Experts on Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Africa have challenged African universities and other learning institutions to adopt Web 2.0 technologies and use social media for teaching. At eLearning Africa 2011, they agreed that institutions can reduce running costs, mobilise learning resources and expand research capacity with social media.
By Ludger Kasumuni, Dar es Salaam
The experts presented papers in a session entitled “African Experiences with Web 2.0 Integration Classroom Practice”, pinpointing an urgent need for learning institutions in Africa to build strong networks with the developed world using Web 2.0 practice.
Web 2.0 and social media include Wikipedia, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other interactive ICT tools providing an attractive, integrated, cheap and collaborative learning environment.
Delivering her paper on “Making Web 2.0 Technologies work for Higher Learning Institutions in Africa”, a librarian and lecturer at Sokoine University of Tanzania, Dr Edda Tandi Lwoga, said, “The use of Web 2.0 in Africa is still at infancy stage. In order to improve the quality of education, African universities should take advantage of innovative and emerging technologies and consider the learning preferences of the Net generation or digital natives”.
According to Dr Lwoga, Web 2.0 supports constructivist approaches to learning with great potential to socialise online learning, by providing technologies that foster interactive, collaborative, and participative roles of instructors and learners.
She said, “The new technology can not only improve teaching and learning processes in universities and schools, but deliver vocational training and lifelong learning and help marginalised groups like street children and disabled young people.”
Skyping for improved library services
Dr Nkisheng Mphahlele, information librarian at Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa, said that Web 2.0 will improve library services.
She said Skype and blogs can enhance learning and access to library information resources in institutions of higher learning.
Pointing the dearth of information on Africa’s development she said: “Most of the information in Africa remains unrecorded, thus cannot be captured. Tools like Skype address oral, visual and written at the same time.
“As more individuals and institutions are having access to the Internet, there are many resources available at no extra cost that can be effectively used to enhance learning at institutions, in a format that can best address the needs of the African student.”
Web 2.0 for the poorest rural schools
Expressing similar views on the role of Web 2.0, the Chief Executive of eKhaya ICT of South Africa, Ronald Wertlen, said that the open source software platform and the social network awareNet had tremendously improved education bringing social media to some of the poorest schools in South Africa, allowing offline use and making use of the Internet at times when the cost is reduced.
Wertlen said that awareNet was addressing the question of personal self-worth in an innovative digital manner: “Many young black Africans grow up in a culture where personal self-respect is squashed by gross disrespect for human life in the very context of their environment. Sub-standard services in terms of health, policing, education etc. and subsequent high mortality rates, as well as dismantled cultural traditions, teach youths that intrinsic motivation is worthless since the self itself is worthless. As against that, awareNet teaches youths that their voice can be heard and that there is someone listening. “
This expression is channelled into wiki-style projects that explore cultural and historical heritage of the youths, in addition to allowing free-flowing conversations. “AwareNet attempts to minimise the requisite involvement of teachers, so that learners’ motivation is not bridled. It attempts to heighten receptivity of otherwise dysfunctional schools to an innovative idea through the great strength of social media.”
Alex Lindsay, an ICT expert from the U.S based Pixel Corps said that there was a need to integrate local customs and culture when using Web 2.0 in order to attain practical benefits to students and teachers. He said his organisation has been conducting weekly training workshops for application of Web 2.0 technologies to suit the prevailing environment for learning.