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Archive for July, 2012

My last stop in South Africa before returning to Australia was the University of Kwazulu Natal, Durban, South Africa, where I presented two papers at the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR ) conference, which was held from the 15th – 19th July, 2012 at the Howard College Campus of the University of Kwazulu Natal.

One of the highlights for me was the panel session featuring  South Africa’s female Public Protector, Advocate T.N. Madonsela, Sunday Times investigative reporter and champion of South African press freedom, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Nelson Mandela’s Rivonia trail lawyer and human rights legend, Advocate George Bizos and  The Mail and Guardian’s award-winning investigative journalist, Sam Sole.

Opening plenary session at the IAMCR conference at the University of Kwazulu Natal, Howard College Campus in Durban

Opening plenary session at the IAMCR conference at the University of Kwazulu Natal, Howard College Campus in Durban

I presented the following co-authored papers at the conference:

  • Addressing the digital divide through the use of accessible Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in South African schools – co-authored with Rolda Rapotu focusing on our research in Limpopo Province
  • Engaging young people in participatory research through traditional, digital and social media – co-authored with Gerry Bloustien focusing on our various research projects employing participatory and emancipatory research design.

Further information is available from the conference home page: http://www.iamcr2012.ukzn.ac.za/

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Following the training sessions in Tzaneen I flew to Port Elizabeth and then travelled to Grahamstown to present a paper titled “Inclusive education: A “virtual” reality?” at the Higher Education Close Up Conference held at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa where the Higher Education Close-up Conference was held from 11-13th July 2012

Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa where the Higher Education Close-up Conference was held from 11-13th July 2012

My paper drew on the work of Sheehy (2008) in exploring the potential of innovative pedagogical practices through emergent technologies such as 3DVLEs in challenging existing educational structures and the perpetuation of ‘social hierarchies and inequalities ‘ (Allan, 2004, p. 428). The paper focused more specifically on inclusive education as it pertains to students with disabilities and aimed to problematise the categorisation of disability.  Drawing on Hickey-Moody and Wood’s (2008, 2010) reconceptualisation of disability through a Deleuzian lens, the paper deconstructed the normal/abnormal; able bodied/disabled binaries that are either sustained or challenged through pedagogical practices in virtual learning spaces.

References used in my presentation included:

Allan, J. (2004). Deterritorializations: Putting postmodernism to work on teacher education and inclusion. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 36(4), 417-432.

Armstrong, D., Spandagou, I., & Armstrong, A. C. (2008). One nation globalization and inclusive education. Paper presented at the AARE 2008 International Education Research Conference, Brisbane.

Bradley, D., Noonan, P., Nugent, H., & Scales, B. (2008). Review of Australian higher education: Final report. Retrieved 19 June, 2011, from, www.deewr.gov.au/he_review_finalreport

Creagh, T. A., Nelson, K. J., & Clarke, J. A. (2011). Acknowledging social justice and equity through good practice for monitoring student learning engagement in FYE. Paper presented at the 14th Pacific Rim First Year in Higher Education Conference, Freemantle, WA.

Deleuze, G. (1994). Difference and Repetition (trans. Paul Patton). New York: Colombia University Press.

Elliott, A. (2010). Equity, pedagogy and inclusion. Harnessing digital technologies to support students from low socio-economic backgrounds in higher education. Community Informatics: A Global d-Journal, 6(3).

Gaad, E. (2011). Inclusive Education in the Middle East. New York and London: Routledge.

Gregory, B., Gregory, S., Wood, D. et al (2011). How are Australian higher education institutions contributing to change through innovative teaching and learning in virtual worlds? In G. Williams, P. Statham, N. Brown & B. Cleland (Eds), Changing Demands, Changing Directions. Proceedings of the 28th Annual ASCILITE Conference, Hobart, Tasmania, 475-490.

Gregory, S., Lee, M., Ellis, A., Gregory, B., Wood, D., Hillier, M., Campbell, M., Grenfell, J., Pace, S., Farley, H., Thomas, A., Cram, A., Sinnappan, S., Smith, K., Hay, L., Kennedy-Clark, S., Warren, I., Grant, S., Craven, D. and Dreher, H. (2010). Australian higher education institutions transforming the future of teaching and learning through virtual worlds. In C.H. Steel, M.J. Keppell, P. Gerbic & S. Housego (Eds.), Curriculum, technology & transformation for an unknown future. Proceedings of the 27th Annual ASCILITE Conference, Sydney.

Hickey-Moody, A. and Wood, D. (2010). Ethics in Second Life: Difference, desire and the production of subjectivity. In C.Wankel.and S. Malleck (eds.) Emerging Ethical Issues of Life in Virtual Worlds. Charlotte, NC:  IAP – Information Age Publishing, Inc, pp. 169-191.

Hickey-Moody, A. and Wood, D. (2008). Virtually sustainable: Deleuze & desiring differenciation in Second Life. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 22(6), pp. 805-816. Routledge, London.

James, R., Bexley, E., Anderson, M., Devlin, M., Garnett, R., Marginson, S., & Maxwell, L. (2008). A review of the participation in higher education of people from low socioeconomic backgrounds and Indigenous people. Report prepared for Universities Australia by the Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne. Retrieved 15 June, 2011, from, http://113.192.24.155:8080/vital/access/services/Download/ngv:35491/SOURCE2?view=true

Transforming Australia’s Higher Education System. (2009). Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Retrieved 15 June, 2011, from, http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report. (2010). Retrieved 15 June, 2011, from, http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/efareport/

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Status of Signatories and Parties. (2011). A/RES/61/106 Chapter IV (15).

United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Status of Signatories and Parties. (2011). Doc.A/61/611.

Willems, J. (2009). Different spaces but same places: Possibilities, pitfalls and persistent practices in Second Life. In R.A. Atkinson & C. McBeath (Eds.), Same places, different spaces: Proceedings ASCILITE Auckland 2009 (pp. 1109-1120). Auckland: Auckland University/ Auckland University of Technology/ASCILITE.

Wood, D. (2011). The design of inclusive curricula for multi-user virtual environments: A framework for developers and educators. In G. Vincenti and J. Bramam (eds.). ICST Transactions on e-Education and e-Learning, 11(7-9), 1-17.

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After spending a week at the University of the Western Cape I returned to Gauteng Province where I conducted training in Lenasia for teachers from the schools participating in our Let us Learn project. The training precedes the implementation of trials of the 3D virtual learning environment developed in five basic schools, one Islamic school and one special needs school in Gauteng Province.

Teachers attendind 3D virtual learning training in Lenasia, South Africa

Teachers attended 3D virtual learning training in Lenasia, South Africa

On the 5th July I flew to Polokwane where I conducted training that afternoon for teachers at New Horizon Special School.

Teacher training conducted at New Horizons Special School in Polokwane, South Africa

Teacher training conducted at New Horizons Special School in Polokwane, South Africa

We then travelled to Tzaneen in rural Limpopo Province where we conducted four days of training for teachers participating in the 5 basic schools and two special needs schools located in that area. We had excellent attendance with between 25-20 teachers attending each day, including weekends.

The following photos show us setting up the new computers for the training and the teachers participating in sessions conducted over the four days.

Setting up for the training sessions in Tzaneen, Limpopo Province, South Africa

Setting up for the training sessions in Tzaneen, Limpopo Province, South Africa

Siyafunda Computer Training Centre and the South African National Zakah Fund sponsored Rashid to accompany us to work with teachers who required basic literacy training.

Rashid representing Siyafunda CTC working with a small group of teachers who requested initially basic computer skills training prior to undertaking the 3D virtual learning training

Rashid representing Siyafunda CTC working with a small group of teachers who requested initially basic computer skills training prior to undertaking the 3D virtual learning training

Rolda Rapotu from the Limpopo Department of Economic Enterprise also assisted Rashid with the basic computer literacy training of teachers from the participating schools.

Rolda from LIMDEV working with participants requesting basic computer training

Rolda from LIMDEV working with participants requesting basic computer training

There were thirty teachers attending the first day of training which was held at the Tzaneen Country Lodge.

Opening of the four day training workshop conducted in Tzaneen, Limpopo Province

Opening of the four day training workshop conducted in Tzaneen, Limpopo Province

Many participants attended the hands on training sessions each day including during the weekends – real commitment from the teachers of Limpopo Province!

Teachers attending the hands-on training in use of the 3D virtual learning environment

Teachers attending the hands-on training in use of the 3D virtual learning environment

Workshop participants were actively involved in the hands-on sessions and group sessions discussing pedagogy and how to incorporate content into the 3D virtual learning environment over the four days.

Participants contributing to one of the many group discussions held during the workshop

Participants contributing to one of the group discussions held during the workshop

We also met with representatives from the non-profit organisation (Shonaquip) during our visit. Shonaquip was established by Shona McDonald, the mother of a child with a disability,  and now provides clinical services, as well as professional and clinical training for therapists, rehabilitation workers, wheelchair users, their care providers and families, across Southern Africa. We are hoping to work with Shonaquip in the participating special schools. We had good attendance from teachers from these special schools in Tzaneen including Yingisani School for the hearing impaired and Letaba Special School. Here the teachers discuss their children’s special needs with Denise.

Teachers from Yingisani and Letaba Special Schools discuss their learners' special needs during a tea break

Denise demonstrating assisting technology software to teachers from Yingisani and Letaba Special Schools during the tea break

Teacher evaluations from the four day training workshop were overwhelmingly positive and we are confident that teachers from participating schools now have the skill to commence trials of the platform in Term 3 commencing in a few weeks time. Further training workshops are planned later in the year to introduce teachers to more advanced skills creating their own content for the 3D virtual learning environment.

Group photo taken on final day of the training workshop conducted in Tzaneen

Group photo taken on final day of the training workshop conducted in Tzaneen

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I facilitated a hands-on workshop for academics from the University of the Western Cape and the University of Cape Town on the last three days of my visit to the University of the Western Cape. The workshop provided participants with an introduction to 3D virtual worlds, both publicly owned and open source platforms, and background information on how these virtual worlds are being used in education, research and for a range of social activities, as well as hands-on experience interacting and building in the 3D virtual world, Second Life.

The following two images were taken during the workshop – the first photo showing workshop participants and the second, the avatar representations constructed by participants.

Participants who attended the 3D virtual learning workshop conducted at UWC

Participants who attended the 3D virtual learning workshop conducted at UWC

Avatar representations of workshop participants

Avatar representations of workshop participants

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I returned to South Africa on the 24th June and spent nearly four weeks across five provinces conducting workshops, presenting conference papers and continuing our research in Gauteng and Limpopo Province schools.

My first series of commitments were at the University of the Western Cape where I presented a seminar titled “Distance Learning, Flexible Learning and Blended Learning: What’s in a Name?”  on the 25th June, followed by participation in meetings with the emerging e-learning technologies research group and a workshop I conducted in the latter part of the week focusing on 3D virtual learning (see post following this entry).

The seminar I conducted on the 25th June considered different models and pedagogical approaches underpinning the varying modes of e-learning, including distance, flexible and blended learning. The seminar began with a review of the historical developments in flexible learning and the impact that the emergence of educational technologies has had on traditional approaches to distance education and flexible learning. The confusion between terms such as distance education/learning; flexible delivery/learning and blended learning was discussed, and the implications for the appropriate choice and application of e-learning technologies and the design of curricula critically examined.

Various theoretical frameworks were presented drawing on the relevant literature to provide a scaffold for the ways in which we consider the interplay between institutional policies, implementation, pedagogy and technology (see Collis & Moonen, 2001) and the affordances of different e-learning technologies (see  Conole & Dyke, 2004; Savin-Baden, 2008; Savin-Baden et al, 2010), which impact on the ways in which e-learning can be effectively applied in different modes of teaching and learning.

During the presentation I drew on findings from several of the national funded teaching and learning projects I have been involve withsince 2007, as well as published case studies to demonstrate the ways in which e-learning technologies can support flexible and blended learning across a range of disciplinary areas. Emerging e-learning technologies were also considered including the increasing role that social media can play in supporting informal learning beyond the formal higher education curriculum.

 References

Colis, B., & Moonen, J. (2001). Flexible learning in a digital world: Experiences and expectations. London: Kogan-Page

Conole, G., & Dyke, M. (2004). What are the affordances of information and communication technologies? ALT-J, 12(2), 113-124.

Savin-Baden, M. (2008). From cognitive capability to social reform? Shifting perceptions of learning in immersive virtual worlds. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 16(3), 151 – 161.

Savin-Baden, M., Gourlay, L., Tombs, C., Steils, N., Tombs, G., & Mawer, M. (2010). Situating pedagogies, positions and practices in immersive virtual worlds. Educational Research, 52(2), 123 – 133.

Title screen from A/Professor Wood's Flexible Learning presentation

Title screen from A/Professor Wood’s Flexible Learning presentation at the University of the Western Cape on the 25th June 2012.

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