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Archive for the ‘South African research’ Category

I returned to South Africa in October 2012 at the invitation of Professor Judy Backhouse from the University of the Witwatersrand who also met the costs of my air fare. The purpose of my visit to Wits was to conduct a teaching and learning training session on the 10th October,  participate in a research workshop on the 11th October and also present an invited paper at a public lecture on the 12th October.

I took the opportunity while in South Africa to conduct further teacher training sessions in Limpopo and Gauteng provinces.  This training was conducted from the 3rd to 5th October in Tzaneen and was well attended with very positive feedback from the teachers who attended.

Teachers with their certificates following training conducted in Tzaneen in October 2012

Teachers with their certificates following training conducted in Tzaneen in October 2012

I then flew from Polokwane to Johannesburg and conducted teacher training at Thornbirds Convention Centre for Gauteng teachers from 7th to 9th October.

Teachers attending training at the Thornbirds Convention Centre

Teachers attending training at the Thornbirds Convention Centre

While at Thornbirds I met with Sr Mary, a Salesian nun who founded the Lerato Educational Centre for children, which caters for chidren up to 11 years of age from the Jackson’s Drift informal settlement in Eickenhof.  We are exploring ways that we might be able to include the children into our program operating out of Gauteng and will be exploring funding options in the new year.

Lerato educational centre for children from Jackson's Drift informal settlement in Eickenoff

Lerato educational centre for children from Jackson’s Drift informal settlement in Eickenoff

After leaving Wits I travelled to Cape Town to participate in meetings at the University of the Western Cape and to then travel with Professor Viv Bozalek, Director of Teaching and Learning at UWC) to attend a three day writing workshop at Mont Fleur. During that workshop we completed a paper on authentic learning which has been submitted for review to the British Journal of Educational Technology.

Participants at the Mont Fleur writing workshop in October

Participants at the Mont Fleur writing workshop in October 2012Participants at the Mont Fleur writing workshop in October 2012

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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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Following my visit to the University of the Western Cape I returned to Johannesburg to continue our research in the socially disadvantaged schools in Gauteng and Limpopo Provinces.

During this trip we installed the latest updates to the 3D virtual learning environment that we have been creating, which is based on the South African national curriculum standards. We also ran teacher training and briefed the education department staff who will be undertaking the testing of children’s progress on the research protocol.

Here are some screen shots from the developing 3D virtual learning environment we have created for the schools:

The initial orientation trail children encounter when they log into the 3D virtual learning environment

The initial orientation trail children encounter when they log into the 3D virtual learning environment

Children can rent their own virtual land and house in the virtual world where they can furnish their house and grow virtual vegetables to sell to the market

Children can rent their own virtual land and house in the virtual world where they can furnish their house and grow virtual vegetables to sell to the market

Children can visit the market and shops in the township to buy food and learn how to manage their virtual money

Children can visit the market and shops in the township to buy food and learn how to manage their virtual money

Children can go on safari trails in the 3D virtual world where they solve numeracy and literacy problems and answer quizzes about science in an exploratory environment

Children can go on safari trails in the 3D virtual world where they solve numeracy and literacy problems and answer quizzes about science in an exploratory environment

Children can also travel to the moon in a virtual rocket and then enter a plantarium to learn about the solar system

Children can also travel to the moon in a virtual rocket and then enter a plantarium to learn about the solar system

Children can fly to the moon to learn about the solar system in the 3D virtual world

Children can fly to the moon to learn about the solar system in the 3D virtual world

 Children can travel underwater in a submarine to view underwater life and answer quizzes about marine life

Children can travel underwater in a submarine to view underwater life and answer quizzes about marine life

Each adventure trail includes interactive boards providing children with the opportunity to solve numeracy and literacy problems in a fun like environment

Each adventure trail includes interactive boards providing children with the opportunity to solve numeracy and literacy problems in a fun like environment

Children enrolled in 5 basic schools in Gauteng and 5 in Limpopo Provinces, as well as children attending 3 special schools will be commencing trials of the platform within the curriculum in term 2 and we will monitoring their performance in terms of development of numeracy, literacy and life skills as well as changes in motivation and self esteem over a three year period to determine the impact of this kind of learning environment on learning outcomes. I will be updating progress on the project periodically in the coming months.

You can learn more about the project via our Let us Learn project site: http://let-us-learn.org/

 

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I am somewhat behind in blog updates as I spent some time in South Africa during January and February, arriving back in Australia just in time for the start of a new semester.

My first stop in South Africa on this trip was to the University of the Western Cape (UWC), where I was warmly welcomed and hosted by Professor Vivienne Bozalek, Director of Teaching and Learning. During my visit to UWC I conducted a 3 day workshop, seminars and met individually with UWC staff to discuss the potential of 3D virtual worlds for enhancing teaching and learning, and also as medium for conducting research.

External view of one of the buildings at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa

University of the Western Cape (UWC), South Africa

The workshop took place from Wednesday 1st February 2012 to Friday 3rd February.  The workshop aimed tol provide 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.

One the first day of the workshop I presented findings from the ethnographic research conducted in the 3D virtual world known as Second Life to demonstrate the benefits and challenges of conducting research in these environments. I also discussed case studies of how 3D virtual worlds are being used in higher education across a range of disciplines and described the pedagogical benefits and affordances of these environments, drawing on the research arising from our ALTC funded project and the guidelines developed through this research. I also demonstrated our open source virtual world that has been developed for use in socially disadvantaged schools in Gauteng and Limpopo Provinces and described the research process undertaken in the schools.

The second day of the workshop provided an introduction for those who are new to 3D virtual worlds. The workshop session provided an opportunity for participants to gain hands on experience navigating and interacting in Second Life. Participants learned how to sign up for free membership, create an avatar and navigate the orientation trail when they first log into Second Life. They also learned how to walk and fly their avatars, use chat and instant messaging, and teleport to different locations “in-world”. They were shown how to create a profile, offer friendship to other avatars and join groups. Those who were more ambitious had the opportunity to try their hand at creating simple objects using the built-in building tools, visit locations and take snapshot photos “in-world”.

The third and final day of the workshop focused more on the pedagogical uses of virtual worlds included tours of different places in Second Life to explore the ways in which universities are already using virtual worlds in learning and teaching, and to generate ideas about how participants might use such environments to support their own teaching. This wrap up session also provided opportunity for discussion about the effective strategies for facilitating student engagement and learning, and some examples where virtual world activities might have been better undertaken through more traditional approaches.

The seminar session conducted the following week was open to all UWC academics and guests from other universities. This seminar provided a brief overview of the use of 3D virtual worlds for a range of educational, research and social activities. The session provide opportunity for interaction among participants who wanted to share their own experiences in virtual worlds and to raise questions about how to deal with unforeseen circumstances as they arise. The session concluded with discussion about where the future may be heading in the use of these environments for learning and teaching in higher education.

Denise presenting 3D virtual worlds seminar at the University of the Western Cape

Denise presenting 3D virtual worlds seminar at the University of the Western Cape

You can view the video of the seminar from YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lw_36k9A-Nk&feature=youtu.be

I am now meeting with a group of UWC academics in Second Life each week with the view to building their capacity to use these learning environments within their own teaching and learning. I look forward to a long term and mutually beneficial academic association with UWC and plan to return later in the year to further develop our collaboration.

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Following the DPI Assembly in Durban, Rolda and I returned to Johannesburg where we met up with two of our research team (Charles Morris and Gien Varney-Wong). We then travelled to Limpopo Province to continue installation of the 3D virtual world platform on the servers in each of the participating schools and to conduct training of local Education Department staff who are undertaking testing of the children involved in the project.

Training of local Education Department staff in Limpop Province

Training of local Education Department staff in Limpop Province

While in Limpopo Province we supervised the newly trained Education Department staff testing children in the schools including Letaba Special School shown in the photo below.

Conducting testing in Letaba Special School

Conducting testing in Letaba Special School

 

I had to fly back to Australia after the Limpopo leg of the journey, but the rest of the team visited Kruger National Park before driving back to Gauteng Province to continue training of local staff who are doing the testing of children. The team supervised testing of children in participation schools in Lenasia, including children attending Jiswa Special School.

Testing children at Jiswa Special School in Lenasia

Testing children at Jiswa Special School in Lenasia

 

 

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