Seminar "Mobiles and Education in Africa - a Sustainable and Appropriate Ecology"

By Professor John Traxler

19 October 2011,14h00 - 16h00 SAST

Senate Chamber, UKZN Westville Campus

Seminar Invitation  To watch the seminar (RLC file - 833MB; higher quality) right click this link and choose Save Target As...   Smaller version (Quicktime file - 44MB): right click and choose File Save As here.

This seminar attempted to get behind the simple narratives and the beguiling generalisations in order to explore whether mobiles are capable of supporting sustainable, authentic and appropriate education in Africa.

There has previously been much activity, much discussion and much interest around the capacity of mobile devices to deliver, support and enhance learning for the disenfranchised, the disadvantaged and the developing communities and regions of the world - especially those in Africa. Much of this discussion, interest and activity is however uncritical, simplistic and poorly synthesised.

In general the argument for using mobile phones or other mobile devices to address educational disadvantage is straightforward and perceived to be a no-brainer: their ownership and acceptance are near-universal and cut across most notions of digital divides; their use is based around robust sustainable business models; they are, unlike other ICTs, found at the base-of-the-pyramid (BOP) amongst the ‘next billion subscribers’; and they deliver information, ideas and, increasingly, images.

A more critical discussion is however needed because various communities, necessary actors in facilitating successful learning using mobile devices and technologies in Africa, each come with considerable potential but often inappropriate contributions, partial understandings and flawed assumptions.

Tension exists between philosophically sophisticated researchers (cautious and conscious of (over-) generalising from a messy and contingent reality) and policy-makers and donors, needing simple prescriptions and universal truths to work with (and fund).

Areas that must be explored include: the balance between top-down and bottom-up approaches, progressive versus traditional values in education, the need for educational technologies that enable some Africans to compete in a global knowledge economy and for educational technologies that enable others to subsist and survive, the relationships between mobile learning, lifelong learning, distance education and classroom teaching, the ethical and cultural aspects of educational interventions and the boundaries and differences between various research communities and their methodologies for example between participative design and anthropology.

For more information, read Traxler, J., 2008. Mobility, Modernity, Development. Mobile Communication Technology for Development (M4D 2008), 11-12 December 2008 Karlstad University, Sweden, pp. 93-99.


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