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Nelisiwe Phakathi
Ian Moll


This ethnographic study explores the use of iPads in the documentation of visible learning by children in a Reggio Emilia-inspired classroom. We report and draw on research conducted with nine- to ten-year olds in a Grade 3 class in the school, situated in Johannesburg, South Africa. “Visible learning” is a key theoretical concept in the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. It envisages a collaborative pedagogy in which children, along with their teachers and parents, document and reflect on their own learning as it happens, thus maximizing its internalization by the children. The study investigates the affordances of iPads in actualizing the documentation of visible learning. The results show that iPads afford young learners with complex ways in which they can document their learning, also ensuring that the technology does not impose itself on them in an artificial manner. The article identifies an emerging language of description of the pedagogical affordances of iPads.

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Author Biographies

Nelisiwe Phakathi, Beaulieu Preparatory School, Midrand, South Africa

Nelisiwe Phakathi is a primary school teacher who specialises in second languages and e-learning. She is currently embarking on PhD studies in Educational Technology at the University of the Witwatersrand, from which she holds a Master of Education degree. Her interests include App development, particularly in additional language acquisition and visible thinking. She has been involved with the Africa Reggio Emilia Alliance where she has worked as a workshop facilitator on a part time basis. This role has afforded her the opportunity to work with other professionals who are interested in developing more effective teaching methods. She also translated and edited a resource booklet, ‘Reimagine Education: Reggio Emilia inspiration in Africa’, from English into the isiZulu language.


Ian Moll, School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Ian Moll is research fellow at REAL (Centre for Researching Education and Labour) at the University of the Witwatersrand, having been retired from the Division of Educational Information and Engineering Technology at the end of 2021. His interests lie in learning and pedagogy, the network society, and educational technology. His PhD is in cognitive science and education from the University of Geneva. During his career, he has been a junior primary teacher, a trade unionist, a District Director in the Gauteng Department of Education, a researcher at the South African Institute for Distance Education, and visiting professor at the Universities of Makarere and Witwatersrand (where he was lead researcher in the Panafrican Agenda on the Pedagogic Integration of ICTs). His latest publications are: ‘Debunking the myth of the fourth industrial revolution’ (REAL Occasional Paper, 2022) and a poetry collection, ‘Bedtime (and wake-up) poems for the Davos 2022 season’ (Daily Maverick, 15 May 2022).


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