Digital scholarship in Africa: A personal reflection

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the practices, tools and online behaviours of digital scholars and how what I see in various spaces may suggest that these are not universal. I’m not seeing many African edtech folks doing what those in the Global North are doing. Please note that this is based on a ‘hunch’ and my personal experience of being quite active in a range of online spaces, particularly Twitter.

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From digital footprint to digital scholar and beyond

I did a presentation last year entitled ‘Digital footprint: leaving a trail for others to follow’ (presentation via Google Slides with commenting enabled here) for lecturers on the seaTEACH programme. I thought I’d share this with the EDN4052W group (Research and Evaluation of Emerging Technologies in Education, postgraduate course at UCT, details here) since the first overnight task involves blogging about one’s online presence. The online visibility guidelines referred to have been updated (links here) – Michelle Willmers and Laura Czerniewicz leading by example:) I look forward to co-teaching on EDN4502W with my colleagues Dr Cheryl Brown, Tabisa Mayisela and Shanali Govender this week. And of course, our students, many of whom have travelled far and wide to attend the week’s face-to-face teaching for this module.

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6 Things Good Teachers KNOW about Technology in Education

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The following is based on my own observations and interactions with a range of teachers, both at university and in other sectors. I think good teachers are able to use technology in education effectively because they know some of the following things:

1. A critical mindset is key
Good teachers know that technology is not a substitute or replacement for good teaching and that there is no tool on the planet which can provide a ‘quick fix’ for educational challenges. They don’t see it as a delivery mechanism. They have a critical outlook and interrogate assumptions – their own and those of others.


2. Good teaching with technology is invisible
How does a teacher know when they are using educational technology effectively? When it becomes part of the learning experience to the extent that it becomes invisible. Its educational use becomes a natural part of classroom life (and outside). Good teachers use technology like an extended arm – it is part of his or her practice. Good teachers blur the boundaries between online, offline and formal and informal spaces. Their blended learning practices are seamless.

3. Good use of edtech is integrated rather than tacked-on
Technology is integrated in curricula and learning design rather than being treated as an add-on. Good teachers understand that technology isn’t like hairspray that can just be sprayed on. They build it in from the bottom up.

4. Is purposeful and used appropriately, matching learning tasks
Good teachers are able to make good choices – there is congruence between the tools they select to use, learning activities and outcomes.

5. Play is part of learning
Good teachers learn through play. They understand that they have to play with new tools to better understand their affordances. They have an open mind are are keen to experiment. When things don’t work out as planned in a classroom situation, they have a plan B. They don’t give up – they go home and play around some more.

6. Understand the importance of being agile and reflexive practitioners
Good teachers are able to adapt their edtech pratices and feel comfortable to learn through trial and error. This helps them to know where they need to adapt next time. They reflect on their practice as part of the process.

I am sure there are other points that can be added to this list – feel free to add them as comments:) Let’s see if I can make it to 10. Feel free to suggest any revisions:) Seems like I have a bit of a tension here between knowing and doing – how might I fix this?

I will then use this list to create an OER infographic.

Some other ideas I had was:
– they are able to do more with less
-are inspired by best practice examples but are able to adapt to local needs because they understand their students

Why are ePortfolios important?

In this video,  one of my gurus Helen Barrett explains the purpose of ePortfolios and how she sees the relationship between digital portfolios and social learning. The full EDX talk is available here. I really like her idea of self discovery through writing one’s own learning narrative. As the full-length video explains, she is often introduced as the grandmother of ePortfolios. Helen pioneered the bPortfolios approach (2009). It is described and evidence of its effectiveness is provided here.  The Seattle Pacific University won a Sloan-C Effective Practice Award for this work in 2011.

I believe that social media introduces additional dynamics which students can harness – notice the variety of sharing options at the bottom of this WordPress blog post for example. These were not around when Helen did her research, although she mentions them in her talk. I am also interested in how different disciplines harness different platforms (Wix, WordPress, Behance, Google Sites, Carbonmade, etc). I do not believe that there is a one-size-fits all model. However, what is common, are aspects of reflection of learning evidence and personal growth, showcasing skills for potential employers, professional development, nurturing digital literacies, a digital archive for life and many more. I am interested to see which aspects lecturers and students find value in based on their positioning within a discourse community and subject culture. The traditional, institutional environment influences the integration of ePortfolios as process and product and I’m keen to explore this in more detail. I smell another thesis in the works…