Capacitating and developing STEM cognition via virtual technologies in rural South African Schools


The focus of this research project is to apply innovative approaches and methods, which will accelerate the development as well as enhancement of coverage, reach, efficiency, and effectiveness of mobile computing (m-computing or m-learning); a variation of e-learning – among STEM educators and learners.  This need has become even more urgent in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic that grips the world presently. The rapid switch to online teaching and learning technologies has revealed the fault lines of the South African society and the unequal access to such technologies. Communities in the rural areas and those who were historically disadvantaged bore the brunt of the effects of the pandemic as they did not have equal access to devices as well as online teaching whilst schools in affluent areas could make a seamless transition to online teaching.  This is also to deliver teaching and learning products or services in the low- and middle-income context of South Africa. This will be done as explained through the proposal via improved planning/microplanning and focus on unreached populations.

Background Information:

  • The current economy depends on technology and knowledge for survival, where lifelong learning is key. It is imperative that educational institutions find effective ways of repackaging their curriculum so that the curriculum meets the demands and needs of society. Such a curriculum should allow learners to learn without any interruptions in a given academic year. The curriculum should also enable learners to access educational technologies anytime and anywhere. This can be achieved if all learners would have access to the use and application of e-learning resources; computers, educational software and internet connectivity as in Figure 1.
  • Unfortunately, learners and educators, especially those in the densely populated rural areas of South Africa, do not have access to such learning resources and technologies such as virtual technologies (VT) (virtual and augmented reality), and in cases where personal computers are available for educators and learners, such VT for that matter are only used as “typewriters” – in the case of hardware. This state of affairs has serious curriculum implications for schools which require urgent attention.
  • This could be because educators are not adequately trained to use VT in their teaching or if they are trained, they do not have the confidence of using such technologies. While teaching and learning have been forced to shut down worldwide due to the COVID–19 pandemic, the rural educators and learners in developing countries, like South Africa, are the ones relatively adversely affected. Nevertheless, many of these digital tools (such as the digital learning-wheel) have supported education, as depicted in Figure 1. For instance, what is suggested in the ring of technologies as illustrated by Figure 1 “… is a beautiful visual wheel that displays a host of learning goals together with some examples of web tools to achieve them” (Lerman, 2014, n. p).



Figure 1: Digital learning tool (source –  Lerman, 2014, n.p).

  • Teaching and learning in developed countries and urban areas have not been as adversely affected. Urban Educators and learners are engaged in learning using platforms such as Google classrooms, hangouts, zoom and other mobile–learning resources.