Dick Ngambi

Rebecca Walton

HE calls them “sandpits” for adults. But what Dick Ng’ambi, a UCT academic wants to see is teachers learning from technology to help them in the classroom.

And his Educational Technologies Enquiry Lab or Etilab enables them to do that.

The Etilab has been in existence since last year and is a project which enables educators to “play” with the latest teaching technologies.

The Etilab hosts and facilitates sessions in which teachers are given an opportunity to experiment with educational technology.

“The difference between adults and children is that children are given the opportunity to play and create without consequences, while adults are not,” says Ng’ambi.

“Teaching innovation requires educators to push the boundaries, but this requires them to have time to explore and ask interesting questions.”

Ng’ambi was inspired to develop the lab when he identified a disparity between the use of educational technology used by teachers and pupils, with pupils often being quicker on the uptake with new technology, and teachers not fully utilising the possibilities of teaching technology.

He believes pupils are often more technologically-savvy than their teachers because of the time they spend “playing” with the technological devices.

Teachers experiment with technologies such as SoundCloud, Edmodo and Voicethread at the Etilab.

Sessions last for two hours, or for a full morning or afternoon.

Feedback from these teachers shows that the sandpit approach is more effective than traditional training or workshop approaches, with teachers going on to implement what they have learnt.

Ng’ambi believes the future of educational technology is in mobile devices such as cellphones and tablets, which are easy to transport and which pupils can use inside and outside the classroom.

“Cellphones of today are more powerful than the computers of five years ago.

“We must think seriously about policies banning the use of mobile phones. We need to prepare learners for the future.”

Ng’ambi also says there are possibilities for bridging the gap between under-resourced and advantaged schools with the use of educational technology.

This could be done by creating a network of inexpensive sharing between teachers from different backgrounds, using devices such as cellphones.

Ng’ambi says that Etilab defines the scope, but “the possibilities of what you can uncover are up to you.”

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