There is a general lack of understanding about the merits, as well as the pedagogic use of technology in education, and while South Africa has an advocacy programme, there is still a lot more work to be done in this area. Kobus van Wyk of Mustek shares some e-learning best practices for this year. Kobus is a longstanding contributor to African Education Week and a member of the conference committee. He will join the E-learning in action panel at African Education Week.
1) What does the year ahead look like for technology in the South African education sector?
Exciting! The National Department of Basic Education (DBE) is putting large emphasis on the use of technology in education, or e-education as they call it. In its document, Action Plan to 2014, chapter 7 is entitled “The importance of e-education,” with some ambitious goals set for 2013 and 2014. This adds impetus to the implementation of e-learning initiatives in the different provinces.
2) What role do you specifically see e-Learning playing in this space?
Although e-Learning is already happening in isolated schools, it still has to get going at a much broader level. e-Learning can make a huge contribution towards alleviating the bad state of education in South Africa. For more detailed insights about this, see this blog post: How to fix South Africa’s education.
3) What do you see as the most exciting opportunities in the education space at present?
The worse the situation, the greater the opportunities! Extremely low literacy and numeracy rates, poor matric results, too few maths and science passes… e-Learning can play a significant role in resolving (or at least massively improving) all of these problems. Mustek is an experienced partner to schools in this space, and it is our mission to work together with government and other organisations and institutions to provide the technologies required to make e-Learning happen in schools.
During 2012 it became very apparent that the use of tablets and mobile devices will play an increasingly important role in education in the future. Mustek engaged in considerable research into the merits of these particular devices, and specifically how these tools can best be used in the classroom. We know that tablets are taking the education world by storm outside of South Africa (and Africa), but locally there is still some work to be done to extol the value of tablets and how they can improve teaching and learning. We look forward to maximising this opportunity in 2013!
4) What are the key hurdles/ challenges facing this market?
The greatest barrier to e-Learning is a lack of understanding on the part of the decision-makers in education departments, about the role technology can play in education. In 2013, Mustek will continue to focus on its advocacy programs to inform, educate and influence stakeholders to buy into related concepts. Mustek will also be assisting education departments with the establishment of implementation plans.
Another challenge is the ever-changing nature of technology. Yesterday, we used laptops, today it’s tablets – tomorrow will bring a new platform of technology. One could be distracted by focusing too much on specific technologies. I believe it is imperative to begin with assessing the educational needs, and then determining which technology would best support them from there.
5) How do you see South Africa performing in this sector in relation to the broader African and global context?
South Africa is lagging behind the global community (and is not even a leader in Africa) in the field of e-education/ e-Learning. A lot of work needs to be done in order to catch up. Of course, this makes the opportunities so much greater too which is hugely positive.
6) What are your top tips/ pieces of advice to educators in SA as we begin this New Year?
Educators, get your hands on a device – today! Experience it first hand, familiarise yourself with it, and when you get stuck, ask a learner to help you!
7) What will be your specific message this year at African Education Week?
Whereas general agreement exists that technology must play a more significant role in education, many barriers to its universal implementation in classrooms exist. My message will be that we must first of all acknowledge what those barriers are, and then work together (private and public sectors) to remove them. The good news is that none of those barriers is insurmountable!
8) What are you most looking forward to at this event?
As always, the thing I look forward to most is to meet with colleagues – speakers, exhibitors, attendees – to learn what progress has been made in the use of technology in education over the past year.