AN INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY NETWORK IN RURAL SCHOOLS IN SOUTH AFRICA
University of Pretoria (SOUTH AFRICA)
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) enhances our abilities to think, learn and communicate creatively. ICT has become so important and valued in our society, that it dictates the way we communicate, organise, plan and behave. The ongoing infusion of ICTs in schools has placed pressure on school management teams to address reform and make ICT a priority in schools.
Some of the challenges that developing countries like South Africa are facing, with regard to ICT implementation, are the lack of infrastructure, resources and funds, which contribute to the widening of the digital divide between Africa and the developed world. Teachers’ reluctance to wholeheartedly embrace technology is often seen as reflecting their professional conservatism or lack of vision, but pockets of innovation in South Africa do exist, for example the use of an IWB network between six Mpumalanga schools, used in teaching Mathematics and Science to grade 11 and 12 learners. A number of rural schools formed a cluster in 2008 using advanced ICT technology to disseminate knowledge centred in one institution to other, more impoverished, classroom situations. As a concept, it was unique to schools in South Africa.
This study was a descriptive qualitative case study. I selected participants per school that are directly involved with the project and invited them to participate on a voluntary basis. I interviewed 30 participants. Another invaluable source of information was document analysis. Such data for this network included web sites, newspaper accounts, reports on the progress of the project, and learners' marks.
In this project, teachers are getting together in subject groups in which they exchange knowledge and do peer teaching and coaching. The Head of Departments doing the transmissions are in charge of the subject groups and they discuss the common assessments and any problems arising from the network. This is one of the reasons for professional development. Training is a very important aspect of this ICT project and all teachers receive training to keep them updated with the latest, most innovative developments in terms of lesson content, how to use the computer and the interactive white board, and the usage of the relevant software.
A lot of changes took place in the teacher environment. The teachers doing the transmissions share quality teaching among the geographically dispersed classrooms. This resulted in a marked improvement in the quality of lesson content and teaching methodology of all teachers. In the quarterly meetings, the yearly project plans are discussed and the infrastructure determined.