In many ways, Vicki Snyman has been perfectly positioned to be a Tekkie Uni teacher since the very start of her career.
She’s been teaching for 10 years, and as a student, she went to school at the University of South Africa, an institution well-known for innovation in the field of remote learning, so she experienced online learning firsthand when she was studying for her degree in tertiary education.
“I was able to study conveniently from wherever I was at the time,” says Vicki. “I really came to be more and more interested in the future of education, and the role of ICT (information and communication technology) in enhancing and improving the learning and teaching experience.”
Although she’s tried different kinds of jobs — she took internships at Macmillan and worked for the Dictionary Unit of South African English — Vicki has always come back to teaching. She came to Tekkie Uni after returning from an overseas teaching job. A friend recommended she apply after seeing the teaching job posted on a job board.
Her teaching philosophy is simple: rather than spoon-feeding her own knowledge about coding to students, Vicki helps her students find their own way into the subject material, and learn about coding in a way that works for them.
“The point (of education) is that each individual forges their own path and creates their own meaning,” she says, “I like to view my role as guiding people how to learn, rather than dispensing knowledge.”
How does an online teacher develop classroom connections?
Vicki doesn’t consider herself to be a typical teacher. She’s taught students aged 4 to 64 in a variety of subjects, schools, countries, from many different walks of life. She loves this because it’s given her the chance to learn from her students as much as they learn from her.
“What I love most about teaching is the connection I have with my students,” she says. “We develop a relationship because when we come to a lesson we don’t leave our lives and worlds behind. We bring it all in with us and create a new space where we engage with each other on a different level.”
What does that look at Tekkie Uni? Vicki tries to inspire her students in ways that connect to the world outside the confines of the lesson. She shares daily inspirational quotes with her classes and once encouraged a high school class to walk around a nursery and look at all the beautiful plants after she told them about her own new plants.
One example of this is the Tamago app, the second project of the first-year development course. Tamago is Japanese for egg, and the lesson is based on a popular Chinese app — it’s a simple project, and the kids code and design the UX all by themselves. During this project, Vicki keeps the kids laughing as they learn, by challenging them to see who can come up with the best egg puns.
She also does her best to differentiate instruction for kids who might need more of a challenge or a little more help.
“I keep different versions of each app we develop so that I can share my ideas at whichever level is appropriate,” she says. “Some kids are challenged by the guided part and I want to show them what the basic app will do. Some kids like to try the advanced parts that extend the app further, so I like to share the upgraded apps I’ve created modeled on our lessons.”
How does a Tekkie teacher keep up with new teaching ideas?
While some teachers love teaching and accept technology as a new teaching tool, Vicki genuinely loves both teaching and technology and is constantly seeking to keep up to date with new ideas in teaching. Currently, she’s studying for her post-graduate diploma in teaching so that she can teach high school English.
“It’s challenging, balancing studying and working, but it gives me insight into my students’ perspective,” she said.
While it might be tough going back to school while teaching, Snyman doesn’t let that stop her, and of course she’s sharing the experience with her Tekkie Uni students.
“I love sharing what I’m learning with my students,” she said. “I want them to see that learning doesn’t stop when you leave school and to encourage them to see themselves as lifelong learners.”