Shedding light on computer project

05 August 2002
A UCT research team from the departments of Education and Psychology have recently won a tender to evaluate the impact of a large scale Western Cape Education Department (WCED) project to put computer laboratories into poor and disadvantaged schools.

Professor Johan Muller of the Department of Education and Professor Johann Louw, Head of the Department of Education, jointly lead the research team that will evaluate the successes and failures of the Khanya Technology Project.

According to Muller, the study will involve tracking various data from around 80 schools in the region and, using those results, the researchers will then intensively study five schools.

"We will be using a combination of methods to evaluate the Khanya Project. We will be looking at the quality of the software, we will be looking at which students use computers more often and how their work is improving and if it is improving, what software they are using. If the Khanya Technology Project is helping to improve children's performance in the classroom, then we know that government is doing something right."

Muller says the crux of the study will be to answer the question: Do computers change the way in which students learn? "We know that a lot of the study methods in school are less than optimal for active learners. What we want to know is whether a computer enables students to actively engage in learning."

The Khanya Technology Project was set up primarily by the WCED to help learners in the substantive areas of mathematics and language.

"Because those gateway subjects very often hinder kids, what has been discovered is that if they do not get the proper instruction earlier, it is difficult for them to fill in the gaps and catch up later."

The first phase of the Khanya Technology Project will aim to put computers either in classrooms or to build laboratories to house the machines. "The education department will train teachers, give software and offer back-up facilities. The whole idea of the programme is that while the Education Department is trying to tackle the problem of skills training for teachers, the kids will be bridging the gap by using what is available to them on computer," says Muller.

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