Computer Programming; Social, Development and Community Informatics.
Prior to 2011 the School of IT at Monash South Africa was not offering any additional Short Courses to assist their students to become adequately equipped for the IT environment in industry. In light of this, in 2011 Sheelagh introduced a Summer School B programme on the Monash South Africa campus. For the past 5 years Sheelagh has successfully run Java programming courses and an Advanced Java Enterprise Edition (JEE) short course to equip the IT students with a more sound knowledge and the skills to facilitate their careers in the IT industry. Sheelagh is aware that continual improvements should be made to her teaching methods and innovations, which would then impact on the learning experiences of her students; which would then ensure that her students were fully equipped to make valid contributions to the IT industry, both locally and internationally.
With reference to the pictures below, Sheelagh’s research interest focuses on empowering the local neighbouring indigent community (Zandspruit, outside Johannesburg) by introducing computer technology to its members. Her research, under the auspices of the Community Engagement Department at MSA, used an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) intervention to investigate the impact this initiative made on a small group of teenage Zandspruit learners. The ICT intervention strived to equip the high school teenagers with both the knowledge and self-confidence to share their computer skills with their community, thus acting as change-agents within their community, leading to the overall emergence of upliftment and empowerment. The instrument to effect this achievement was the socio-technical kiosk (the Digital Doorway) which was deployed in Zandspruit in 2010. This computer kiosk, at the time, provided free community access to computer and internet technology.
Sheelagh believes that if young people are nurtured and taught in a peer-led educational environment, they develop the cognitive ability to share their learning and to teach others with minimal external intervention. Sheelagh’s research seeks to discover the extent of the impact that ICT will make at both an individual level, and to determine whether sharing and teaching will extend to a wider audience. With the assistance of Monash students (see photographs), acting as peer tutor-mentors, Sheelagh found that the existing models of ICT innovation and intervention assume a degree of personal self-sufficiency and a sense of agency that were not evident in the Zandspruit context. Her research’s emergent conceptual model emphasises the need for mediation in order to develop a sense of agency. Teaching and learning and their respective impacts are current issues which, if done effectively, will always address a learner’s best interest and wellbeing. As an academic her research in teaching, learning and making use of ICT continually strives for better ways to educate the youth in this field.All researchers