TECHNOLOGY

The future of education

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The technology in our country is fast moving to accommodate students to have access to digital learning techniques. Already there are schools where students use their laptops or tablets to have access to the Internet so that they are able to advance their learning process.

The classroom for the future will be a phygital experience. This is when the physical world and the digital world combine–the physical experiences will be more engaging and will work with digital concepts through mobile technology with the Internet availability for research.

The internet-based concept will create a platform for lecture and student interaction or interface and will be very important for the student’s success. There will be continuous symbiosis between these physical and digital dimensions, ensuring they enhance each other. The technology offered will help young people to understand and follow this new path of advanced learning.

BBQ Magazine sat down with Clinton Walker, the Director of e-learning for the Western Cape Education Department for a short discussion regarding e-learning within schools.

Please explain your role as the Director of e-learning for WCED?

One of my main responsibilities is to ensure that the environment with regards to e-Infrastructure and technologies for teaching and learning are coordinated, procured, made functional etc. Then the drive begins toward the capacity building of the schools to best integrate the technology and a changed teaching practice and approach. The latter being the long haul.

How has the implementation of e-learning helped learners?

The responses to this are varied, but, it is generally agreed that the opportunities need to be made available to learners so that they can best exploit its outcome. The eLearning programme has an ePortal as one of its streams, which seeks to provide varied digital resources to learners (and teachers). The greater gain has been the access to resources created by WCED.

Have there been significant changes within the Education system in South Africa since e-learning has been introduced?

E-Learning is not new. There are a number of innovations and evolutionary growth within the delivery models. Having e.g. video material available and accessible through mobile means has probably been the most significant. Online access and activity has grown exponentially and affords collaboration and sharing beyond the confines of a classroom, or a school.

What are the challenges schools face since introducing e-learning?

On the physical side there are threats of vandalism and theft. Safety issues are also one of the serious challenges that hamper growth and development. The greatest challenges however, is the adaptation that is required by individual teachers and by the school as a collective to change the way in which we teach and the resources available to do so. The change is often not an easy once-off exercise.

Due to the future being filled with various kinds of technology and constant changes, how will you ensure that your e-learning systems stay on par with what’s new?

Part of the process is to look at future-proofing mechanisms. However, we do not need to be at the cutting (or bleeding) edge of technology changes but rather enable our environment to best use that which is at available and appropriate and at the same time to have a willing mindset to embrace cyclical changes–even rapid ones.

Do you as the Director of e-learning truly feel that e-learning is the right approach in tackling South Africa’s education crisis?

Yes, needless to say not all of South Africa’s education crises. It is a contributory factor to assist a positive outcome.

Are there any new developments we can look forward to seeing from the WCED regarding education and technology in the future?

Ensuring that we have increased equal access and the ability to better transcend space and time.

Where we live should not be an inhibitor to our opportunities. When we are able to access learning material should not be constrained by four walls and a rigid time-frame.

How are schools assisted with the infrastructure need when they are introduced to the e-learning programmes?

WCED has a programme that assists and provides for Wide Area Network and broadband Internet connectivity, connectivity between schools, local area wireless connectivity, teacher technologies, classroom technologies, subject-specific technologies and mobile technologies.

Who offers the support schools need with the use of e-learning?

Technical support is provided by a state entity within the department of the Premier. The schools in particular are serviced by Centre for e-Innovation (CeI). Schools also have varied benefactor support and industry support that the partner with. The WCED eAdvisory Teams within districts offer support in providing professional Development programmes, as well as a centralised campus in Kuilsriver, Cape Town that invites teachers to seminars, training and development courses.

Please share with us any other developments relating to this topic?

The technology tail should never wag the educational dog.

In conclusion, if one is aware of all these e-learning processes and new technology innovations arising, it is clear that there are exciting times ahead for education in South Africa. We should only remain positive that it will easily be embraced and absorbed by all linked to education. This new trend will also be of a great advantage positively for the future workforce in South Africa. In view of this new innovative concept the employers in the future will reap the benefit of more technically inclined and technologically equipped employees who are aware of improved system concepts and ways of interaction in the workplace. 

Danica Tobin

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