, stable learning space and don’t forget that a hug, a snack or late night cup of tea retain top position in the strategy of exam preparation.

That being said, here are a few keys to success in developing effective habits for independent learning.

Create a study space at home

Creating a study space at home is key when you study independently from home. Here are some tips for creating a successful study space:

  • Choose a quiet location. Finding a place in your home where you can concentrate and not be distracted by noise or other activities is important.
  • Make sure the space is well-lit and comfortable. You’ll spend a lot of time in your study space. Good lighting is crucial for reducing eye strain.
  • Stock the space with supplies. Ensure all your supplies are within easy reach, including paper, pens, pencils, highlighters, etc. See our online school stationery list.
  • Keep the space clean and organised. Keep the area neat and tidy to help yourself stay calm and focused while working.

Time management strategies for independent study

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to time management for studying independently from home. But, some general strategies can help you maximise your time and get the most out of your independent learning experience.

  • Create a schedule and stick to it. This will help you ensure you spend enough time on each subject and can also help prevent procrastination. It is also important to break down tasks into smaller, manageable pieces so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Set deadlines for yourself. This can help keep you on track and motivated and give you a sense of achievement when you reach your goals.
  • Remember to take breaks! Studying for long periods can be mentally and physically exhausting, so giving yourself time to relax and rejuvenate is essential.

Effective study habits for independent learning

There are some general tricks that can help anyone study independently from home.

  • Take effective notes. Taking effective notes can be a powerful tool to help you retain information and stay engaged with the material. Make sure to jot down important concepts, ideas, and key terms as you go along.
  • Active reading. This means not skimming through texts but also highlighting key points, making notes in the margins, and even writing summaries after each chapter.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice. Regular practice quizzes and/or past exam papers are essential for solidifying your understanding of the material. By testing yourself, you can identify any areas that need further review.

Overcoming challenges and staying motivated

In any journey towards success, there will be challenges and obstacles to overcome. Here are a few tips for overcoming challenges and staying motivated:

  • Set realistic goals for yourself, and break them down into small, manageable steps. This will help you stay on track and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Stay positive and focus on your long-term goals. Remember that setbacks are temporary and that you are in control of your success.
  • Take care of yourself physically and mentally. Get enough rest, exercise, and eat healthy foods to maintain energy levels.
  • Ask for help. There is no shame in admitting that you need assistance to achieve your goals.
  • Celebrate your successes. This will help keep you motivated and remind you of why you are working so hard in the first place.

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Freshly clean, tucked-in, cuddled and snuggled, in happiest anticipation of ‘story time’… Reading is a multi-layered universal ‘prescription’ for childhood joy, comfort and exploration. Perhaps with some overreach one might call them inalienable rights, firmly upheld, freely given. Central to the referenced collective is the experience of reading, fuzzy, funny, fantastical, fabulous BOOKS! Reading is an irreplaceable ‘entrée’ into the world around us, ‘vitamins’ for the growing mind.

Clue: watch the excitement of a child carrying their book into bed at night, tracing the illustrations and sounding out the letters and words they know, imagining what might be next…

Instruction: “Harness the uniquely portable magic of books” (Stephen King).

The uncontested South African truth is that the all-important practice of reading, the encounter with books is not equitably available or actively pursued. This fact is conflicted by the scientific global evidence that places reading (with meaning) at the learning forefront; for it not only prepares children for literacy participation at school but for life. This regimen remains neglected, ill-administered and minimally prioritised nationally. In the absence of a systemic government plan for sufficient budgetary allocation and the availability of trained teachers, the capacity to read a simple story remains tragically illusive.

Evidence: 81% of South African Grade 4 pupils were found to be unable to read with meaning in any language, the highest percentage of all 57 participating countries in the study. This means that of the 1.1. million children in Grade 4, about 900 000 children cannot read or comprehend written text (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, 2021).

The President has set a goal that “all children can read for meaning by age 10 by 2030”. The ambitious trajectory, undermined further by the COVID-19 pandemic, appears unattainable with “business-as-usual-schooling”. As proposed by the 2030 Reading Panel, collaborative efforts by government and the private sector, dedicated funding, a review of teacher training, minimum norms and standards, and a large-scale procurement of reading resources, remain central to the desired outcomes. All these interventions are important but, at this juncture, we also need to ask: “How can WE help?”.

The problem does not lie with the children, the problem lies with the policy makers and the existing system, yet we should not forget that the basis of early literacy development begins at home. It doesn’t require expensive resources, just a willing and active carer and / or parent / family member.

In the real world of working parents, single parenthood, guardian-care and multiple limitations and barriers to involved parenting; bed-time-story-reading may seem like something that only happens on TV. There may be no book to speak of…

What is needed is a strong sense of awareness, an understanding of the formative role of reading and an embrace of the reading culture solution. Take on any / all opportunities to read with / to your child. Often. Regularly. Informally. Variably. With meaning and extrapolation. Read for joy. Make reading fun. Download our free digital stories from our website. Visit the local library. Exchange and share books. Find an atlas. Adopt a favourite comic strip. Scan an advertisement. Take note of newspaper headlines. Generate a love of shared and paired reading. Be aware of excessive emphasis on correction, reading difficulties or comprehension questions. Encourage interactive, independent and expression-filled reading. Routinely read at a time that works for both you and your child. Practice reading a short poem for a family audience. Celebrate finishing a book. Visit a bookshop with a child. Use technology wisely. Digital resources can be helpful to extend the reading experience. Choose interactive e-books or reading applications designed for children.

Conclusion: Seize every opportunity to share reading with your child. When it comes to reading to your children, the benefits to your child’s life range far beyond the development of a close bond with them, although that’s certainly one of them. Reading aloud to children is truly the single-most important activity for building the understanding and skills essential for reading success that your child will carry with them throughout their life.

Subscribe to our online Reading Room to receive FREE stories every week. It will bring enlightenment and enlarge their world. Dr Seuss said it best, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you will go!”.

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(Even though we know you don’t have much since switching to online.)

Online schooling can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s not without challenges.
One of the biggest hurdles that online schooling parents face is managing stress.
Between juggling daily responsibilities and trying to provide a quality education for your children, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and burnt out.

But fear not!

In this article, we’ll explore the common causes of online schooling stress and offer practical tips for combatting them.

Common causes of online schooling stress

Although online schooling can be a oodles of fun for both parents and children, it can also be a source of stress for the whole family. Here are some common causes of online school stress:

  • Feeling like you’re not doing enough. This is a common cause of online school stress, as parents often feel they should do more to ensure their child’s success.
  • Worrying about your child’s future. Many parents worry about whether or not online schooling will set their child up for success.
  • Lack of routine. Online schooling can be flexible, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a routine. A lack of structure can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
  • Unclear expectations. It’s essential to have realistic expectations for online schooling. If you’re putting too much pressure on your child or yourself, it can lead to stress.
  • Too much pressure. Besides having clear expectations, giving yourself and your child some grace is crucial. Relax and enjoy this fun process!

3 Ways students can manage online school stress

There are several ways that students can manage the stress of online schooling. Some common methods include:

  • Taking breaks throughout the day. Make sure to schedule some time for breaks, whether five minutes every hour or a longer break in the afternoon. This will help you avoid burnout and return to your studies refreshed.
  • Keeping a routine. A daily routine can help reduce stress levels by providing structure and predictability. Wake up at the same time each day, eat meals regularly, and carve out time for academics and leisure activities.
  • Staying organised. A cluttered space can lead to a cluttered mind, so keep your workspace tidy. Invest in a planner or utilise digital tools to help you keep track of deadlines and upcoming tests and/or assignments.

How parents can help their kids cope with stressful times

Online schooling can be a big adjustment for both children and parents. Here are some ways you can help your child with online school stress:

  • Allow for some flexibility. If your child is struggling with a particular subject or task, try breaking it up into smaller chunks or allowing them to take a break before returning to it.
  • Make time for breaks and fun activities. Online schooling can be intense, so schedule in time for your child to relax and have fun.
  • Encourage healthy habits. Taking care of one’s body can go a long way in reducing stress levels overall. Think Digital Academy offers a wide variety of live social clubs that your children can join to learn new skills, take up a new hobby and make new friends. This is a great way to have fun beyond the curriculum.

Expert tips to help parents manage their stress levels

Many parents struggle with finding the right balance between work, home, and education. That’s why we’ve compiled some tips to help you manage your stress levels.

  • Take time for yourself. As a parent, getting caught up in caring for your children and schooling them at home is easy. However, it’s essential to take some time for yourself every day.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to ask friends or family for help. They can watch your kids while you take a break or even lend an ear if you need someone to talk to.
  • Find a support group. Other parents in your area are likely schooling their children online too. Finding a support group can give you much-needed social interaction with others going through the same thing.

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This month we celebrate our youth and raise awareness of the challenges they face and their future importance in our society.

Youth Month takes place in many countries around the world. In South Africa, it is being celebrated under the theme “Accelerating youth economic emancipation for a sustainable future”.

Education is key to drawing more young people into the economy. Why? Because education raises productivity and creativity, as well as stimulates entrepreneurship and technological breakthroughs – all of which lead to greater economic growth and a sustainable economic future.

Research shows the direct relationship between how much you earn and your years of schooling. Each additional year of schooling means more money in your pocket, with a significant increase in those who have Matric (Grade 12).

Not only does schooling affect your earnings, but parents’ education level has a significant impact on their children’s success.

How do we nurture our youth?

  • Make learning fun by providing online class environments, digital lessons and books and teachers who can and do!
  • Empower the young through engagement in multiple activities beyond the classroom – in sport facilities, music, dance, entrepreneurship, community affairs, access to study / internet hubs.
  • Nurture the youth by embracing their youthful optimism, and listening to their banter and pleas. Know that you are ‘watering’ a beautiful bloom readying to unfurl if only you do your part in the ‘garden’.
  • Remain sensitive and responsive to the ‘tender stems’ of youth. Beyond their sometimes apparent brash, dismissive eye rolls, lie individuals yearning for your love, attention and care. Give it abundantly and freely.
  • Optimise the potential of the youth. Create, and support initiatives that give purpose and outlet to emergent youth development and activation – in the home, community and, at the work place.

Education for an empowered youth – we’ve got the answer!

It’s no secret that here at Think Digital, we take the slog and boredom out of learning and teach our online lessons in an interactive and engaging way. Perfect for ensuring that your children achieve their school goals while learning to love learning. Not only that, you can also learn at any age (see our Adult Matric). Curious? Why not try our online learning environment by enrolling for our free 14 day trial.

More to explore:

If silver linings exist from the pandemic or the current youth mental health crisis, it’s that awareness about the importance of supporting mental health is at an all-time high. A win for sure! But awareness is just the first step. Real change includes access to quality mental health services and support for everyone who needs them. We know we can’t do it alone and are calling on all our TDA family and to join us by increasing the love we show our children a little bit more every day!

Mental health is an essential aspect of our overall well-being and this holds especially true for children. A child’s mental health is crucial for their healthy development, learning, and socialisation. However, despite the importance of mental health, it is often overlooked or stigmatised, leading to negative outcomes for children. Therefore, in honour of Mental Health Awareness, let’s discuss why it’s important to prioritise mental health awareness in children.

Childhood mental health problems: prevalence and impact

Mental health problems among children are quite common. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about one in six children aged 6-17 years, experience mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and behavioural disorders. Furthermore, mental health problems can have a significant short-term and long-term impact on children’s lives. These can include difficulty in socialising and making friends, poor academic performance, self-harm and even suicide.

Stigma and misconceptions: barriers to mental health awareness

Despite the prevalence and impact of mental health problems in children, stigma and misconceptions are still significant barriers to mental health awareness. Children and their families may avoid seeking help due to shame, fear of being labelled, or a lack of understanding about mental health problems. Additionally, there is a widespread belief that mental health issues are not real illnesses and that children will eventually outgrow them. Such beliefs can prevent early identification and treatment, leading to further complications.

The importance of mental health awareness in children

Mental health awareness in children is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it helps children and their families understand that mental health disorders are real and that seeking help is essential. It also reduces stigma and helps children feel less isolated and ashamed, making it easier to seek help. Secondly, mental health awareness can help with early identification and intervention, reducing the severity and long-term impact of mental health disorders. This, in turn, can lead to better academic, social and emotional outcomes for children. Finally, mental health awareness in children helps create a more supportive and inclusive environment that promotes overall well-being.

How can we promote mental health awareness in children?

There are several ways to promote mental health awareness in children. Firstly, we need to provide education and resources to parents, teachers and caregivers on identifying and addressing mental health disorders in children. This can include providing mental health screenings, counselling services, and training on how to support children with mental health disorders. Secondly, we need to raise awareness and reduce stigma through public campaigns, school programmes and community events. Finally, we need to prioritise mental health funding and research to better understand the root causes of mental health problems in children and develop effective prevention and treatment strategies.

Mental health awareness in children is crucial for their overall well-being and healthy development. However, stigma and misconceptions continue to prevent children and their families from seeking help. By promoting mental health awareness, we can reduce stigma, increase early identification and intervention and promote better academic, social and emotional outcomes for children. Therefore, let us prioritise mental health awareness in children and create a more supportive and inclusive environment for all.

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It is my contention / observation, from the wings of a long-time teaching career, that ‘true education’, in its ‘wholesome best’ should reach, even over-reach, into all aspects of the lived experience. Education should neither begin nor end with the school bell.

Parents / carers commit to optimise the benefits of school-going for their children. Some are able to extend those with their support and encouragement of various extra-mural activities and augment them with cultural opportunities. There are dashes from cricket practice to choir. Corrective strategies in reading, writing, extra-maths are added to the ever expanding ‘school run’.

The online experience is arguably far more dependent on parental activation and organisational support in order to provide the above range of exposure without the traditional school framework. Their input is impressively ever-present beyond the attendant demands on time and resources.

Without straying into simplistic generalisation, I think it is true to say that every parent wishes and works towards providing the ‘best possible’ range of educational opportunities for their child. Based on this well-validated assumption, one may conscientise parents to widen their paradigm of educational exposure for their children into experiential learning. The proposed goal is to weave in the ‘bigger picture’ of life around them. Integrate learning to include divergent views, nuanced language, rear-view historical insight, contact with a local baker, security vs protection mechanisms, understanding waste, influence of the built environment on the everyday; transport…

In short, never close the door on learning ~ at a traffic light, in Checkers, in an overcrowded bus, around the table, on the way to church, after a fight, talk about a billboard on the highway, walk through a museum, make / sell popcorn together, identify the birds in your garden, prepare a family quiz for Sunday evening, page through a newspaper, plant / monitor a fruit tree of choice, scrutinise a savings account, a telephonic chat with an auntie … the possibilities – opportunities – are endless! The benefits are unquestionable! The development of capacities for insight, reflection, tolerance, compassion, expanded knowledge horizons, persistence, critical thought, responsibility… the illusive ‘soft skills’ whose absence mars the ‘educatedness’ of even the top mark achievers!

It is worth remembering that life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can, taking pride in whatever you are doing, having empathy, sharing ideas, running, being enthusiastic, mountain climbing, learning to love! This doesn’t happen within the narrow confines of the classroom / digital learning arena / on the rugby field… ‘educatedness’ comes with an embrace of the whole of life!

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As technology continues to rapidly advance and change the way we live, learn and work, it’s important for parents to prepare their children for the future of education.

The future of education will likely involve a greater use of technology and will place a greater emphasis on skills such as creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.

To help prepare children for this future, parents can take several steps such as fostering a love of learning, developing strong study skills, encouraging technology proficiency, fostering creativity and critical thinking, promoting collaboration and by modelling empathy to them. By taking these steps, parents can help their children develop the skills and mindset they need to succeed in the ever-changing world of education.

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By Efterpi Sotiriou

As educators we bear our responsibilities seriously, accountably, with steely determination. We are mostly very busy: planning, printing, disseminating subject matter, marking – ‘fountains’ of knowledge, sound instruction, disciplinarians even!

At the ‘end of it all’, we sit back proudly in reflection of ‘a job well done’ – bountiful distinctions, escalating matric pass rates, impressive personal achievements. We may be inclined to give ourselves the proverbial ‘pat on the back’… but… should we?

How do we honestly and earnestly respond to the question: has the student been personally empowered by the expert knowledge flooding the school satchel?

The plea here is for active, life-related ‘translations’ of the subject matter.

So, for example, in the fact-intense, fast-paced, curriculum-driven history classroom, as one relates / demonstrates / explains / describes the minutiae of Hitler’s foreign policy or of Stalin’s five-year plans or the Sharpeville massacre… don’t stop there!

Tackle questions of leadership, styles of political organisation, criteria in assessment of programmes, present parallels, impact on communities, who gains? Who suffers?

Consider / contemplate wider issues at stake: universal rights / individuals rights, projections of image, patterns of unrest / revolution, the impact of matters of the purse, rights of citizens, foreigners…

Extend the conversation into the personal: what kind of leader would one chose to be? Who is who in the family? How does it work? What if any, are the justifications of ‘strong / forceful’ leadership? Responses to failure, impacts of punishment…

Against the backdrop of historical information covered within the curriculum, how would the individual structure / review personal, family, South African prospects?

The possibilities for engagement, self-application and growth are tantalisingly available, ready for the picking. Opportunities not be missed.”

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By Efterpi Sotiriou

‘Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learnt at school’ (Albert Einstein).

The task of education is widely multi-faceted, extending far above and beyond the narrow parameters of what is taught in the classic exchange of subject information at school.

Educators are commissioned with transmitting and inspiring an all-important value system as a carry-over life-tool. In application, however, the targeted paradigm of the student is a complex one, underpinned with youthful vulnerability, peer pressures, pre-established curriculum-rigid frameworks and parental prescriptions.

Critical questions arise, inter-alia:

  • What subject matter to include in the education journey?
  • Who decides on content, method, assessment?
  • How to dynamize content with life meaning?

Ultimately, the objective of the teacher is irrefutably daunting but privileged in equal measure. Empowering a child to enter ‘the big world’ with knowledge, skill, insight, sensitivity, tolerance, compassion and awareness must remain the objectives of the educator.

When confronted by decisions in their lives, pupils should be able to make informed choices. As educators, we are required to enable pupils to choose commitment and diligence over indifference, the difficult and worthy over the easy. We should empower them to defy mere conformity to robotized assessment expectations and develop their talents to the limits of their personal potential. The gains in self-respect are immeasurable.

We wish them to be proud of themselves, helpful, purposeful, generous-rather than selfish and self-centered. These are the attributes of true education. Its far-flung capacity should be earnestly sought, cultivated and upheld. It’s ‘the only way’.”

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Children are always learning new skills, new ideas and new ways of doing things. Like, discovering how to make TikTok videos upside down, in 2.8 seconds, or, spending four hours doing a YouTube-athon learning how to boil an egg without water, or watching 80% of the internet trying to figure out whether dogs make better pets than cats. In fact, learning something new every day, is the way they develop and become more confident in their knowledge and abilities. But learning something new every day can become challenging for children unless, we, as parents and educators, inspire them to do so.

Helping your child become a better learner is as easy as motivating them and giving them the positive reinforcement they need to learn and grow. With just a little bit of your time and effort, your child can become better prepared for school and the world beyond it. With that said, we defy you to read through these six tips without letting out an audible groan of joy. We’re certain that they’re exactly what’ll set you off on your journey to success as a parent.

Let’s take a look at some ways that you can help your child become a better learner:

1. Identify their learning style

By identifying your child’s specific learning style, you can adapt the way new information is presented to them. Teachers, tutors and parents should work together to ensure that their children get the best education possible, and that sometimes means creating custom tailored lesson plans that suit the needs of the child.

2. Encourage questions

The more questions the better! Encouraging children to ask questions until they understand the ideas or material they are learning, is important for the proper development of their brains. Limiting their curiosity could lead to lower test results and a decreased ability to learn new information.

3. Learn from mistakes

Show your child that it is okay to learn from their mistakes. By letting your child make mistakes, they will have the opportunity to learn from those mistakes and develop better reasoning and problem solving skills as a result.

4. Build their confidence

Praise and motivate your child. Teach them that through hard work and discipline, they can do anything they set their minds to. Encouraging them to try something new and learn from every new experience is a good way to help them become a much better learner.

5. Get enough sleep

While this might seem obvious, the fact is that many children in South Africa and, the rest of the world, don’t get nearly enough sleep for their brains to recover and save memories and new facts from the previous day.

6. Contact Think Digital Academy

To learn more ways to help your child become a better learner and how South Africa’s 4x Award Winning Online School can provide your child with a much better education, reach out to us on WhatsApp, by phone call or mail.

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Kids these days…

They’re almost always indoors. Influencing, and TikTok-ing, and weird internet challenge-ing.

These days, smartphones are the name of the game, and nearly every single child has one. We don’t even need to sing their praises, goodness knows you can probably get them to do that themselves. From scrolling through social media to snapping millions of selfies, if it ain’t a smartphone, teenagers nowadays ain’t interested.

Gone are the good ol’ days when we couldn’t wait to get home, not to do homework or anything – let’s get real – but we just couldn’t wait to get our hands on our parents’ classic Nokia cellphone so that we could spend the afternoon beating our previous score on Snake.

Fast forward a few years later and we had our very own brick of a phone with which to play games, try out polyphonic ringtones and send SMSs JUST long enough to not use up all our airtime and start sending “Please Call Me’s”. Just look how far we’ve come.

We live in the most awesome time in history – the digital age. Google has the answer to every question we can conceive, we never get lost because of GPS and TikTok captures our latest dance moves. But we all know that social media can be a tricky place to navigate, especially as a teenager. With their lives primarily lived online, teenagers are very vulnerable in the digital age and can easily find themselves in hot water if they don’t use the web responsibly. From cyberbullying to copyright infringement, avoiding these pitfalls is essential for staying safe and out of trouble. One innocent mistake can damage your child’s reputation, result in legal costs and even land them in prison. In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways you can help protect your child while they use social media.

  1. Set rules and expectations: Make sure your child understands the importance of being safe online. It may seem obvious to you not to share intimate information or photographs on social media, but explain the importance of this to your children. Talk to them about appropriate behaviour, such as not accepting friend requests from people they do not know, sending messages to strangers, and not meeting up with people they don’t know in person.
  2. Monitor activity: Many social media sites allow parents to monitor their child’s activity. Take advantage of these features and keep an eye on what your child is doing online.
  3. Educate yourself: Social media is more than a passing craze, it is a fundamental shift in the way our children communicate. Become familiar with the different social media sites your children use, so you understand how they work and can spot anything suspicious.
  4. Restrict access: Consider setting up restrictions on the devices your children use to access social media. You can also block certain websites and disable certain features. Teach your children that with great power comes great responsibility!
  5. Talk to them: It’s important to have regular conversations with your children about social media use, so they can feel comfortable talking to you if something bothers them or makes them feel uncomfortable online. Talk to them about context, tone and audience so they understand that saying something at a party to a particular audience is very different to posting something on social media where it can be misinterpreted and there is no little control over the audience.
  6. Report any suspicious activity: If you come across anything on your child’s social media accounts that seems inappropriate or dangerous, take action right away. Most sites have ways to report suspicious activity, so make sure to use these features if necessary.

By taking the time to protect your child while they are using social media, you can help ensure that they have a positive and safe experience. Remember – stay smart, stay safe and have fun in the digital age.

*Bonus* – if it feels wrong, don’t do it! That should be your mantra in the digital age. 🙂

Happy surfing!

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Mind Power courses

At Think Digital we’ve developed two short courses, Mind Power for Kids (ages 6 – 12) and Mind Power for Teens (ages 13 – 18), that is fun to take and teaches them how to navigate through life and remain positive and focused.

Free trial

Why not try our online learning environment by enroling for our free 14 day trial.

Conventional schooling has been the norm for centuries. Now, the learning landscape has changed drastically.

Today, online learning is rapidly gaining traction across the globe, especially in South Africa. Online schooling, and online learning allows students to learn from the safety and comfort of their homes and, better yet, allows them to a large extent, work at their own pace too.

While the online learning model offers many benefits on paper, is it just as effective in practice? Let’s find out.

Free trial

Why not try our online learning environment by enroling for our free 14 day trial.

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2022 was a wonderful year. Our students impressed us with their academic and extracurricular accomplishments, their parents continued to provide unrelenting support to their children, and our online school achieved new accolades.

Before jumping into our new academic year, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the previous year. In 2022, we collectively recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuilt ourselves. However, we also faced new socioeconomic, political and environmental obstacles.

As we step into 2023, it’s important to keep abreast of ground realities and remain optimistic at the same time. Here’s some collective advice for 2023 from a few of our Student Success Coaches at Think Digital Academy. How can you strengthen your academic performance in the upcoming year? Moreover, what’s the right way to be socially responsible in this critical year?

Keep reading. We’d love to engage in a healthy debate towards the end of the article; please share your thoughts with us!

Understand what’s happening in the world

2022 was a difficult year in many ways and a positive year in others. We faced a wide range of economic, political, environmental and social catastrophes.

At Think Digital Academy (TDA), we encourage our students to understand what’s happening in the world. As Carol Hanisch said, “The personal is political.” Our personal experiences aren’t isolated; they form the fabric of the larger society we live in.

As we understand the economic, political, social and environmental structures of the world, we’re able to take a step outside our circle of privilege and observe critical ground realities. This is extremely important. It helps us take equitable action and advocate for marginalised individuals and communities.

Understand the significance of political movements like the fight against crime, the fight against poverty and, the fight against climate change, economic disparities and other ground realities. This is the first step towards becoming a socially conscious and responsible citizen.

Create a new academic game plan

As you focus on your social growth, make some time for academic development as well. At TDA, our online Education Architects have planned the upcoming year by providing a “Termly Planner” for each Term, and each Grade, that details the lessons you could aim to cover during the academic term, to ensure a smooth, steady transition and consistent academic growth.

It’s time to reflect on your academic performance in the previous year.

Make a list of your accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses, skills and areas of improvement. Discuss the plan with your parents and/or tutors and get their input. Once you have a good grasp of where you stand and what needs to be done differently in 2023, it’s time to get to work!

Create a digital academic game plan. You can also use a physical calendar; however, a digital plan will be easier to edit and track. If you’re an FET, IGCSE or AS Level student, your academic plan should be SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound). This will help you systematically achieve your goals and secure top grades. If you’re having trouble creating a plan, feel free to consult your Student Success Coaches.

Make time for personal growth

Your personal growth is extremely important, especially as you step into a new year with a wide range of exciting new opportunities at your feet! Explore your interests, hobbies, pursuits and passions. Participate in competitions like Spelling Bee, Chess, debating, essay writing, and so on. Find a skill you would like to develop and join one of our live, online clubs. We have many to choose from – Art, Anime, Pilates, Yoga, History, Maths, Movement, Drama and many more. With over 15 clubs to choose from, there’s definitely something for everyone – explore at least one of them and develop a new skill.

Personal growth also includes ethical and moral development. Practice empathy, learn the importance of being responsible and treat people with respect and kindness.

Have a check-and-balance system in place

Procrastination and complacency are extremely common among students. You may set impressive new goals for 2023. However, as the year progresses, you may become a little less diligent.

Make sure you have a good check-and-balance system in place. If you become passive and stop checking your goals off the list, hold yourself accountable. You can ask an older friend, family member or tutor to help you out with this.

Consistency will ultimately help you ensure that 2023 is a successful academic year. There’s nothing wrong with taking breaks. However, make sure you don’t lose track of your goals entirely. If you’re looking for more advice for 2023 from your Student Success Coaches, we’re always here to help.

At TDA, we equip our students with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to succeed year in and year out. 2023 is a fresh start! Let’s make the most of it!

Explore the following resources to get started:

As the festive season and school holidays are under way, our students are already well on their way to making memories with their friends and loved ones. While some are on vacation, others might still have weekend getaways, outdoor excursions, sporting activities and other adventures lined up.

We strongly encourage students to spend time with their loved ones over the break. As you enjoy the holidays, make sure you do so productively! What do we mean by this? In this article, we’ll discuss five ways to have a productive break.

1. Reflect on the year and set new goals

As you wave 2022 goodbye and make way for 2023, make sure you take some time to reflect on the year and set new goals. Was your academic performance up to par in 2022? Did you focus on your personal growth? Did you socialise with your friends? What about your extracurricular growth?

Analyse the year from every standpoint to determine whether you had a productive year. We also recommend creating a list of ways you can make 2023 even more productive. How can you improve your academic performance? Should you develop new skills? Our Clubs and Societies are a good place to acquire and learn new skills. Are there certain activities and hobbies you should explore? Do you want to start playing new sports?

Make a comprehensive list of everything that you want to achieve. While it should be thorough, it should also be realistic at the same time.

2. Organise your study space

Does your learning space need some TLC? At Think Digital Academy we encourage our students to pay close attention to their study space. You spend a good chunk of your day working through your online classes from this space. If it’s in disarray, you’ll struggle to have a productive learning experience.

A tidy, clean, minimalist and organised space will help you feel motivated and uplifted. If your study space isn’t up to the par, start a mini makeover! Clean it up, redo the space around your working desk if you have to, add some bursts of colour to the space, and accessorise it. As you breathe life into your study space, you’ll feel more invigorated.

Avoid going overboard. As you accessorise your space, avoid adding gadgets, or any other distractive elements to it. Once you spruce up your study station, you’ll see the difference for yourself.

3. Create a new schedule for the upcoming term

It’s time for a new term! As you enjoy the holiday festivities, take some time to create a schedule for the upcoming term. You should ideally do this before the New Year.

Based on your new lessons and timings, set up a robust schedule that helps you stay on track. Your Termly Planner will help you to break up your lessons into a schedule that works for you. You can opt for a digital calendar or create a physical schedule in a notebook or on a whiteboard in your room.

If you opt for a digital schedule, make sure you sync it across your devices (smartphone, desktop computer, laptop and tablet). This will help you access and edit your schedule whenever you want. It’s the best way to stay on top of everything in 2023!

4. Get an academic head start

You may shudder at the thought of being told to study over the holiday break. No, we won’t ask you to do that. However, we strongly recommend getting a head start.

Go over your curriculum for the upcoming term and review some of the chapters, topics, or subtopics that appear difficult. You can also watch a video or two to head a head start and begin a great term! Get a good grasp of the introductory concepts so you can breeze through the first few lessons.

At Think Digital Academy, we have comprehensive online learning tools. Your learner dashboard includes a wide range of educational resources, including videos, eBooks, past papers, worksheets, lesson activities and so much more.

Utilise these resources to learn the ropes. This little measure will go a long way in helping you feel prepared when working through your recorded lessons. Feel free to jot down any questions if you want. You can ask your online tutors for assistance and get any initial confusion you may have cleared up.

5. Listen to podcasts

If you don’t want to study over the holiday break, you don’t have to! If you want to enjoy your break, you have every right to. You earned it!

To keep productivity intact, listen to educational and motivational podcasts. Here are some great options:

  • Stuff You Should Know
  • Made to Thrive by Steve Stavs
  • TED Talks Daily
  • StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Life Kit
  • History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps
  • Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
  • Brain Science
  • Grammar Girl
  • Stuff to Blow Your Mind
  • Startup Nation
  • 60 Seconds Health
  • 60 Seconds Science
  • Astronomy 161
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage

If you’re interested in switching from conventional schooling to online schooling, Think Digital Academy should be your top choice. Established in 2017, our school has been providing a quality online education to students for over 6 years.

We’re excited to have you on board! Let’s start securing a better, brighter future for your children.

Sign up to explore our FREE two week trial.