Blurring and reconstituting boundaries - Centre for Educational

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					     Blurring and reconstituting
     ICT-mediated learning in a
     developing country context

Laura Czerniewicz           Cheryl Brown
Reflections based on
      A research project on access and use started in
       ◦ mixed-method approach
       ◦ two surveys of 10 110 students in total
         (undertaken in 2004 and 2007)
       ◦ twelve universities in South Africa
       ◦ quantitative analysis of 58 question survey
       ◦ qualitative analysis of the questionnaire’s open-ended
       ◦ selected additional student interviews
      Informed by our work at CET over the last 5 years
South African context

       Per 1000 people              South Africa   United Kingdom
             Personal computers           85            600
                   Internet users        109            473
           Broadband subscribers         3.5            163
             Bandwidth (bits pp)          19           13062
         Internet costs (US$ pm)          63             27
              Mobile subscribers         724            1088

                                                    World Bank 2005
South African Higher Education context
      Substantial restructuring of the Higher Education
       sector since apartheid ended in 1994
       ◦ full-scale institutional mergers and restructuring has
         taken place since 2005
       ◦ student enrolments have increased by 30% since 1994
       ◦ increased student diversity with 22% more black students
         entering the sector since 1995
      No national educational technology policy
      Sector resource constraints (esp ICTs) and
       competing demands
Key assumptions 5 years ago, at outset of project
       About access
          ◦ A digital divide in terms of
               physical (computers, location, adequacy and ease)
               personal (disposition, skills)
               contextual resources (support, networks, frameworks)
       About use
          ◦ A pedagogy of formal learning in a defined curriculum
          ◦ Defined learning spaces (on campus and off campus, virtual
            and physical)
          ◦ Students’ academic activities as separate from their social
         Access and use inextricably intertwined
Rethinking boundaries, in four ways
     1. Some existing binary distinctions continue to
        hold true
     2. Some distinctions are exacerbated and
        increasingly polarisation is occurring
     3. Traditional activities and categories are becoming
        less clearly demarcated with grey areas creating a
        kind of hybrid, made up of new constellations of
        elements previously associated closely with
        distinct categories
     4. Some distinctions have dissolved creating entirely
        new categories and new possibilities
How has this played out?
      The digital divide
      Pedagogy and the curriculum
      Learning spaces
      Social and academic intersections
Digital Divide: expanding and reconstituting
      On campus the digital divide has almost disappeared
      On-campus access to computers is reported equivalent for
       all students (except disabled)

           very easy,



      Students’ reported ease difficulty of access to ICTs on campus, 2007
Digital divide
       Off campus, the digital divide is firmly in place
       Off-campus access is varied and unequal




                                     Access                     Home and
                      No access   through third   Home access    portable
                                      party                      access
            low         57%           44%            25%          28%
            average     25%           29%            38%          33%
            high        18%           28%            38%          40%

                   Off-campus access by socio-economic group 2007
Digital divide
       In other ways, the digital divide is becoming
        exacerbated at the extremes
        ◦ 2007 data shows a small (11%) but distinct group of South
          African students display characteristics of “digital natives” in
          that they have:
           grown up with computers;
           are independent when solving computer problems and learning
            new skills, and
           draw extensively on their social networks.
        ◦ But a significant group of student (22%) still lack both
          experience and opportunities, as they have:
           been using a computer for less than 4 years; and
           have no direct access to ICTs off campus.
Digital divide
       However, in other ways, the digital divide is being
        reconstituted or bridged by cell phones
      ◦ Ownership is ubiquitous (98.5% in 2007)
      ◦ Ownership is not socially differentiated
      ◦ Students who fail computer literacy tests/ report little
        access to computers are reporting varied cell phone use
      ◦ Even student from low SEGs use phones as a means of
        internet access        High SEG
                                         37%                Low,
                                                          SEG 35%

      Access to Internet by cell phone
             (544 students) by socio-                Average SEG
              economic group (SEG)                       28%
Pedagogy: entrenched & opening up

  ICTs used to entrench                ICTs used to open up and
    traditional roles                    challenge
     Answers that the lecturers put      Can get more information about
      up                                   certain projects that you can’t get from
                                           lecturer, tutor etc
     Clear information during
      lectures when projected             it helps me a lot because it connects
                                           me with other colleges, coursemates
     Lecturers keep you up to date
      with what’s happening in your       I am able to read ahead, and
      subjects                             sometimes challenge
      The curriculum is opening up
      Curriculum oriented informal learning becomes easier and
       more visible
      New opportunities in relation to
       ◦ content
       ◦ access to wider networks of people
       ◦ general support for students in terms of basic writing

     But when you go to Internet, you'll find that ... maybe in Britain,
       maybe in Oxford University, they are doing the same stuff as you
       are doing. And you can get tutorial questions based on that …..
The curriculum
      But for some students this blurring is making learning
      Some students are finding information overwhelming, and
       lack of support daunting

     when I’m using an internet you know that’s where I get some frustration I only
         know some [of] the addresses, 3 of them you know while other people know
         more than I know and from there actually sometimes I don’t get what I
         want from the internet
     not all information is100% accurate - books are more reliable, I think
     I feel a lot better when I actually went out and found books for research. For
         instance … going on line… you have to find the right site and once you do
         find the right site your information might not be all be there so personally I
         feel that I do a lot better without computers
The curriculum
      There are signs that ICTs are reconstituting the role
       of students, giving them more agency
      A notion of curriculum-oriented informal learning
       mediated by ICTs, where goals of learning are explicitly
       defined by the learner but linked with the curriculum

     lot of extra questions that could not be covered in the allocated lecture
        time could be posted on [the LMS], so the student can go through
        extra questions in their own time
     Creating our own sites (not using an existing one) was very useful in a
       number of group projects that I have done. It provides an easily
       accessible centralized place to collect and access our work
Learning spaces: intact and fluid
       The binaries of location continues to be relevant
        ito access to computers
        ◦ on and off campus remain relevant
        ◦ students negotiate issues of adequacy, sharing, etc

      I cannot access it as much as i would like to because the lower
         campus labs close and it is late to go upper campus and my
         friend would be busy or sleeping and i cannot use her phone
Learning spaces

       But learning spaces are being reconstituted as students
        use cell phones for access and use in unanticipated ways
         Access is increasingly being determined by
          connectivity not by location

      You can access it [the LMS] anywhere even from your cellphone
      You can use your phone via google. Maybe I don't have time for a
        computer. Or maybe it's late, and the assignment must be
        submitted. Then I use my phone.
Social and academic: separate and interwoven
     The binaries between social and academic do still exist
      The uptake of social software in South African higher education
       is low
       ◦ 71% of students hardly ever publish their own online content
       ◦ 42% hardly ever upload resources to the Internet
      Especially for learning
       ◦ 71% hardly ever keep an online journal or blog as part of their courses
       ◦ 60% hardly ever share resources as part of their courses
       ◦ 66% hardly ever collaborate online with other students
      This may be a conscious choice

     I consider [our LMS] to be an academic resource. Other social
        networking sites are better suited to non-course activities
Social and academic
      But there are signs of blurring
      Some students would like technology that integrates the
       wish we had a university calendar including all social, activism, seminar, etc
       It [the LMS] needs more social network features (twitter-like status updates
           at the very least) so that one can develop an online academic community
           rather than the highly restrictive per-course communities at present

       Some move back and forth easily between the two
       because if you don't know anything, you can just go search, and you can type
          back to your assignment. As you are doing your assignment… it's
          encouraging. Because you can do something recreational on the computer
          to refresh your mind, and then go back to your work
Social and academic
      ICTs have also increasingly blurred the
       realm of academic and affective dimensions
       of learning.

       ◦    This happens through increasing connections
     I even get some SMSes from my friends from church during exam stress.
          I think cell phones are very useful. They help me very much
       ◦    And connections at a safe distance
     It's [ICTs] much easier than looking someone in the eye, sometimes, to
            open up [when you are stressed about studying]
Social and academic
      There is evidence of a reconstitution of learning with tools
       normally associated with one kind of activity being used for
       ◦ Chat rooms are being used for studies
       maybe you are chatting with someone in Alice and you are asking them what
         life is like…and (at the same time] you can send them your assignment,
         and they can send it back. …and you check it while you're chatting. And
         then you can re-do some things and send it back
       ◦ Use of LMS for non course related activities
          32% of students find the LMS valuable for social networking
          51% find it valuable for student activism
       ◦ Use of social software for academic activities
          134 students say they use Facebook ONLY for academic use
          174 students saying they use Flicker etc ONLY for academic use
In summary
     No single neat trends
     Multiple simultaneous realities
     Emerging and conflicting practices
     Evidence of
      ◦ Existing divides and distinctions, both continuing and
        becoming exacerbated
      ◦ Divides being reconceptualised and bridged
      ◦ Both opening up and closing down
      ◦ Hybrids, overlaps and re-constellations
      ◦ Entirely new practices
      Challenges for educators
       ◦ Designing for increased diversity and new practices
       ◦ CL Gaps between students are getting wider
             How can educators respond to this “dilemma of
              justice” simultaneously supporting students’
              participation in new global practices without further
              marginalising previously disadvantaged?
       ◦ Given that even students with poor access and computer
         literacy have new forms of “cell phone literacies, how do
         educators leverage these “characteristically contemporary
         literacies” in order to build them into integral
         components which strengthen education
      Challenges for institutions
       ◦ Responding to access issues in a context where on
         campus access remains crucial
       ◦ Responding to the needs and pressures of “digital
         natives” and of social/academic blurring
       ◦ Opening up the curriculum to “curriculum-oriented
         informal learning”
       ◦ Enabling maximum flexibility of tools for multiple
       ◦ Rethinking assessment where students can access
         multiple resources and learning paths
      Challenges for research
       ◦ Gaining an “insider perspective” as to how technological
         habitus is being constituted in a new communication
       ◦ Lecturer and student perceptions of benefits and
         drawbacks of the opening up of the curriculum
       ◦ The impact of distributed learning spaces on students’
         sense of being a “community of learners
       ◦ Reconceptualising pedagogy

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