Honours Students and awareNet at ASnA Annual Conference 2012

The two Honours students who are researching awareNet’s impact, Kiarin Lee Gillies and Louise Featherstone attended the Annual Conference of Anthropology, Southern Africa in Cape Town (31/08-03/09/12). Held for professionals and students in the discipline to discuss their research and look at other issues within the discipline, this year’s theme was The future of Anthropology in Southern Africa. Their research on the implementation of awareNet into under-resourced schools in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape was very fitting in this context.Their presentations were held in the session Social Media and Social Networking.

In addition to discussing their findings related to learner literacies and the embodiment of the computer and the learner in the laboratory space, they also looked at the relationship between NGOs and researchers and civil society. In their opinion, it has become clear that communication between the different role players in the educational field is key and in the future of anthropology, the study of the school space can offer context based insights which will allow for greater efficacy in terms of NGO and Education Department based projects. The researchers showcased their projects whilst critically looking at the discipline as a whole.

A key example of this is that in South Africa, we have a history of curriculums that are designed from the top, and the insight of applied anthropologists could help bring to the fore educator and learner needs to improve the implementation of policies and projects. Networking with other anthropologists who have done work in the field provided useful ideas for them to investigate in terms of the literature related to children who go to school in the context of poverty and ideas relating to the implementation of co-curricular projects in these schools. These findings and recommendations will be addressed in Louise Featherstone’s forthcoming mini-theses on the implementation of awareNet into three of the schools in the awareNet programme.

Kiarin Lee Gillies looked at broader ideas of cyber realities transcending space, as well as the education system and school environment. Within the school environment she contextualised awareNet. She included some barriers and limitations she had encountered in her observations within the field thus far, e.g. when looking to social networking programs that have the ‘intention’ of bridging gaps between people, but still treating different schools and learners in the same way. Looking at research around ICTs and education being not just relevant but necessary, as well as the future of anthropology as a discipline lying in not only in what is studied but the way in which it is studied. Both mini-theses will be submitted by the end of October.

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