The current context of education in South Africa

  1. Scope
 A project facing such a vast challenge is in danger of having its participants’ energies dissipated unless the scope of the project is made both unambiguous and of a manageable size.  We have three broad tasks we wish to perform, but it is also necessary to specify constraints on each of these tasks.
    1. Nature of Projects
 All three tasks should be looked upon as pilot projects.  Not only does this validate the use of a tightly defined scope, it also acknowledges the fact that lessons will undoubtedly be learned from each of the three strands which should be fed back into any work which follows on from them.
    2. Language
 For the purposes of these pilots, particularly given the tight time constraints under which we are working, it has been decided to work solely in English.  This will simplify development of the resources as all the main participants are English-speaking. Also, the KZN schools language of learning and teaching is English in secondary schools selected to be part of the pilot, to ensure simplicity. This limits the selection to Secondary, and English medium schools.  Further clarity could be on subject choice, to further tighten the scope, if necessary.
    3. Time Frame
 Another constraint affecting the scope of this project is the need to report on it at next year’s Diverse conference.  This is the main factor in determining the schedules set out below in section 4. Also school years begin in January 2012, so a good time for implementation of new content is either in November of this year, for planning for a new year, or January/Feb of the new year?
  1. Size
 It is necessary to keep the size of the study quite small to enable it to be run and completed adequately in the time permitted, particularly given that it is not funded.  Ingrid is looking for some funding in SA to interact with the pilots – travel, etc. Will ask UCT for technology money. Also we do need a control, so some funding is needed.
  2. Control Group
An important decision which must be made is whether or not to run a control.  The benefits of a control are obvious from a research point of view.  However, time and personnel consttaints make make this unfeasible.  If controls are run, a decisioin should be made whether to run control classes in parallel with the experimental classes or to run controls of classes and then run the experiments on the same classes.  One advantage of the latter approach is that controls can be run concurrently with the literature searches and the development of technology and creation of videos which are to be used in the experiments.
  3. Curriculum Area(s)
Different curriculum areas may be used for the three strands or one may be used for all three.  What is important is that curriculum areas are chosen which seem in the researchers’ opinions to be suited to the type of activity being tested in that strand. This can also be determined by the needs of the schools, the ones that best match the capabilities and available resources.
  4. Proposed Schedules
Our primary deadline is the Diverse 2012 conference in Leuven, July 2-4 (?) 2012.  In order to have something to report we need to complete planning, development/implementation, running of the pilot and evaluation/write-up before that date.
    1. Proposed Schedule: Strand A
      1. Location of appropriate schools/classes
      2. Possible run of control group
      3. Literature search
      4. Development of technology
      5. Training of teacher in use of technology
      6. Running of experiment
      7. Evaluation of experiment
      8. Write-up of findings
    2. Proposed Schedule: Strand B
      1. Location of appropriate schools/classes
      2. Possible run of control group
      3. Literature search
      4. Creation of “critical thinking” videos
      5. Running of experiment
      6. Evaluation of experiment
      7. Write-up of findings
    3. Proposed Schedule: Strand C
      1. Location of appropriate schools/classes
      2. Possible run of control group
      3. Literature search
      4. Creation of “top tips” videos
      5. Running of experiment
      6. Evaluation of experiment
      7. Write-up of findings
  5. Evaluation of Data
  6. Additional Questions (in no particular order) 
    1. What is Internet access like throughout South Africa?  Do we need to stick to major urban areas to be able to use live video over the Internet? This means we limit ourselves to those who are already resourced. We need to pilot DVD or content on a stick, as well as one live.   That doesn’t seem like a problem transferring videos from the streaming to a file/stick/dvd.  I’m not sure on this part, but if a smartphone has 8gb or 16gb or storage couldn’t it be used as a player/viewer even if it didn’t have reception?
    2. It seems unfeasible to consider using mobile phone (cell phone), i.e. non-smart phone technology for this project, but perhaps we should keep it in mindfor future consideration.My main interest is also bluetooth, as it is free to share – and we need to see if existing teachers phones have capability, as it is free an internet is expensive / slow. Also cell can be viral in awareness raising and group cooperation for teachers in the pilots, to keep in touch with each other, so lets not ignore this?
      1. not sure if I understand this about the bluetooth free to share?  I know bluetooth is a wireless way to connect a headset/keyboard… to the phone.  does this mean using wifi in a location so that the internet capabilities are free?
    3. Will classroom discipline be a problem where a teacher is only present as a face on a computer monitor? Classes need supervision, this does not mean a teacher, but a responsible person. High cost tech equipment cannot be left alone, unless it is secured. Those who want to learn, will be there, watching, usually, no problem. Just security issues for equipment is an issue. People value their own phones, so will protect these. Group viewing also good for what is known as study groups – peers teaching each other as exam prep usually, which also happens before exams.

I think that’s an interesting idea that if people use their own phones they’ll presumably watch them/keep them safe.  And as Ingrid said earlier if people have to pay for use their own phones it shows their buy in on the project

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