Technology encounters and the symbolic narrative: Localising the ‘technology for development’ experience in South African education settings
AbstractThe under-resourced primary school community in the Western Cape of South Africa has become entangled in national discourses that endorse technology-supported teaching and learning. In this context, school administrators, principals, teachers, and learners alike are encouraged to use and adopt information and communication technology (ICT) for education. These directives are embedded in the broader pragmatism of ICT for development (ICT4D), in which digital technologies support social and economic priorities. On the back of a three-year experimental research project, this dissertation explores the technology-for-development experience at six disadvantaged primary schools in the Metro Central Education District of Cape Town. In particular, this study reflects on some of the predominant experiences as voiced by teachers. The use and adoption of technologies by teachers create recurring technological encounters. In light of the engagement with digital media as an everyday educational practice, these encounters become embedded as instrumental and utilitarian objects and processes. This defines much of the educational technology experience in the immediate school context. Beyond the utility of such encounters, however, we observe a symbolic narrative. This constitutes other, mediating properties of technology interaction, and represents the evocative engagement with digital objects. Much of this narrative is implicit, but is gradually enacted as meaningful reality or as social logic. This both contains and constructs - or, endogenizes - the interactional practices and notional frameworks of individual teachers. By invoking theoretical perspectives from symbolic interactionism, grounded in naturalistic inquiry, the author then argues for an interpersonal ICT4D agenda. This advocates for the theoretical and practical significance of a symbolic narrative, localising it at the heart of the technology-for-development landscape. In doing so, the author argues for the emancipation of ICT4D, and considers the extent to which teachers? local knowledges and interactions with technologies can be incorporated. This study adopts a convergent methodology that is the outcome of rapid ethnography, thick description, and critical self-reflection. This allows for an interpretive journey, in which the author can explore those meanings and nuances that characterise the local engagement with digital technologies.