Educational Technology Inquiry Lab


The ETILAB 'Sandpit' provides a space for educators/teachers to 'play' with technologies and in the process become confident with technologies/tools before exploring ways of teaching with the technologies. The ETILAB is a brain child of Assoc Prof Dick Ng'ambi. Most educators appear to know less than students about technologies and devices because they (educators) play less with technologies. As emerging technologies become ubiquitous, and continue to rapidly evolve there is an increasing need for novel approaches to life-long and life-wide learning for educators. However, the potential for teachers/educators to learn through play is potentially effective for 21st century professional development. Hence the ETILAB 'sandpit' enables teachers/educators to learn without being taught, learn with devices and how to teach with devices, have fun while learning, build teaching models, test and  'throw-away' as in 'a sandpit', gain confidence while discovering possibilities of tools/devices before taking new practices to a ‘live’ classroom. ETILAB's thesis is that teachers/educators are most likely to use technologies that are familiar to them and for which they are confident users.

Sandpit Concept

We think of the ETILAB as a ‘sandpit for educators’ where educators from all walks of life are invited to play within a safe and secure environment, to imagine and innovate, to engage with and experiment, and through such play to become more confident and self-assured in the use of emerging technologies in their various classrooms. Play in this instance is associated with activities or exercise for recreation and amusement, with fun, jest and participation in an environment removed from the everyday, often stressful, environments of everyday life. Sandpits are furthermore believed to encourage imagination and creativity in children where several structures can be imagined, designed and built, and just as easily discarded in a non-threatening environment. The sand provides a medium for exploration, construction and design, fundamental skills that the player takes with them into all other aspects of life. In this same way the ETILAB aims to create an environment akin to a sandpit, where educators can explore, construct and design, imagine, discard and re-imagine pedagogies and educational applications for existing and emerging technologies in a dynamic, interactive, collaborative manner. The Lab aims to provide educators with a space where they leave the stresses normally associated with emerging technologies at the door and enter with the goal of enjoyment and fun, where learning is ‘with others’ and knowledge is (freely) shared like the sand in the sandpit.


Thus, the objectives of the ETILAB 'sandpit' are as follows:

  • To become a ‘safe’ space for educators to inquire, investigate, improve, innovate, incubate and inform on uses of emerging technologies to transform pedagogy.
  • To engage in different forms of learning through 'play', collaborative ‘hand-holding’, ‘push & kick-start’, 'show-off my tools' and appropriation of technologies not initially designed for education but with teaching/learning potential.
  • To provide a space where thought-leaders, practitioners in educational technology, educators, innovators, instructional designers of educational technology applications and researchers in educational technologies converge and mutually cross-fertilise.
  • To serve as an incubator of out-of-the-box teaching approaches that address locally relevant educational challenges and design models for the teaching and learning of the ‘future’.
  • To become a hub of recognition and dissemination of ‘good’ educational technology practices through reward and showcasing excellence in teaching.
  • To become a hub of educational technology pedagogical research based on 'sandpit' approaches.
  • To become a leading lab for building 21st century educators capable of exploiting ubiquitous technologies to influence education in the present and the future.

The lab is located in the Neville Alexander Building, 2.06 Mezzanine, Level 2. For details, please email Founder & ETILAB Director: Prof Dick Ng'ambi.

News stories on Etilab

Dick Ng'ambi, project leader at UCT's ETI Lab (Education Technology Inquiry). Radio Interview. Tablet technology for schools. Primedia Broadcasting. Jul 29, 2015 -

Fiona Beal, My takeaways from the Etilab ‘Emerging Technologies’ Think Tank on 26 March, Friday, 27 March 2015.

Puleng Makhoalibe, Design thinking as a catalyst for innovation, Mail & Guardian, 16 Sep 2014
, Passion and Tech combine in an inspiring tech first, Intel newsroom South Africa,

Humanities Website, Technology giant partners with UCT, 30 June 2014.

Rebecca Walton, Teachers hit 'sandpit' to help pupils, Cape Times 8 July, 2014.

Cafeguide, Congrats to @dickngambi on the launch of etilab with #intel, 26 June 2014.