Computer technology has invaded almost every sphere of our lives and it is, therefore, inevitable that it would feature as a major component of education. I am the Head of Department and Computer Applications Technology (CAT) teacher and have a passion for the subject because it is meant to equip learners with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to create, design and communicate information in various formats. It also makes it possible for learners to collect, analyse and edit data and to manipulate, process, present and communicate information to various sectors of society and thus provide solutions to real life problems (South African Department of Basic Education, 2011, p. 7). Although the National Curriculum Statement has explicated this as the purpose of Computer Applications Technology, the supporting curriculum documents and the teaching and learning materials provided, seem to regard the subject as a technical one that requires a rather technicist teaching modality.
This discrepancy prompted me to engage in an investigation to ensure that my education practice will be fulfilling that indispensable aim of CAT education of ultimately utilising computer technology software applications to solve real-life problems.
My literature review revealed that a philosophical perspective is crucial to our understanding of education. Education pivots around learning, which is a personal and individual act of pursuing our ontological authenticity (Barnett, 2007): finding out who we really are, and in the process, making sense of everything about real life. This exposed the vital relationship between authentic learning (Lombardi, 2007) with its constructivist underpinning (Von Glasersfeld, 2008) and how we as humans naturally learn through experiential learning (Kolb, 1984) according to the natural functioning of the brain (Zull, 2011).
I have engaged in a qualitative participatory action research project in order to ensure my engagement in, and improvement of, an authentic CAT education in practice. My research participants were Grade 11 and Grade 12 CAT learners as well as my fellow CAT educators with whom I conducted semi-structured interviews.
My initial investigation revealed a general complacency about complying to the current generally accepted required technicist CAT education practice from teachers and my learners viewpoint. This irreconcilability with the intended aim of CAT education compelled me to take on the challenge that faced me head-on. I had to sacrifice the security of all the provided support materials, through which I was in control of my good teaching, and took the courage to immerse myself in the daunting task of the professional practice of facilitating authentic learning.
It was difficult at first, and only through much effort and experience did it slowly become easier. Even though my CAT education in practice, even now, is far from perfect, my commitment to achieve my aim in accordance with the aim of CAT education, was a life changing experience to me and my learners, and impacted my school, the district and the wider community in ways that went beyond my expectations.