Factors Influencing the Integration of Technology to Facilitate Transfer of Learning Processes in South African, Western Cape Province Schools
Cantrell, Shannon, Visser, Lya, Quarterly Review of Distance Education
This article discusses challenges South Africa is currently facing in its attempt to introduce computer use in its schools. There exist profound disparities for PC access between the provinces, due to weak social and economic developments and decreasing access to computers at home. This, in turn, may decrease the effect of computer use in schools. In addition, the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT's) on education is not automatic, and combining ICT's with effective pedagogy may be a daunting task, especially for schools in the disadvantaged areas in South Africa. Research cited in the literature review for this article emphasized the need for a sound analysis of current teacher training practices and more and better access to educational (online) experiences so as to encourage and motivate teachers to efficiently and effectively integrate ICT in their teaching as this will enrich the learning experience of students and prepare the latter better for participation in an ever more technology savvy environment.
South Africa, a country with a politically tumultuous past, has a strategic and auspicious geography on the southernmost part of the African continent. Permanent European settlements within the region began with the arrival of van Riebeeck in 1652. The subsequent import of slaves from Angola and West Africa began in 1658 (Clark & Worger, 2004), and from this historical prescience, periodic bouts of slavery under Dutch and British rule extrapolated to profound racial segregation throughout the colonial period. In 1948, these racial inequalities eventually derived to a systematically expanded and mandated policy of racism labeled Apartheid (an Afrikaans word derived from Dutch, meaning "apartness" or separate) (Fiske & Ladd, 2004).
Under apartheid policy, which existed formally between 1 948 and 1994, all aspects of the social, political, and educational systems in South Africa were inequitably defined and operated to the benefit of white South Africans over the majority black South African population (Clark & Worger, 2004). Specifically, schools for whites were funded generously, while those for black students were systematically denied adequate facilities, textbooks, and quality teachers. Moreover, per pupil spending for whites during the height of Apartheid was ten times that of black African students (Fiske & Ladd, 2004).
In 1994, many aspects of the political, social, economic, and educational arenas in South Africa improved with the election of Nelson Mandela as president, and the establishment of a democratic government. Subsequent adoption of the Constitution in 1996 provided educational reforms through significant legislature and the establishment of the National Qualifications Framework. The structure of this Framework provided a conduit for establishing a single educational system, whereby many policy initiatives were adopted for improving access and funding of education in South Africa (K- 12 and tertiary levels) (Baxen, 2008).
In 2004, the government of South Africa delineated policy objectives for the utilization of ICT's in the educational sector. A "White Paper" was released articulating a governmental response to the "new" information and communication technology environment in education, and its potential application to existing school curricula for enhanced learning and teaching environments in South African schools (Western Cape Government White Paper on e-education, 2004). Governmental responses for long-term strategic policy initiatives include that every learner in the primary and secondary school sectors should be "ICT capable" by 2013. To achieve this end, schools are expected to develop into "e-schools" consisting of ICT capable teachers and learners (Isaacs, 2007).
E-schools are further defined as:
* Learners who utilize ICT's to enhance learning
* Qualified and competent leaders who use ICT's for planning, management, and administration
* Qualified and competent teachers who use ICT's to enhance teaching and learning
* Access to ICT resources that support curriculum delivery
* Connections to ICT infrastructure. (Isaacs, 2007)
In accordance with Apartheid classification, the racial composition of South Africa, and the Western Cape Province (WCP) extracts to four ethnic groups: Black African, Colored, White, and Indian/Asian. In South Africa, Black Africans dominate the population; however, in the Western Cape they are defined as one of the minority groups. The following charts depict ethnicity in percentages, languages, educational levels/learners, and Internet connectivity for South Africa (SA), and the Western Cape Province (see Tables 1 2, 3, and 4). The Western Cape Province is the highest educated province in South Africa.
South Africa has one of the most modern and prolific telephone systems in Africa, and mobile phone technology is currently being utilized in educational settings for increased engagement and access (Isaacs, 2007; NokiaConnectZA, 2011).
INCREASING EDUCATIONAL ACCESS THROUGH ICT PENETRATION
Data on households with access to PCs vary considerably. It was estimated that in 2010 some 7.7 million South Africans had access to a computer at home. It was also noted that many of these households owned multiple computers, leading to an estimate of 6% of household penetration. In comparison, by the end of 2009, just over 70% percent of the households in the OECD countries (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) owned computers (My Broadband, 2010). In South Africa, just as everywhere, economically developed regions have higher household access to computers, and profound disparities exist for PC access between the provinces. For example, Gauteng and the Western Cape have far greater access levels than the third-ranked Kwa-ZuluNatal (KZN) province; Gauteng' s access is virtually double that of KZN (Howie, Müller, & Paterson, 2005).
The potential for increased ICT penetration to enhance curricula delivery in South Africa has led to an increase in government and donor-funded projects concerned with providing ICT to disadvantaged communities. Moreover, "digital equity" in South Africa has become a renewed policy focus for addressing ICT accessibility within disadvantaged school environments (Chigona, Chigona, Kayongo, & Kausa, 2010).
Disparities in access to technology, often termed "the digital divide," are a reiteration of South Africa's history of Apartheid (Bloch, 2009). Therefore, in an effort to address the "digital divide," educational authorities in the Western Cape Province are spearheading policy initiatives to provide increased access for support of disadvantaged learners and teachers, and to correct existing ICT disparities (Western Cape Education Department, 2003). However, studies have shown that limited access to home computers for students is largely influenced by a combination of class, racial, and gender divisions inhibiting student adaptability to technology-rich environments (Langa, Conradie, & Roberts, 2006).
As has been already mentioned, this paper focuses on the application of ICT for facilitating transfer and enhancement of learning processes in Western Cape Province Schools. For this article, the authors will define "transfer of learning processes" as: "increasing accessibility to educational opportunities through the use of technology for students and teachers in South African, Western Cape Province schools."
Abrief overview will be provided regarding:
* The digital divide factor in Western Cape Province schools
* The domestication of ICT for disadvantaged schools in the WCP
* Factors affecting ICT integration in WCP schools
* Self-concept and computer anxiety for teachers and learners in WCP schools
REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH LITERATURE
The Digital Divide in Cape Town Schools
The term "digital divide" is often used to describe inequalities in access and use of ICT. However, educational policy experts in South Africa provide evidence that increased focus on material access to computers and/or giving learners sufficient time to use computers does not automatically lead to increased and or better use (Thomas & Parayil, 2008). Chigona, Mbhele, & Kabanda (2008) emphasize that research on the digital divide should include focus on issues such as, for example, literacy, language and prior education. Chen and Wellman (2004) agree and have presented the argument that "people, social groups and nations on the wrong side of the digital divide may be increasingly excluded from knowledge based societies and economies" (p. 39). Therefore, the digital divide may also be defined as a lack of access to necessary material, human, and social resources that enable students to utilize computers in a meaningful way (van Dijk & Hacker, 2003; Warschauer, 2004; Warschauer &Matuchniak,2010).
Global projects such as "One Laptop Per Child" and the "Hole in the Wall" (a program concerned with teaching life skills and disease education to disadvantaged children) have taken initiatives to increase access to ICT for disadvantaged students in South Africa, unfortunately with limited success (Hole in the Wall, 2010; One Laptop Per Child, 2010). DiMaggio, Hargittai, Celeste, and Shafer (2004) carried out research to find out how such as gender, ethnicity, location, age, education, income, employment, and family structure influenced computer use and skills. Thomas and Parayil (2008) also reiterate that factors such as low education levels and lack of specific skill sets actually widen existing inequalities. An analysis of ICT competence, as defined by the ability to effectively use computers for teaching and learning in Cape Town schools supports research related to the influence of socioeconomic factors. Specifically, indicators of disparity in computer usage and skills of students in disadvantaged schools were evidenced with location, class size, and teacher training levels (Gudmundsdottir, 2010). The latter' s research emphasizes an existing deficit of teacher training in educational technology as being detrimental to student adaptability and accessibility in Cape Town schools. According to principals, teachers, and learners, sole material access is not enough to increase accessibility; teacher training and self-confidence must be addressed for more efficient transfer of learning through the use of technology.
A "holistic approach" may be necessary to address the digital divide factor in disadvantaged schools in South Africa. For example, an analysis of language barriers, and increased student support from schools in the form of after-school programs may be an integral part of the solution. According to van Dijk and Hacker (2003), supported by Warschauer (2004), "skill access" is only one aspect of the digital divide; other important factors are the weak socioeconomic backgrounds of teachers and learners. These aspects should be addressed and require a comprehensive approach (Warschauer, 2004). Progress is often negatively influenced by the realities existing in the schools in South Africa, as learners are so ethnically and socioeconomically diverse (Gudmundsdottir, 2010).
The Domestication of ICT in Disadvantaged Schools in South Africa
The "domestication theory" defines domestication as processes whereby people encounter various technologies and deal with themeither rejecting the technologies or fitting them into their everyday lives (Haddon, 2006). This theory provides an appropriate lens for analyzing the integration of technology into South African schools, and is particularly significant as a framework for analyzing how disadvantaged student populations and teachers meet and experience technology for integration/ adoption or rejection. Although many studies on the importance of ICT in education in South Africa exist, research regarding how to integrate technology into curricula in disadvantaged schools in South Africa remains limited (Alampy, 2006).
The benefits of integrating ICT's in teaching and learning in South African schools are pedagogical and administrative in nature (Chigona, Chigona, Kayongo, & Kausa, 2010). From a pedagogical viewpoint, introducing ICT's in schools is effective, as it enhances teaching and learning and, in addition, prepares students for participation in the workforce (Hadden, 2006). Keong, Horani and Daniel (2005) posit, "ICT supports constructivist pedagogy, wherein students use technology to explore and reach an understanding of concepts" (p. 2). According to Hennessy and Deaney (2004), in order for technology to be integrated and embraced, there must be a move away from traditional teaching models to more innovative methods, such as a constructivist approach which promotes higher order thinking and problem-solving skills.
Additionally, ICT impact may improve the efficiency of school administration functions. Storing data electronically for collaborative availability decreases the educator's time expended on administrative functions. This allows for increased focus on critical activities such as lesson planning and teacher-student interaction (Miller, Naidoo, van Belle, & Chigona, 2006). Furthermore, assessment using computers leaves less room for manipulation of data, thus increasing reliability and transparency (Kumer, Rose, & D 'Silva, 2008).
The impact of ICT's on education is not automatically positive. Introducing ICT's and an effective pedagogy may be a daunting task for schools in disadvantaged areas in South Africa (Jung, 2005). If technology is not well adopted and integrated in the curriculum and the daily teaching, instructors may view the use of ICT's as an "add-on" and not as an integral component of teaching and learning. It is therefore critical to understand those factors that affect the processes by which teachers integrate ICT's into teaching (Chigona, Chigona, & Davis, 2010).
FACTORS AFFECTING ICT INTEGRATION IN SOUTH AFRICAN SCHOOLS
The knowledge and willingness to adopt and use technology often relates to sociological factors, such as age, interest, and teaching experience (Cox & Marshall, 2007). Adherence to traditional models and a fear of change may deter progress; while conversely, educators with belief systems more inclined to constructivist principles view learners as active participants and readily integrate ICT into their teaching and learning practices (Fredriksson, Jedeskog, & Plomp, 2007).
Infrastructure is another contextual factor influencing the adoption of ICT in disadvantaged schools. Specifically, the infrastructure required for ICT's in teaching includes physical space, furniture, electricity, and Internet connectivity (Gulati, 2008). Such infrastructure may be readily available in more affluent areas, but is not automatically guaranteed in disadvantaged schools (Obijiofor, 2009).
Institutional management thus plays a significant role in the effective implementation of ICT in schools. If staff members feel coerced into utilizing ICT, they may not use it effectively; if, on the other hand, supportive leadership and pedagogical assistance is provided, instructors and staff are encouraged to use ICT's in their classes and in administrative tasks (Czerniewicz & Brown, 2009).
The socioeconomic context of learners (and teachers) may also affect ICT adoption in disadvantaged schools. In affluent settings, many learners and teachers have access to computers at home; therefore, they are more confident regarding use of computers in school settings (Müller, Sancho, Hernandez, Giro, & Bosco, 2007). Unfortunately, many teachers and learners in disadvantaged areas do not have these amenities and, therefore, have a low propensity to use computers. As a consequence, their computer skills are less advanced, making it more difficult to use computers in teaching and learning situations (Bovee, Voogt, & Meelissen, 2007).
Self-Concept and Computer Anxiety for Teachers and Learners in (South) Africa
Assessing teachers' computer attitudes has a direct link with technology adoption and integration capabilities in African schools (Agbatogun, 2010). The successful integration of computers in educational environments does, as was argued earlier, not only depend on students' attitudes and aptitudes, but also on those of their instructors. Attitudes are precursors to behaviors and behavioral intents; therefore, a positive disposition toward computer use is a prerequisite to acquiring a high level of computer literacy and successful pedagogical integration (Francis, Katz, & Jones, 2000).
Research has revealed a number of identifying factors inhibiting a positive disposition toward computers for teachers such as lack of computer experience (Garland & Noyes, 2004) locus of control (Rovai & Childress, 2003), anxiety (Teo, 2008) and attitude toward technology (Rogers, 1995). The issue of computer anxiety, according to Russell and Bradley (1 997), is among others the result of an innate human suspicion towards innovation and change. Social cognitive theory, a learning theory based on the premise that people learn by observing the actions of others, influences behavior and adaptability. Bandura's (1999) research provided evidence that not all people of the same gender behave the same way. Gender disparities already existing in science related subjects are now often extrapolated to computer literacy with the assumption that males are more adaptable to innovation (Reinen & Plomp, 1996). African female instructors lack female role models and mentors for ICT training (Agbatogun, 2010); however, earlier empirical findings about gender and computer attitudes reveal no significant gender differences in South African college students' attitudes toward computer usage and adaptability (Anthony, Clarke, & Anderson, 2000).
Increasing ICT penetration and domestication has profound potential for addressing disparities in educational access, and teacher-training self-efficacy in Western Cape Province schools. As was argued in this paper, existing deficits in teacher training have been identified as strong deterrents to progress for improving quality and access for educational attainment. Addressing these deficits requires a thorough analysis of current teacher training curricula, methods for continuing educational support for computer use in and beyond the classroom, and methods for decreasing computer anxiety.
Increasing computer-use proficiency for teachers in WCP schools, and the integration of web-based learning into traditional pedagogical models, requires strong support systems, a visionary school administration/management, and the physical networking and computerbased learning/training infrastructures to foster efficient and effective use. School administrators may provide additional support for better classroom management through the use of computer-based administrative tools.
The Ministry of Education, local school administrators, and teachers should all work in concert to increase domestication and proliferation of computer use in WCP schools. Although it is recognized that teaching and learning technologies have far-reaching implications for improving educational access, occupational training, and economic development for the region, disparate funding between the provinces belies a commitment to increasing school computer use for socioeconomically challenged regions. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all governmental stakeholders to analyze best practice methods, provide necessary policy changes, and implement innovations so as to increase computer-based learning for all provinces.
Based on the literature review the following recommendations are made:
1 . Educational policy leaders in South Africa should analyze current teacher training practices, methods, and conditions to improve ICT penetration in schools.
2. Access to computer use should not be limited to school environments - particularly, teachers should have the opportunity to get familiar and at ease with computers by using them frequently, freely, and creatively. They should be as familiar with computers as they are with the blackboard.
3. Workshops and courses should be offered so that teachers acquire hands-on experience and understand how ICT may efficiently be integrated into existing curricula, and be aware of the potential it has to enrich learning experiences of students and teachers alike.
4. School programs and curricula should clearly show where, when, and how in the curricula computers could effectively be used.
5. More should be done by the South African government to decrease the difference between the racially favored and disfavored populations in their country so that opportunities for learning with ICT are offered to the entire South African population and not to privileged groups. Promoting sustainable innovation should be part of the aims of the Ministry of Education
Acknowledgment: The authors would like to thank Shafika Isaacs of South Africa for her prompt and very useful reviewing of the article. Her comments and suggestions have greatly increased the quality of this contribution.
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Shannon Cantrell and Lya Visser
The George Washington University
* Shannon Cantrell, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shannon Cantrell, EdD, is an author and researcher with interest in the application of technology for improving access, training, and quality of learning experiences for teachers and students within international academic settings and diverse geopolitical contexts.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Factors Influencing the Integration of Technology to Facilitate Transfer of Learning Processes in South African, Western Cape Province Schools. Contributors: Cantrell, Shannon - Author, Visser, Lya - Author. Journal title: Quarterly Review of Distance Education. Volume: 12. Issue: 4 Publication date: Winter 2011. Page number: 275+. © Information Age Publishing, Inc. Winter 2003. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.