New Learning Environments and Technology lecture 1

One of the courses I am doing, we have to set up and write a blog.

I was like, Awesome! Best.Course.EVER.

We spent the first lesson (an hour and a half) being introduced to WordPress and we had to set up a blog. Because I already have this puppy up and running I just spent that hour and half on Facebook.

Best.Course.EVER.

But then, I found out we had to do reflections of the theoretical lectures of the course on the blog and I was “oh… so I can’t just write nonsense about what I think and things that I saw that were funny or weird to me. “Hmmm, maybe mixing business with pleasure is not going to work out so great.” Oh well, it has to be done, so here goes:

Pedagogically speaking what’s going to happen here is that Vygotsky‘s neat and pretty distinctions between scientific and non-scientific knowledge and learning are going to be blurred (or, if you are a die-hard Vygotskian, then I suppose you would say that my non-scientific knowledge and my scientific knowledge are positively reinforcing each other to create a MONSTER sized superknowlege that is fed by both forms of knowledge).

I need to answer these questions for the course this week:

•What kind of educational system has educated you?
•Has it given good possibilities for you and your peers to learn well?
•If you would now return to your home country and start developing your country’s educational system, what would you do and why? Please include technological tools in your plans (mobile phones, computers, calculators…etc.)
Gee whizz, it’s like trying to solve all the world’s problems in 500 words or less. Let’s give it a go…
What kind of educational system has educated you?
Well, it changed a bit in the middle. The beginning it was a system aimed to create and maintain white supremacy and privilege (thanks colonialism, Apartheid and Christian National Education [side note: this is the system that gave the ontological scaffolding for the continuation of Bantu Education. CNE is an unfortunate name for the education system because not many Christian’s now would agree with it as the poster child for Christian education… I hope.]).
This all changed when I was 10 years old because (ta da!) it was the end of Apartheid. Equality rules. Everyone can be educated the same now. Woop woop. And so, now, the doors to privileged education were a bit more opened but, the concept of privilege did not end. I was no longer educated to maintain white supremacy and privilege, just supremacy and privilege. I was now part of the new South African deracialised middle class and my education reflected and supported that. What separated us in most cases was not race, but class. My education encouraged me to think critically, to help those less fortunate than me, to question “truth” and to love South Africa with all my  heart and soul. After all, weren’t we amazing, hadn’t we just lived through the miracle of the century? [side note: are these goals of education necessarily congruous? Personally I feel like they have perhaps become the four horses used to set up the drawing and quartering of the South African middle class’ mentality. But that is for another blog, another time.]
•Has it given good possibilities for you and your peers to learn well?
Well, I am still not sure how one measures learning but if you measure it as continuation of studies and job satisfaction… yes, most of my class went on to tertiary education, if not straight away, then at some point in their twenties. With the school’s focus on academics and art (rather than sports and economics) many went on to professions that paid well and/or gave a sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction. Many (including myself) have also gone oversees (mostly the UK and Europe, some to the far East) to study/work/live/adventure/travel/have babies.
•If you would now return to your home country and start developing your country’s educational system, what would you do and why? Please include technological tools in your plans (mobile phones, computers, calculators…etc.)
This is a massive topic in South Africa at the moment and could maybe could be rephrased  into another question: What is the place of technology in an equal and high quality education for all learners and teachers in South Africa? In fact, I’m kinda doing my thesis on that topic. So, what would I do? I think that if I just waved a magic wand and inserted technology into South Africa’s educational system, I think it would just work to further entrench the socio-economic divides. As the old cliche goes…
and HOW you use WHAT you use

and HOW you use WHAT you use

But, that would not work, because many teachers don’t even know how to turn on a computer [side note: this is not just a poverty/access problem. I did observations in two posh private primary schools in Cape Town last year. All the teachers I saw had computers in their classrooms and many had smartboards. They never used them in their teaching but instead stuck to textbooks that were made the year I was born (*cough cough* a long time ago, but not too long *cough cough*) and worksheets that were literally cut, glued and photocopied and then cut and stuck into exercise books. Does that make them “bad teachers”?]. So, we would  train the teachers to use computers and ipads and cell phones and smartphones to further educational outcomes. But doing old things in new ways in not really innovation. In fact, it can just be a lot of hard work for the same results, so, why bother?
Ok, we know that just putting technology in their hands and training them how to use technology is not enough, so we go beyond just the technocratic idea of the knowledge economy and globalisation and human capital theory. We need to retrain the teachers in the way that these paradigms understand people, knowledge, worth, value, significance, efficiency, efficacy. We need to underline the importance of child centered learning and independence and leadership and forming one’s own opinion. We need to explain how knowledge is nothing if it is not feeding into society in some positive way (preferably economically). If you can’t get a job from it, why learn it? If you can’t  start a business from it, why learn it? If your curiosity is not productive, why follow it? Ta da! Done.
But not really, because that would be brain washing and making teachers into factory workers. They lose their professionalism. You could say that technology does not have to be used in that way in teaching. That is can be used to open opportunities, to save the planet, to overcome issues of xenophobia, poverty, racism, violence, inequality (the list continues…) but in the climate in which teachers in South Africa have to work at the moment… teaching to standardised national tests, increasing competition between schools for a share of the growing middle class educational market and pressure to create award-winning results I don’t think technology will help or hinder. I think the roots of the issues in education in South Africa lay elsewhere [side note: I have only referred to the “privileged” schools in this post because those are the schools that I have familiarity with and because those are the schools that are often set up (uncritically) as the bar for all the other schools to meet.
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One thought on “New Learning Environments and Technology lecture 1

  1. […] course I am doing for a New Learning Environment and Technology course. The first reflection is here. We have been asked to answer these three easy-peasy question about (digital) technology and […]

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