An investigation of the role of microcomputers as information retrieval tools in the greater Pietermaritzburg schools' water audit projects.
Addo, Hillar Gbagidi Komla.
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In South Africa, government (Mbeki 1996:37) and educators (SAIDE Report 1998:9) have expressed concern over the provision of microcomputers for learners. Their provision to schools would allow their effective use across the curriculum and enhance education. This study investigated the role of microcomputers as information retrieval tools in the 1997 schools' Water Audit projects in the greater Pietermaritzburg area. The study considered, firstly, a discussion of environmental education with emphasis on water conservation, and secondly the Water Audit projects. An overview of issues relating to microcomputer systems as information retrieval tools in education was presented. A descriptive survey method was employed for the study, with questionnaires as the data collection technique. Thirty out of 40 teachers/school project co-ordinators were sampled, with a 24 (80%) response. Twenty percent of 550 pupils who participated in the projects also responded. Data was presented by the use of tables. The study revealed an unequal availability of microcomputers among the schools in the departments of education, as they existed prior to 1994, that participated in the projects. Findings also revealed that only a minority of pupils used the microcomputer system for information retrieval during the projects. The use of hard copy sources was significantly high within the departments. A high number of pupils who used the microcomputer found it useful. A higher number that used hard copy sources found them useful. Training of pupils to acquire computer and information skills was inadequate. Major problems encountered during the projects included congestion, lack of computer skills on the part of both teachers and pupils and inadequate training of participants. The study found infrastructural backlogs and logistical problems as hindrances to the delivery of education in South Africa using microcomputers. Non-involvement of media teachers negatively impacted on the results of the projects. It was recommended that schools without microcomputers liaise with donor agencies to acquire microcomputers, while government initiates policies to address the issue of equity. Educators and media teachers should be given concerted training in computer and information skills, as training underpins the use of microcomputers in an information age school.
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