Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
We decided to replace our conventional social media buttons with 2-click social media buttons to protect your data and privacy. A while ago, a German privacy group declared using the Facebook Like button leads to profiling that infringes German and European data protection laws. The organization alleged Facebook builds a broad profile for individuals not on the service as well as a more personalized profile of its members.
Emil Protalinski explains: A German website Heise then changed its Facebook Like buttons to be locally-hosted greyed-out images that only transform into real Facebook Like buttons once you click them. In other words, they are not active by default; if you don’t click anything, Facebook can’t track your visit to Heise. Now, this has been implemented below this post and all other posts in the VSA blog, too.
After the first click, an AJAX call is performed and the Facebook Like button is inserted dynamically. The necessary Facebook scripts then load and the usual data Facebook requires is transmitted to the social network. The change means that to Like one of our pages, you need to click twice. On the other hand, this presumably results in the page loading slightly faster. We hope you like it!
Just to inform everyone, the VSA has joined a Rails Girls Group to keep coding and to learn more. Starting from tomorrow, we will meet every Tuesday at Beta House. I am looking forward to meet the girls again and to work on our ideas and projects.
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.
The first SenseCamp for the VSA turned out to be very successful and also great fun! MakeSense Berlin invited into the Social Impact Enterprise Lab last Saturday (9/2/13) and almost 200 SenseMakers came. There was an amazing atmosphere in which creativity, social ideas and motivation was sprouting out of everyone to form a lively, sizzling and sense making community of change.
The VSA had the privilege to give a hold-up, moderated by Ismail Chaib, in which 12 SenseMakers brainstormed around a tricky problem awarenet users have. The challenge was: How do you make first time Web 2.0 users remember their password, handle it on their own and not share it with anyone else?
More than 100 post-its were filled and placed on the table before 3 more concrete ideas were selected and elaborated by 3 different groups. They came up with fantastic ideas, of which one or a combination of all will definitely be implemented into awarenet. I will go into detail in one of the following blogs.
Just this for now: What I have learned is that the main key to success is to make use of emotions. Thank you very, very much, SenseMakers for your involvement, passion and applied knowledge! Hope to see you soon again and give the favour back!
awarenet has a new attraction, just in time for the new school year in South Africa! The cMinds Project, co-funded by the Life Long Learning Programme of the EU, aims at deploying programming concepts towards the development of critical and structural thinking.
cMinds was presented at Online Educa Berlin, where Anna Wertlen approached the presenter, Hariklia Tsalapata, and the developer of cMinds, Olivier Heidmann, from the University of Thessaly, Greece. It was agreed that cMinds can be integrated into awarenet for the benefit of the South African learners.
The creators of cMinds believe: “Analytical thinking is a transversal learning skill that can help an individual develop experience and excel in wide areas, academic, social, civic, and professional. It facilitates skilled reading, writing, reasoning independently of the
|The cMinds Learning Suite|
thematic area, problem solving, evaluation of values, and informed decision-making. It helps individuals set goals, develop alternatives, and identify sound courses of implementation.
Despite the applicability of analytical thinking throughout an individual’s lifetime, development of the skill in early life in the context of school curricula in primary schools is not representative of its importance. Current teaching avenues mainly deploy math, which provides a general theoretical background. However, the interest of children in math education may lag behind other subjects as children do not see direct links to everyday life. Interestingly enough analytical thinking is missing from early formal technology education. This is predominantly a result of teaching approaches that follow dry presentations and exercises. Current teaching practices fail to leverage the inherent link between technology education and creativity, which emerges when children are encouraged to find innovative solutions through brainstorming and problem solving sessions.
Information technology provides a new medium for developing analytical thinking through programming concepts: it is precise, structured, step-wise, and requires the setting of goals, exploration of alternatives, and evaluation of implementation approaches in a typical problem solving, project-based methodological structure. Learning activities that explore programming concepts may serve as complementary tools for developing critical thinking in the context of science education curricula. Finally, the technology offers additional advantages, such as the option of visual solutions that can be tailored to inspire children’s curiosity, promote creativity, and increase motivation.”
We are both proud and happy that awarenet can now offer such high quality educational content. We are looking forward to the feed back from the learners and educators, which we will forward to the developers. The next step will be to integrate a system to credit successful gamers on their profile page, which will be developed in conjunction with the learners and coordinators.
During the last SenseDrink #13 at the Luzia Bar in Berlin, we were invited by Ismail Chaib to give a Hold-Up during the next SenseCamp on the 9th of February in Berlin. Thank you for inviting us, @iChaib, we are very much looking forward to the event!
In the software world, X has two central connotations, eXtreme programming (rapid design and implementation of software) and XML (XPath, XSLT, exsetra), technologies that are closely associated with innovation and the Web. The Xinnovations conference 2012 looked at smart ways to get computers to help people, mainly through the semantic web and the Internet. That is why Xinnovations fosters a close collaboration with the World Wide Web Consortium — the group that maintains web standards such as HTML. So it is no surprise that HTML5 was a focus of the Xinnovation conference. The topic of the Xpitches was “IT meets Society”, i.e. looking at how technology helps people, and I had the pleasure of pitching awareNet there.
The talk was very well received and won many hearts over in the 150 strong group of spectators. Many new contacts in the Berlin software scene were made. In trying to crystallise what we do into one coherent sentence, what Anna and I came up with was “Web 2.0 for all“. It was a great exercise trying to fit everything we do with awareNet into a single coherent sentence / thought. The audience was very enthusiastic about awareNet’s basic message – which is sustainable development through technology in the developing world.
You can see more information about all the pitches on the Xinnovations page, as well our pitch (in German) here: http://www.xinnovations.de/xpitch.html
South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has brought together a number of government agencies, local groups and stakeholders for an ambitious project in Cofimvaba, near Queenstown in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Goals include improving education, creating food security and building the local economy through agriculture and related SMEs. The project is currently based at the Arthur Mfebe Educational Centre, where awareNet is being used to develop learning materials for a new agriculture curriculum.
This is an exciting first for awareNet: there is currently no internet access or desktop computers at the school. Curriculum development work is done almost entirely on Android tablets connected to a portable hotspot – a laptop running Edubuntu 12.04 and the latest version of awareNet for mobile devices. Utilizing a wireless mesh network which will be built by the Department of Science and Technology, we hope awareNet will bring localized educational content and web services to mobile users in the wider Kwa Manzi community, and schools across the St Marks circuit.
For now – eKhaya ICT, supported by the VSA, has been training teachers and project members on the ground in the use of awareNet for collaborative authorship, creating multimedia on tablets, and use of the mobile server.
We originally set out to develop software to bridge the digital divide – to bring internet services and the opportunities which come with technology literacy to those who had been left behind, particularly in rural areas, and starting in the Eastern Cape. To see awareNet being used this way, and the enthusiasm of teachers at an under-resourced rural school to use and benefit from new technologies has been a shaft of sunlight in a cloudy month.
Most people think about writing posts and other comments when they think of posting something to their online social network. Many also post pictures or videos that they have seen somewhere else. But when have you lately created something on your social network?
The awareNet social network motivates people to consume less or to rather create more. Most of its users regularly take part in forum discussions or write blogs. But even if they do not want to write something, they have the opportunity to express themselves with colours, shapes and contrasts.
Currently, a number of schools are involved in the Health Promotion Project. As part of this project, they also look at their environment, which might look like this:
Using the scribble tool, which is integrated into awareNet, they can easily change the picture to their liking. The outcome is then automatically saved to their own galleries, which might look like this:
Other pictures look like this scribble spider and were inspired by Bea Beste and playDUcation.
We think this is a fantastic tool that offers so much more to learners. It turns awareNet into a truly different and meaningful social network!
Thanks to the awareNet mobile server and the free service of the VSA, four schools in Grahamstown are able to provide education in Internet usage to their learners, even though they have no or only limited access to the Internet: Khuhliso Daniels SS, Nombulelo SS, Ntaba Maria PS and Ntsika SS all have computer labs, but Internet access is expensive and often susceptible to faults, the school staff often lacks the ability and time to deal with such problems.
One solution to this problem is the employment of one of our mobile servers that host awareNet, a tool to learn how the Internet works and how to work in the Internet – without a permanent connection to the Internet. (For technical details read this blog.) Our community coordinator, Terri Penney, who teaches computer and Internet usage at eight schools in Grahamstown, simply travels to the mentioned four schools with her laptop, which also functions as the awareNet server.
Plugged into the intranet at the school, the learners and teachers can collaboratively work on projects, take part in forum discussions or comment on each others’ blogs in a safe, but real Internet environment. Often they encounter the Internet for the first time and are both, grateful and enthusiastic about this possibility, which is rated as crucial for their further development as a responsible and employed part of the South African community. We hope that the Department of Education will soon not only officially acknowledge but also support this technology and service by the VSA and its partner eKhaya ICT.