Category Archives: Africa

Are South African schools ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution?

As a developing country still dependant on labour-intensive industries such as mining and agriculture, South Africa is at a risk of not optimally taking advantage of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the rapid advancement of new technologies that is building on the developments of the third industrial revolution (the advent of electronics and automated production). According to Klaus Schwab, the Founder and executive chairman of the WEF, the fourth industrial revolution ‘is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres’.

The increasing intersection between physical and digital technologies is changing the world of work in several key ways. As Schwab says, ‘physical products and services … can now be enhanced with digital capabilities that increase their value’. Today’s worker needs to understand how digital and physical components can combine to create faster, more efficient and effective products and hybrid solutions.

In education, the challenge is to equip learners in South Africa to function effectively in the 21st Century, and use technology to innovate, collaborate and create.

Skills for the 21st Century

The digital revolution has changed the way we live, work and interact with one another. The skills that are considered most necessary for the 21st Century focus on how best to navigate this digital environment. These skills are divided into learning and innovation skills information, media and technology skills, and life and career skills. These skills can broadly be categorised into cognitive skills and practical skills.

21st Century skills: the three Ls

The Partnership for 21st Century Learning divides 21st Century skills into three categories: life, learning and literacy skills.

Learning skills such as critical and creative thinking as well as the arts of collaboration and communication are more important than ever. Global trade and industry and the global dissemination of information means that learners are emerging into multilingual and multidisciplinary work environments. As Thoughtful Learning says:

‘To hold information-age jobs … students also need to think deeply about issues, solve problems creatively, work in teams, communicate clearly in many media, learn ever-changing technologies, and deal with a flood of information.’

The growth of digital technologies and the extent to which we rely on them in the workplace means that learners need to acquire not only information and media literacy but technology literacy too.

Crucial 21st Century life skills include flexibility and social awareness as well as leadership skills and the ability to be productive and proactive.

Education experts in several countries are finding that there is a mismatch between the skills learners acquire in the course of ordinary school learning and the kinds of versatility and varied literacies employers require.

The importance of 21st Century skills

In today’s job market, an understanding of how to use digital tools effectively, while working collaboratively and across multiple disciplines is vital. In order to teach these skills at school, a new learning framework is required that embeds these 21st Century Skills in the curriculum, imparting subject knowledge while developing the required practical and cognitive skills.

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From the Partnership for Learning

So how can South Africa prepare its’s learners for this new world of work?

Cognitive skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and creativity are currently covered by the South African curriculum. However, digital tools can enhance and extend this while at the same time providing learners with exposure to digital technology. Key amongst these are, as listed in the Integrating ICT in Education book:

  • Personalised learning – Learners progress at an individual pace. The challenge of offline/non-digitised learning is that learners are expected to keep up with (or slow down to) the majority of the class. Digital education enables teachers to pace learning according to individual needs. In this way, it facilitates the acquisition of cognitive skills at the level of each learner’s ability, allowing some learners opportunities to practise more and others to go ahead when they are ready to do so.
  • Expanded learning – Expanded learning refers to additional learning opportunities outside of the usual classroom teaching and learning scenario. Digital education is able to offer learners across the ability spectrum additional opportunities to either extend their knowledge and skills by having access to extension materials or to consolidate and/or improve their knowledge and skills through doing support activities and by practising similar tasks.
  • Increased engagement – Learner motivation is key to engagement and hence learning. Digital education methodologies such as game-based learning offer opportunities for teachers to increase learner engagement with the subject matter and thereby improve learners’ performance. In addition, access to varied and current content online allows learners to not only enhance their knowledge but also to develop their ability to engage critically with information.
  • Collaborative learning – Digital education makes collaborative learning easy to implement. Digital platforms allow for three key things: teachers can set group tasks; learners can collaborate with one another to complete tasks; teachers can monitor learners’ individual contributions and progress towards completion. In addition, collaborative learning scenarios give learners invaluable opportunities to critically evaluate one another’s inputs and to communicate with one another in order to solve problems through teamwork.
  • Assessment for learning – Digital education enhances the teacher’s capacity to assess learners both diagnostically and formatively in order to accurately identify the cognitive skills that are lacking. In so doing, digital assessment programs enable teachers to offer personalised learning opportunities that are appropriate and effective. Further, game-based learning programs assess learners in a way that makes the assessment process invisible to learners who experience each task as yet another challenge in a competitive environment.

References
Integrating ICT in Education. 2017. Cambridge University Press

A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal

For several years I was involved in a research project at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, researching authors, their books and places connected to them. We produced a number of author profiles and literary trails over the years (in collaboration with a number of co-researchers), which we published online. Working with UKZN Press, we have taken that research and compiled a literary guide, which was recently published.

Book details
KwaZulu-Natal is culturally rich, offering a wide range of writers – writing mainly in English and Zulu – who are linked through their lives and their writing to this province of South Africa. The writers include, to name just a few, Alan Paton, Roy Campbell, Lewis Nkosi, Ronnie Govender, Wilbur Smith, Daphne Rooke, Credo Mutwa and Gcina Mhlophe. And how better to understand a writer than to know about the places they are linked to? For example, who, after reading the lyrical opening sentences of Paton’s famous book Cry, the Beloved Country (1948) has not wanted to see this scene in reality?

There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.

A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal introduces you to the regions and writers through word and image, leading you imaginatively through this beautiful province.

This could include following the route a fictional character charts in a novel, visiting particular settings from a story or tracking down the places linked to a writer, whether a birthplace, home, burial site or significant setting. Literary tourists are interested in how places have influenced writing and at the same time how writing has created place.

  • A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal by Niall McNulty, Lindy Stiebel
    ISBN: 978 1 86914 357 2
  • Read a few pages here …

 

EdTech World Tour Project Report

Earlier this year I met with Svenia Busonia who was involved in a global research project looking at edtech clusters and the adoptions of various initiatives in diverse regions. Together with her partner Audrey Jarre, she visited India, New Zealand, South Korea, France, New Zealand, Australia, the USA and South Africa. While in Cape Town we discussed the work Cambridge University Press (CUP) is doing in the digital education arena, in South Africa and Nigeria. They also met with local edtech startups Greenshoots, Siyavula, Code X and Rethink Education.

To read more on the project visit their website at www.edtechworldtour.com or download the project report here.

Gates Foundation Global Libraries Meeting

bill-and-melinda-gates-foundationI am very excited about an event I have been invited to present at next week in Cape Town, the 2013 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) Global Libraries Peer Learning Meeting.

The BMGF’s Global Libraries program supports efforts to supply and maintain free public access to computers and the Internet in ten countries around the world. According to the BMGF, quick and easy access to information and knowledge can transform the lives of individuals and strengthen communities. Yet, approximately 5 billion people – almost 90 percent of the world’s population – do not have access to computers connected to the Internet.

The meeting will be an opportunity to share ideas pertaining to community engagement, partnership building, community needs assessment, and strengthening community and financial support to ensure that the public library lives on into the 21st century.

I will presenting on a project I have managed for the past several years, the Ulwazi Programme, which uses the public library infrastructure, web technologies and the community to collect and share indigenous knowledge and local histories.

ICTS for Indigenous Knowledge Preservation

I recently had an article published in the ICT Update magazine, in an issue focused on ‘Crowdsourcing and engagement’. My article was on how libraries in South Africa are using ICTs and community journalists to collect indigenous knowledge.

ICT Update is a bimonthly printed bulletin, a web magazine, and an accompanying email newsletter and mobile website. Each issue of ICT Update focuses on a specific theme relevant to ICTs for agricultural and rural development in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

Download the PDF …