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African Education Week to Discuss iPads, Cell Phones and Other Gadgets as Future Tools of Learning

Johannesburg, South Africa, June 01, 2013 --( With free learning content increasingly becoming available through open access digital platforms, there is growing pressure on the lecturer at higher education institutions to re-think the way they present learning opportunities.

“The world is changing and there are different ways of gaining knowledge. Information is immediately available through the internet that can be accessed through iPads, smartphones and laptops,” says Prof Johannes Cronjé, Dean of Informatics and Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). He is part of an impressive line-up of speakers at the 7th African Education Week Annual Convention and Learning Expo to be held at the Sandton Convention Centre from 20 – 22 June. This year’s theme is “Building future leaders in education.” Agang SA leader Dr Mamphela Ramphele will deliver the keynote address.

Teach learners how to find information
Cronjé who is also part of the opening session will also participate in a panel discussion on "E-learning in action," says “We need to discard the old idea that the professor is the fount of all knowledge. The challenge now is for academics to make an effort to teach learners how to find information and how to design knowledge and learning packages that are relevant to them.”

However, although there is an increasing reliance on content that can be accessed online, Adele Botha, principal researcher at CSIR Meraka believes that the classroom of the future will look the same but it will act differently.

“The fundamentals of teaching will never change. Younger people want to learn from older people and those they identify as role models. But they want to learn differently. The lecturer has to become the person who pulls together the different forms of social media as tools of acquiring knowledge. The lecturer will also increasingly encourage students to create media that is suitable to their needs.”

Botha will be a panellist during the session on "The challenges of change: Is social media disruptive in education?" during African Education Week.

Lecturers’ skills sets need to change
Banning technology in the lecture hall or the classroom is short sighted says Botha who recently attended a conference where cell phones, iPads, PCs and other digital media were not allowed in the rooms.

“These are all tools that can enhance the learning experience. The lecturer can no longer depend on using only one tool like for example a whiteboard.”

In an age where knowledge is shared through social media like Facebook and Twitter, banning technology is indeed not the way to win over a new generation of knowledge seekers.

Says Botha: “Young people are technology experts, but they are not education experts. They do not know what they need in order to gain proficiency in their chosen fields. The lecturer should be like the conductor of an orchestra. He does not necessarily need to know how to play all of the instruments, but he knows how to point towards the experts who play specific instruments to create beautiful music. The different ways of accessing information and knowledge are the instruments. Students have to find their own digital residency – the technology that they are most comfortable with using in the quest for knowledge.”

Botha emphasises that lecturers’ skills sets need to change.

“It does not mean teachers and lecturers have to retrain, but they do need to upscale their technological skills base. If they do not interact with young people in a way that is relevant to them, you will find lecture halls with up to 300 disengaged students. Young people are visual creatures who want to be taught through visual media. They do not want to be spoken down to and they want to be part of an interactive learning process. Social media has made it easy to interact with the professional. But there will always be some people who are more adept at adapting than others and who are more willing to embrace the new challenges.”

What about the argument that the easy availability of knowledge makes for superficial gathering of knowledge?

“There is indeed a danger that students do not develop into critical thinkers. This is especially true if they are seen and treated as mere consumers of knowledge. But when students are taught to be creators of their own learning content by developing, amongst others, videos, music and films, they are becoming contributors to the process of knowledge creation. The institutional control of knowledge is a thing of the past.”

Event dates:
Wednesday, 19 June 2013: Pre-conference workshops
Thursday, 20 June 2013: Opening keynote session, Learning Expo opens
Friday, 21 June 2013: Conference sessions, Learning Expo open
Saturday, 22 June 2013: Learning Expo open, Post conference workshops

Location: Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa
Contact Information
African Education Week
Annemarie Roodbol
+27 21 700 3558

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