Teachers are dying faster than they can be trained in South Africa. SA has 49 million people spread out over 1,200,000 square Km. Almost 30% of the population is under the age of 15; the median age is 25 and life expectancy is 49. Almost 6 million have AIDS or are HIV positive. There will never be enough teachers for the number of learners in South Africa.
How can we use technology to address this situation? Can we find ways to distribute the precious resource of the trained educator more effectively? To support models of learning that allow high quality teaching to reach students who don’t have access to qualified and high quality learning and teaching, who may be spread over great distances, to use technology to teach where no quality teaching is available?
This is the purpose of this project. However, the ways in which this purpose is pursued are and will continue to be constantly changing. This is due to two things. First, while we are attempting to run this project in such a way that we can empirically demonstrate results, the project is necessarily results-driven. We will experiment with many different ideas in our search to find ways to make a positive impact on education in KwaZulu Natal.
Second is KwaZulu Natal itself. The situation there is changing, just as it is elsewhere. Currently 2G mobile phone access is widespread but there is little or no Internet connectivity, and our current efforts reflect this. This will probably change significantly over the next 2 years and our thinking will have to change along with it if we are to provide relevant and effective support.
Ingrid Bruynse of the University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Steve Hull of JISC Digital Media, Bristol University, UK
Vance Martin of the University of Illinois, USA
Rulisha Chetty of the Centre for Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa
In June 2011, Ingrid Bruynse of the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, Steve Hull of JISC Digital Media in the UK and Vance Martin of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the US met at the DIVERSE conference in Dublin. They wanted to find a project that the three of them could pursue together — a project which was decided upon when Ingrid described the state of education in her home state of KwaZulu Natal and the effects of the AIDS epidemic.
Over the course of the following year they evaluated three possible approaches to this situation. These were:
- using teleconferencing (or equivalent) both to ameliorate access problems due to physical distance and to democratize classroom by permitting a teacher to engage with the class as a co-learner,
- using video to provide content which, although unidirectional in presentation can stimulate critical thinking as well as providing information, encouraging students to take more control of their education and
- using video to compile clips of best practice, tips and “what I wish I knew when I was new” in order to train non-teachers to take on a mentoring role.
It was eventually decided to concentrate our efforts on the second of these, it being the most practical one to pursue in the short term. While many setbacks delayed the project over the year, nevertheless it wast up and running in time for the 2012 DIVERSE conference, where a progress report was presented.
The response to the presentation was overwhelmingly positive, resulting in the chair of DIVERSE pledging the organisation’s support for the continuation of the project. Ingrid, Steve and Vance are now continuing the pilot scheme and looking at other ways in which more support can be provided to secondary education in KwaZulu Natal.