Archive for the ‘research’ Category
This year, we have started collaborating with the Rhodes University Department of Journalism and Media Studies. Rod Amner is supervising a group of third year students that will do their practical with and about our awarenet programme.
Aim of the course
This course was developed in response to a perceived lack of congruence between the ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ streams of our undergraduate curriculum. By exploring this relationship between ideas about journalism’s role and the alternative assumptions and practices of various ‘journalisms’, the JDD-CMP course aims to bring together – through critique – the Media Studies and Media Production components of the third year curriculum.
Students will be asked to contribute in some way to the goals of ‘democratisation’ and ‘development’ in Grahamstown, by practicing public/ civic journalism, development journalism, citizens’/participatory journalism or radical journalism. All these approaches are predicated, in one way or another, upon critiques of routinised forms of ‘mainstream’ journalism, and offer diverse ideas and methods for producing ‘better’ – meaning, alternatively, more purposive, civic-minded, principled, engaged, inclusive, bottom-up, exhaustive, systematic, innovative, oppositional, and reflexive – ways of doing news work.
We are very happy about their interest and enthusiasm. Their aim is exactly in line with our ideals and we hope to get the most out of this collaboration by supporting them as best as we can. Their exact project themes and work will be decided on soon, and we will report about the outcome. We are looking forward to a fruitful and fun time together!
The VSA has presented the awarenet programme and itself as social entrepreneur to students of the Berlin School of Economics and Law on Wednesday, 17/4/13. We were invited by Prof Sven Ripsas, who teaches and coordinates courses about social entrepreneurship for students. During the summer semester, the students will have to analyse social enterprises or write a business plan for one of them. We have asked them to help us with a business model, which should include a financial plan and a marketing strategy. They will decide within the next 2-3 weeks, which task they will tackle. We hope that a small, interested group will work with us and are looking forward to the summer with them!
There are a great many excellent educational resources on the internet – some have even been produced specifically for African and underprivileged kids. Unfortunately, the digital divide makes it very difficult for these resources to wind up in the hands of those who need them most. Content is great, and there is great content, but to be an effective supplement to education it also needs systems for distribution and management, which allow timely updates and feedback, and measurements of learner engagement with the materials. Most of all, it needs educators and support staff who know the content and can incorporate it into their teaching.
We’ve long wanted to use awarenet to help address this problem. From the first version we included features to allow learning materials to be collected, curated and distributed on awarenet. The latest version takes this further – teachers and technical staff can now use awarenet’s package management system to install the content which they need on their local awarenet instance, or build their own packages from sources on the web. Learners then have fast, local access to resources such as digital textbooks, video lessons, past exam papers, and can download them to their lab accounts or mobile devices. Since mobile awarenet nodes can create their own wireless network, no internet or other infrastructure is needed at the point of use – though a computer lab with mains electricity is preferable.
The default set of content packages we’d like to set up on all awarenet servers includes textbooks from Siyavula (English and Afrikaans), past exam papers provided by South Africa’s Department of Basic Education (multilinual) and video lessons on all subjects from Khan Academy (English) and the University of Cape Town (isiXhosa). We’re also looking into including collections from Project Gutenberg (multilingual), WikiHow, the Wikipedia Selection for Schools, Geogebra and many other sources.
Learners in many Eastern Cape schools have very restricted access to textbooks and teachers. We want to help provide the best available substitute – digital books and recorded instruction provided by world class educators, preferably in learner’s home languages. Where schools don’t have staff or funds for a working library we’d like to put one on every capable phone. Even in more developed countries schools can benefit from these, and need tools to manage these resources and track their use.
If you’re a teacher and know of free or open source materials which you think we should be including, please let us know in the comments.
One of the awarenet champions, Mrs Funeka Jacob (teacher at Mary Waters High School) has recently started her Masters in “Investigating the Use of ICT in Collaborative Learning”. She is enrolled at Rhodes University and now researches how working in groups enhances teaching and learning, taking awarenet as an example.
Mrs Jacob is a very pro-active teacher and already got in touch with the VSA and awarenet in 2010 during an ACE Course for teachers at Rhodes University, in which awarenet was also used to further educate teachers in ICT and Internet use. She has been teaching how to work with awarenet during several projects, so her Masters is a logical consequence. We are very happy about this development and are looking forward to her research outcomes!
You can read a first blog about her research on awarenet. “My study will investigate the use of ICT in collaborative learning through awarenet as a social network. In awarenet learners interact with one another individually and also work in groups, locally and also across the globe. It has a potential to bring learners all over the world together in collaborative learning.”
Today, we have received a wonderful letter from one of “our” schools, CM Vellem Higher Primary School. This school has used awarenet for more than two years regularly and in a passionate way. They have committed teachers and an open policy, the learners are kind and polite and very, very motivated to learn and reach for the stars! They wrote us to say thank you and to describe how awarenet has changed the school and the learners’ thinking. Read for yourself:
“Dear Village Scribe Association,
we as C.M Vellem Health Promoting School wish to express our appreciation for the awareNet programme. It has made a tremendous positive impact to our learners through this programme. Mrs Terry-Lynn Penney was able to design programme activities that made learners to open up about their personal challenges that they were not able to talk about ie Depression & Suicidal tendencies.
Terrie was able to facilitate for interaction with learners from other schools e.g. Victoria Girls High School and other model c schools. Through their interaction they were able to expand their knowledge and they were able to get first-hand experience through outings, something that we as a school cannot afford eg a visit to Makana Brick, and the participation in the awarenet Youth Fun Run.
Our English Teacher was greatly impressed with their improvement expressing themselves. There was also another improvement in putting their thoughts in writing awareNet blogs and activities. It also improves their readings as they had to read others blogs and share experiences. Our school has greatly benefited from the programme and we would love to continue with the programme and that it could expand.
We also through the programme received 3 brand new blazers donated by V.G. High School learners. We really appreciate the programme very much.
V. Frank (Life Orientation Educator)
N. Frans (English Educator)”
We are overjoyed by this feed-back. This is what we work for and what we hope is happening at all the schools that work with awarenet and really engage regularly. We would like to hear more from other schools. Please, give us your opinion. And if it is not as positive, we want it, too, and then work on getting better together!
For the past 4 weeks, the smallfry team of Vega Design School has worked on a new brand strategy for awarenet. On Monay 05/11/12 they presented their outcome to the eKhaya ICT team and the VSA trustees and members via skype. You may have noted one of their suggestion already in the title: awarenet needs to be simpler and easier to understand, hence the new spelling awarenet instead of awareNet.
After they have completed a lot of background research the smallfry team suggested a number of great improvements and ideas how to reach more people and ultimately funding, and they gave us a new identity that is much more easily comprehensible to its potential users. They include e.g. purpose, essence, vision, values, personality, a mantra and a tagline, visual and verbal language, of which we would like to point out the wonderful new external tagline Play to Learn and the internal mantra Never stop reaching out, which is exactly what we believe in and feel!
They further suggested the use of a cootie-catcher to engage people with our brand in a fun and interactive way and they designed a new logo, which will both be presented in a separate blog. The package came with a great new positioning statement awarenet is a social networking learning initiative, that encourages personal growth by learning through play – and is accessible to those without constant internet connectivity and the brand message Play to create a better Future.
The smallfry team has developed tremendous value for awarenet and we would like to thank them wholeheartedly as well as the Vega Design School that made this collaboration possible. We will put this new strategy to good use and implement your ideas for a better future of our youth.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will be thinking out of the box and breaking the computer lab ICT education mould in a rural pilot. The pilot will take place at Cofimvaba, Eastern Cape, South Africa. awareNet is forms an important part of the social networking technology and methodology for the project. The CSIR is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa, which undertakes directed research and development for socio-economic growth.
The Village Scribe Association will be help with the training of the community awareNet champions, who will be taking the learners at the school through the programme. Learning about awareNet is never the aim of the programme, it is just an enabler for the learners to be able to collaboratively work on agriculture projects that directly affect their community. The CSIR’s other partners will ensure that useful and valuable content is introduced into the network.
The experience and product management information supplied by the VSA to implementing partner eKhaya ICT has been instrumental in this success for the Grahamstown team. The system is clearly ripe enough and stable enough to provide all the functionality required by the CSIR to meet their needs. More information about the technology aspects of this awareNet pilot can be found on the eKhaya ICT blog.
Further, the work done by the VSA with Grahamstown school learners and teachers is a valuable example for future trainers. As such, training sessions for small groups of awareNet champions can take place inthis living laboratory and provide valuable experience for future trainers.
The VSA proudly announces the beginning of academic reasearch on the impact of the introduction and use of awareNet in disadvantaged and other schools in the Eastern Cape. Two Anthropology Students from Rhodes University have started their Honours theses about
- “The School as a Multi-Layered Community: Negotiating Technology in Township Schools.” (Louise Featherstone) and
- “awareNet: Learners, Teachers, Community. – Learn your way” (Kiarin Lee Gillies).
They will be investigating topics such as
- What contextual factors have an impact on the acceptance and usability of technology for learners and teachers at under-resources schools?
- What effect has the introduction of awareNet into township schools in Grahamstown had on increasing learning output in the areas of language and technology literacy?
- What kind of institutional cultures effect learner attitudes and practices and how can awareNet facilitators work towards overcoming the associated barriers to learning?
- How sustainable are the endeavours of projects involving ICT, considering the specific institutional dynamics in schools?
- How does awareNet reinforce ‘norms’ of a certain society and how is this affected or transformed through ICT’s?
- Is awareNet moving away from enculturation and cultural transformation to a space where youth become agents of their own education, or by virtue of the program itself it is perpetuating those very ‘norms’?
We are very happy about their interest and investigations. Both want to get actively involved in the awareNet programme and work very closely together with the other awareNet facilitators and Ronald Wertlen, Professional Associate at the Anthropology Department at Rhodes. We hope that this cooperation will prove to be as fruitful as it promises to be.