What are the benefits of digital education?

Digital education requires teachers to acquire new skills that they may not have had the opportunity to acquire before. However, the benefits of digital education for both learners and teachers provides significant impetus for teachers to develop new skills.

Consider the infographic below. It illustrates the impact that teachers in sub-Saharan Africa believe digital education can have on teaching and learning.

Teachers who have used digital tools in their classrooms will have experienced many of the benefits of digital education that I will discuss in this blog post.

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A Learning Design Model for Africa?

Digital education products and platforms are often brought into Africa from more advanced digital societies such as the United Kingdom or the United States of America. While these products could be world-class and highly effective in the markets they were developed, they have not been conceptualised with the societal, cultural  or technological contexts of Africa schools and learners.

Dabbagh and Bannan-Ritland’s  Integrative Learning Design Model, posited in their book Online learning: Concepts, strategies and application (2005) is a pedagogical approach that aims, through a series of phases, to decide on the most  appropriate learning technologies and  learning strategies required to achieve a specific learning objective.  The three phases of exploration, enactment and evaluation form a circular model, with the learning developer situated at the centre. Each of these phases have a number of tasks or actions that need to be completed. I have illustrated them as circles within the larger circular framework in the diagram below.

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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Disruptive Change or 21st Century Innovation?

In recent years, a global increase in access to the Internet coupled with a demand for quality and affordable higher education and a willingness on the part of faculty at some international higher education institutions (HEIs) to experiment with Web 2.0 tools and concepts has resulted in the substantial growth of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The growth in these courses is driven primarily by issues of cost and access, as outlined by Cathy N. Davidson in her article ‘Are MOOCs Really the Future of the University?’. In parts of the developing world, in particular countries in Africa, an already-existing skills shortage is exacerbated by limited access to HEIs and the sometimes prohibitive cost of obtaining a degree. In contexts such as these, MOOCs have been proposed as a potential solution. However, the utopian vision put forward by proponents of the system – free, quality education delivered online – is countered by anxiety from some faculty members at HEIs, focused predominantly on what this would mean for the traditional university system.

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Using digital storytelling to teach English Language skills in South African schools

Education standards at some schools in SubSaharan Africa is poor, with mathematics and literacy highlighted as key problem areas. According to the report Teaching and learning: Achieving quality for all (2014), published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Education (Unesco), almost half the children in this region had difficulty reading at a basic level.

This issue  is reflected to a large extent in South Africa. The Department of Basic Educations’ National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU), in a 2012 report, highlighted the fact that almost three quarters of scholars at schools evaluated in South African could not read at a normal level. This was attributed to a number of reasons, including a lack of reading content available in classrooms. Where schools did have books, these were often locked away in a store-room or only available for use for short periods in the class. Coupled with this is a large percentage of teachers with limited subject-knowledge and a general “lack of understanding … of what it means to be literate, and the specifications of the official curriculum” (NEEDU, 2014:10). The report concludes that programmes are needed to develop literacy and English proficiency and that for “language and the content subjects scholars should write at least 4 times a week” (NEEDU, 2014:11).

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