Whilst Tradition, Change and Innovation are the overall themes for eLearning Africa 2013, the dominant focus of our conversations this year is on local innovation in education, health care delivery, livelihoods and agriculture, especially for rural communities. This year, the eLearning Africa call for papers received a record number of proposals from 58 countries across the world.
Sarietjie Musgrave, of the University of the Free State in South Africa, will share her work with 60 rural schools to provide access to quality learning through an interactive Internet-enabled broadcast programme. Lessons that are aligned to the national curriculum are delivered to learners and teachers in core subjects, such as maths, physical sciences and life sciences, in ways that also enable them to interact with teachers and each others through instant messaging, group chat and video-conferencing.
We will also feature two dedicated sessions on the design, use and value of PC tablets for learning and teaching. Local African experiments with using tablets in classroom practice as a potential cost-efficient alternative to textbooks are among the most topical experiences that will be shared.
A case for local mobile learning solutions to expand the imagination of Namibian 'out of school youth' will be discussed by Maurice Nkusi, a techno-educationalist from the Instructional Technology Department at the Polytechnic of Namibia. He will show how mobile technologies have been able support the development of farming skills and higher order thinking skills related to education and sustainable development among out of school youth. Maurice's presentation is part of a series of talks, demonstrations and debates on the contribution of mobile technologies to growing an educated, employable and entrepreneurial African population.
The value of university partnerships is highlighted by Hervé Chappert from ISEM - Université Montpellier, France, who will discuss the evolution of a six-year partnership between an African private university and a public university in France. He will demonstrate how the partnership enabled Cameroonian students to benefit from learning collaboratively with French students and how they have also gained employability skills.
Matondo Kiese Fernandes from ISCED-HUÍLA, a teacher training institute based in Lubango, Angola, will highlight the integration of mobile phones in their training of teachers. Here he will talk specifically about the value of using mobile phones to video-record students and teachers in their practice teaching sessions.
Mobile games and locally-produced mobile apps are an added feature to this year's conference program. It includes games that help raise public awareness of preventable diseases and apps used in schools and universities to support learning, curriculum delivery and skills development in different African learning contexts.
While a few of the conversations will explore skill development among African youth, especially the unemployed, as well as teachers, this year the spotlight is on the role of technologies (especially mobiles) in literacy development and cultivating the rich diversity of indigenous African languages and oral cultures.
Shallon Maureen Atuhaire, from Makerere University and the Parliament of Uganda will be sharing her experience with the use of video and audio technologies in teaching African oral literature to her students, who are mainly practising teachers in Uganda's primary and secondary schools. She will talk about how she explores various forms of African orality and how she blends new and traditional pedagogies in her teaching approach.
Whilst exploring continuity in our varied indigenous African cultures, we also explore changes in our traditional understanding of literacy and language, including the emergence of new literacies as African teenagers nurture their identities and sense of community with their own techno-inspired language. Mignon Hardie, of the FunDza Literacy Trust, South Africa, will share how they are successfully reaching up to 350 000 youth through their mobi-network to foster a culture of reading and creative writing. Mignon will reflect on how they engage youth mainly from disadvantaged communities through quality teen fiction that are consumed via their mobile phones. Youth are also encouraged to write and share their work and ideas among their peers.
The emergence of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), especially in African universities, is yet another prominent feature. Our MOOC conversation will reflect critically on the criteria and qualities of good MOOCs for an African learning context.
Growing literacy skills for a critically thinking, literate society in indigenous African languages through mother-tongue instruction will feature strongly amidst the cacophony of mLearning conversations this year. Ian Mutamiri, from the University of Zimbabwe will highlight the value of growing early-grade reading skills in their local Shona language among rural children in Zimbabwe, through his experience with an Android-based Text-to-Speech mobile learning application.
Many submissions feature the paradigm shifts that are taking place at universities across Africa. A few focus on the experiences of ICT integration in learning and teaching at African academic institutions.
Our Research Track highlights academic research by international and African researchers on the influence of technological change on learning and organisational culture at African universities. For instance, Perien Boer, from the University of Namibia, will share her research on the merits and demerits of an organisational learning and communities of practice approach to improve the University of Namibia's capability to expand access to higher education through eLearning.
eLearning Africa 2013 will host a dedicated session on the role of technologies in opening up learning opportunities for refugee communities. Erin Hayba, from UNHCR in Kenya, will share the agency's approach of integrating solar-powered technologies to support education delivery in 39 primary and secondary schools and 4 vocational centres in servicing 80 000 children and youth at the Dadaab Refugee Camps. Dadaab is one of the largest refugee camps in the world, located in a remote North Eastern corner of Kenya. The focus of his presentation will be on the participatory approach they have adopted in engaging the refugee community and implementing partners to develop training and programme curricula that align with local values and norms.
The role of technologies to improve the work of field workers at refugee camps will also be discussed. Ernst Jan Suur, from War Child Holland Uganda, will share how they have used a tablet-based monitoring and evaluation application to support their field workers in delivering quality data which can be updated frequently with improved efficiency. In this way, the performance of field workers is also improved.
In addition to our annual demonstration sessions (referred to as Talking Heads) and our knowledge exchange sessions (referred to as Oxungi), we will also be exploring different conversational techniques that encourage interactivity, networking and collaboration among conference participants. Watch this space for more information on how we will be introducing dancing, singing and more speed-geeking.
Africanising the conversation on failure will be another popular feature, emerging from last year's successful eLearning Africa Fail Faire. This year, the emphasis is on embracing failure and learning more consciously and actively from our individual and collective experiences of failed eLearning experiments in Africa .. of which all of us are guilty in some form or another. The eLearning Africa Kushindwa2 Bazaar will be welcoming true confessions of African eLearning stuff-ups. This time, we will be asking: "So what will you be doing differently next time?".
Each year, eLearning Africa rounds off its conversations with a lively plenary debate. In 2013, the debate will question whether innovation in education should be a priority when there are many contending pressures on governments and their partners to deliver education for all. We will debate the following motion:
"This House believes that sustainability is more important for education in Africa than innovation"
1 'lekker' is an Afrikaans word which means 'nice' or more colloquially, 'really cool'. Afrikaans is one of Namibia's official languages.
2 Kushindwa is Kishwahili for failure