A socially just pedagogy in the use of mobile devices in higher education? The case of Humanities first-year students at a South African university

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Carina van Rooyen Ingrid Estha Marais

Abstract

In a highly unequal society such as South Africa, higher education is seen as having a social justice mandate to widen participation, and using technology is one way to achieve this. One university in South Africa made mobile devices compulsory for all first-year students since 2014. This article, drawing on data collected from first-year Humanities students at this university, attempts to understand whether the use of mobile devices for learning met requirements for a socially just pedagogy. We used a sequential mixed methods research design, first surveying the first-year Humanities students in late 2015, and then followed up with focus group discussions in 2016 and early 2017. We utilise Nancy Fraser’s idea of ‘participatory parity’ to unpack a socially just pedagogy, and specifically focus on the component of access to resources. We found that most students had functional access to devices and on-campus data. The manner in which these were accessed was affirmative, rather than transformative. By extending the notion of access beyond just opportunity (functional access as owning or having access to a device and data), to also knowing how to use the opportunity (digital access through digital literacies and fluencies), we found that our case study fell short of being socially just pedagogy. We urge that lecturers take up a central role in enabling students to use their devices for transformative learning.


 


How to cite this article:
VAN ROOYEN, Carina; MARAIS, Ingrid Estha. A socially just pedagogy in the use of mobile devices in higher education? The case of Humanities first-year students at a South African university. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the South v. 2, n. 2, p. 53-70, Sept. 2018. Available at: http://sotl-south-journal.net/?journal=sotls&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=66