Guest Editorial: e/merge in Africa
International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology
e/merge 2008-Professionalising Practices (http://emerge2008.net) was the third virtual conference on educational technology in Africa, following and building on on the e/merge conferences in 2004 and 2006. e/merge 2008 took place online from 7-18 July 2008 and was primarily designed to share good practice and knowledge about educational technology innovation within the further and higher education sectors in the region, as well as to strengthen communities of researchers and practitioners.
... practitioners. e/merge 2008 was mainly for educational technology researchers and practitioners based in Southern Africa and the English-speaking African countries in West and East Africa. Participants from other regions who have an interest in the use of educational technology in Africa were also warmly welcomed, and in some cases actively recruited as presenters or workshop leaders. The Infodev Survey of ICT and Education in Africa (2007) across 53 countries described severe challenges to the integration of elearning within higher education institutions. Farrell and Isaacs stated that most "African universities are seriously constrained in the use of ICT by a lack of computer stations and a lack of access to affordable high-speed Internet connectivity" (p23). These basic infrastructure issues may however be easier to address than the limited "human resource capacity to exploit the technology" (p26). In the same year the report on ICTs in Higher Education in Africa (2007) provided a detailed analysis of the use of ICTs in higher education across 8 African countries. Their results suggested a dearth of pedagogically based research on the use of ICTs in African universities and also that "many of the countries and their higher education institutions (HEIs) are struggling with the issue of recognised and accepted paradigms of e-learning that are not only pedagogically sound but also appropriate to their context" (p3). Both of these issues may suggest limited human capacity. At the same time, and despite the observed constraints, there has been an exponential growth in the use of online and networked learning environments in tertiary education in Africa, as evidenced both informally and formally through such projects as the Educational Technology Initiative for Africa. Similar trends are emerging in secondary education. Successful integration of the new waves of learning technology in teaching and learning depends crucially on the efforts and practices of the emerging profession of educational technologists and the adoption of new practices by lecturers and teachers. e/merge 2008 focused on professionalising the new practices of teaching with technology. This included sharing stories, sharing good practices and sharing research. The conversations in e/merge 2008 engaged with our regional context of unequal access to technology as well as with educational technology trends within a global context of changes in teaching and learning tools and practices. e/merge 2008 was organised and hosted by the Centre for Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town and funded by the Ford Foundation. Presenters were recruited through a public and widely circulated call for papers as well as through personal approaches by e-mail and through personal conversations with selected presenters during the elearning Africa conference in Accra in May 2008. There were 36 presentations including five keynotes and 13 peer reviewed papers; and four online workshops. The e/merge 2008 keynotes, presenters and workshop leaders were from Australia, Brazil,