Archive for the ‘awareNet’ tag
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.
The VSA submitted another photo to The eLearning Africa Photo Competition 2012. The theme is year is The African Century: ICTs Inspiring Innovation. Photos were meant to describe the following: ‘ICTs are increasingly present in everyday African life, enhancing the way we live, learn, cooperate and connect. How have ICTs inspired you? How is technology fostering innovation in individuals and communities in Africa? Let us see this through your eyes! Share your pictures and send us a brief description outlining the inspiration behind your idea.’
So, we submitted this picture with the following description:
‘Helping learners to think “out of the Box”! Here, learners at Mary Waters High School in the Grahamstown township expand their horizons in a fun educational project, in which they develop an innovative board game explaining social networking and the Internet to other learners who do not have access. The objective is to use technology to teach new ways of thinking out of the box about common things like board games.’
The VSA facilitates the use of awareNet in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, especially in Grahamstown. We mentioned in a previous blog post, that the VSA is offering a large number of new and repeated projects on awareNet this first term of the year 2012. These include science, fitness&health, creative writing&blogging, software development and music, which are all combined with the advancement of computer&Internet literacy.
We are happy to report that this offer has brought us a very positive feed-back from the schools and more schools than ever are going to work with awareNet on a regularly basis, some of them even integrated awareNet workshops as a compulsory subject or as an official co-curricular.
In Grahamstown joined six underprivileged school which are situated in the township, 2 former Model C schools and one private school. In Port Elizabeth, we were approached by the Masifunde Learner Development Center that works with 10 underrivileged schools in the Walmer township. We are going to train their teachers, so that they will be able to use awareNet independently and collaborate with Grahamstown learners. Three rural schools which are going to use mobile awareNet servers are situated in the Zithulele district in the Wild Coast, and the Lady Frere district is currently investigating how many schools would be able to join aside from their Rural Teacher Training Center.
Thank you every one of you for your interest and motivation to provide education beyond your class room for your learners.
On Monday the 23rd of January, the Village Scribe Association visited the District Office of the ECDoE at Lady Frere. We met with Chulekazi Bula (District Office Director) and several other curriculum and technical staff. We wanted to find out whether awareNet, with its co-curricular and (ICT) literacy focus, would be of interest to the leadership of such a rural district. The officials at the department were very positive about the possibilities presented by awareNet. They highlighted aspects like improving motivation, energy for learning and use of the ICT labs, while preserving security and maintinging an educational focus. We were very impressed how the team of officials each brought up alternative worries or benefits and formulated their own reasons why the programme would work in the schools of the region.
The VSA has a plan to supply these schools with training, which involves hiring additional staff living nearby. Unfortunately, the funding for this programme is unclear, although there are several possible avenues, including via the Vodacom Regional Teacher Training Centre which is being opened in 2012 at Lady Frere, as well as private funding from England. The ECDoE officials voiced their impatience at having to wait and were determined to build a “nucleus of users” in advance of any other efforts, as a pilot. Possibilities for sustainability of the project include further options – more news around this area will surely follow in the next months.
We look forward to collaborating with the ECDoE in this beautiful and mountainous part of the Eastern Cape.
The VSA will present awareNet and it’s content during this year’s SciFest in Grahamstown, South Africa, 14.-20.3.2012. The theme of the SciFest is “Science rocks!”, so we chose the title “Rocks and Music in Social Networking” for our exhibition.
The VSA and the learners themselves, i.e. awareNet users from Grahamstown, will present their projects about all kind of rocks and of course music during the Science Festival. All projects will be previously created collaboratively on awareNet and continued during SciFest. awareNet users will interview other SciFest presenters and speakers, and Festival visitors will be able to watch the videos and submit their comments.
Festival visitors can join awareNet for free, explore it’s multimedia content and add their comments! They can create their own personal website, access learner made content about rock science and music and connect with the awareNet community. There will be a space to discuss and rate what they have seen. They can also record their own interviews about their experience at SciFest which will be uploaded onto awareNet for other users. Once registered on awareNet they can access it from where ever they want in the world and stay connected with our community.
We want to show that
- Computer literacy and understanding the Internet is important for understanding science and accessing information about science.
- Science and the Internet are both a collaborative effort.
- Everyone can be part of science and take part in collaborative projects.
Since the Makana Local Economic Development Directorate supported the awareNet Peace Day Project, we have felt that an official letter of support from the Makana Municipality as represented by its Mayor should easily be obtainable. Indeed, everyone we spoke to at the Municipality agreed that this was in the best interests of the city and future projects. Finally, Anna Wertlen managed to receive an audience with the Mayor in November and a mere month later, i.e. today, we received the letter…
The VSA is proud to announce that a collaboration between Upstart and third year Rhodes University TV Journalism students produced fantastic short films about issues that concern learners in Grahamstown and South Africa – titled “Speaking our Minds” – and that they gave us the permission to publish these short films on awareNet. The first screening of the films took place at the Raglan Road Community Centre and the packed audience of Upstarters, Rhodes University students and lecturers, parents and community leaders were unanimous in their praise for the outspoken young filmmakers! Now, these films are available online for awareNet users. They can watch them in their own time and leave comments or start discussions. Perhaps some of them will be motivated to do more – and we would not be surprised…
This is another wonderful example of a fruitful and meaningful cooperation between local NGOs and programmes which really make a difference in development work. We hope to attract many more of those next year to enhance the usefulness and fun factor of awareNet. Please, contact us if you have an idea or a suggestion for cooperation.
A recent article in Grocotts about Terri’s running project began:
“Most social networking sites are associated with gossiping and posting more or less funny wall comments to your friends’ pages. This may be true for Facebook, but it’s not the case with AwareNet, an online educational social network exclusively for school children and their teachers.”
I’m happy to report that the author is mistaken about this There’s plenty of goofing around on awareNet, and there should be – our goals for awareNet focus around the empowerment of underprivileged (particularly rural) youth, through spreading awareness, skills and literacy. It might not be obvious what joking around and ‘wasting time’ on online social networks have to do with these goals, but there’s a real connection.
Perhaps because schooling is constructed as a serious, top-down, teacher driven system of structured learning activities with standardized curriculum goals – gossiping and joking on a website doesn’t look like ‘education’. Worse, many teachers and parents are concerned that ICTs such as cell phone messaging and social networking sites make education more difficult by teaching students ‘txt spk’ and an abbreviated, conversational writing style that must be unlearned by students before they can communicate in formal proper writing.
But I’m convinced that joking around online – like all play – is a powerful form of learning. By having a social motivation to spend time online, learners are drawn to incidental acquisition of skills such as typing, fluency with the browser and desktop environment. They build comfort with computers and an intuitive understanding of web concepts such as links, forms, URLs, blogs, wikis, online videos, etc. Much of this tacit knowledge can be difficult to teach or overlooked by school computer classes with their focus on secretarial stuff (ie, MS Office). We hope it’s fun to use these things on awareNet, it would be dreadfully tedious to learn this much dry material if it is not.
More importantly, and why awareNet is so centrally a social networking site rather than a collection of curated content and typing exercises, it allows learners to engage with one another in a computer mediated environment. This teaches things which no previous generation has had to learn. The digital networked world increasingly overlays and merges with the everyday and there is a brand new set of social skills the young people will need to be full and competent citizens of this new world.
- management of one’s online identity
- navigating privacy and openness
- understanding the intersection of audiences the internet creates
- dealing with and filtering vast quantities of information
- managing the stress of being constantly connected and constantly available through portable devices
We hope awareNet’s closed garden provides as safe as possible a space for young people to learn these and many other skills. They’re going to need them.
The Village Scribe Association is ending the year 2011 off on a very strong note. Part of that striking chord is a new logo, which Ron Wertlen designed together with his own children. First he used their paint set, and then refined the concept in GIMP to produce what you can see here — a first draft. We are working on gaining assistance in 2012, from a professional design school to translate this work into a web site design and a clean logo!
We also look forward to getting the thoughts of our learners. Certainly, looking at some of the houses in Nkwalini, we have an apt colour combination!