University of Johannesburg (SOUTH AFRICA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Page: 4458 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
Since 1994, education in South Africa has undergone several broad reforms. Access to and participation in education has increased, and is now nearly universal. Efforts to raise the quality of education for children from poor and rural communities have had mixed success and the quality of public education has a lot of scope for improvement. Literacy and numeracy test scores are low by African and global standards, despite the fact that government spends about 6 percent of GDP on education. Low literacy levels among parents, poor nutrition, violence and social fragmentation are factors that explain why the performance of school children from poor communities remains low relative to their wealthier peers. Research evidence highlights the significance of factors or problems within the education system itself. These include the ongoing changes and amendments to curricula, the type of teacher training, inadequate support to teachers, teaching time compared to other activities and the availability of learning and teaching materials such as text books. It has been suggested that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can and do play a number of roles in education. These include providing a catalyst for rethinking teaching practice; harnessed for continuous professional teacher development ultimately to help improve educational outcomes and enhancing and improving the quality of teaching and learning through making resources more accessible to both teacher and learner.

This article reports on the Learning with Vodacom initiative that involved teachers and learners from schools in a rural area of South Africa and aimed to understand usage patterns of ICT in different models and to understand the part interactive E-Books can play to advance learning. As part of the initiative, Grade 10, Physical Science and Math teachers from six rural schools were provided with Laptops pre-loaded with E-Books and associated multimedia videos. Classrooms were equipped with data projectors and digital white boards. Tablet devices were issued to learners in two of the participating schools for classroom use. Devices were pre-loaded with interactive E-Books. In addition learners could access an online assignment application and a question bank of curriculum aligned assessment questions. Teachers were trained on how to use this content in everyday self-learning and classroom interactions. A vibrant community of practice (COP) developed amongst participating teachers. They constantly engaged with each other and there was as much peer-to peer learning as there was between facilitators and teachers. Initial findings report on learner attitudes and values when using ICT for mathematics and science learning as well as teachers’ pedagogical strategies adopted in the classroom. Findings indicate that adoption is possible only when the solution is both impactful from learner performance perspective, cost-effective as well as easy-to-use. At a high level, the learning solution, rather than being restricted to just school, should also extend to learners’ homes, where consolidation of knowledge through self-study can occur.
Rural schools, Interactive E-Books, Teacher development, ICT in Education, Communities of Practice.