Beyond the computer lab: Rethinking ICT for education

Today I gave a presentation at the 3rd Annual Education Conference in Southern Africa called …

For the fortunate learners in South Africa who have access to a computer lab at school, they often only spend 30 minutes per week at these PCs. At the same time, up to 90% of youth have access to a cellphone. The argument of my presentation is that we — educators, researchers, policy makers and parents — need to engage with the full gamut of ICTs and digital media in the lives of young people when we think of their teaching and learning. It is the only plausible response.

Cellphones and (digital) gaming present opportunities — and risks — for learning. It is time to seriously consider the digital lives of young people — to exploit the concomitant opportunities and minimise the risks — so that the growing gap between their in-school and out-of-school experiences is narrowed.

Even in the computer lab, much more needs to be done to fully utilise the affordances of ICTs. Researchers from the University of Cape Town, Mastin Prinsloo and Marion Walton, present a bleak case study of how early literacy is taught at one primary school in Cape Town. They describe their observation of learners and teachers in the school’s computer lab in Situated responses to the digital literacies of electronic communication in marginal school settings (2008):

The teachers enthusiastically supported the use of this [pre-reading] software because it was consistent with their own ideas about how reading as a basic skill should be introduced: as a drill and practice activity.

Children encounter literacy in the context of the authority relations and pedagogical practices that characterize schooling in this setting.

The way they were expected to behave in school contrasts sharply with the potential of ICTs for children’s experimentation, self-instruction and individual choices and creativity

We really need to change this. If that is all we’re going to use powerful PCs for, then we might as well not bother.

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3 responses to “Beyond the computer lab: Rethinking ICT for education

  1. Pingback: Is our future left behind in South Africa? | School 2.0 in SA

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. We @ Jhpiego are thinking along the same lines. In fact, one of our recommendations from a recent learning technology readiness assessment in Botswana was that we should see the students’ decisions to purchase “gadgets” (mobile phones, MP3 players, etc.) with their allowances as an opportunity. We need to find ways to engage the students using the technology they use everyday. Which, BTW, most often also includes computers – for accessing Facebook, of course! And that’s just another opportunity for informal, social learning. I could go on and on…

  3. I fully agree with James about finding the ways to engage the students using the technologies. This is the perfect way to teach the students. I am using facebook, It’s nice for me and for my students also. I have learn lots of new things from there.

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