Archive for the ‘education’ tag
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.
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 VSA was encouraged by Riana Meiring (Director of Local Economic Development) to apply for funding from the Local and Regional Economic Development (LRED) Fund of the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT).
The DEDEAT is very interested in stimulating local economic development in partnership with municipalities, so the VSA went into partnership with the Makana Local Municipality (MLM) and signed a partnership agreement. This was followed by the grant proposal, in which the VSA is the main applicant and grant beneficiary and the MLM is the assisting partner.
We applied for funding for our ECSPIRT Project, which facilitates awareNet workshops and builds partnerships with various organisations for educational content. This is very exciting and we are holding our thumbs for a positive feedback.
The VSA and three of our partners, eKhaya ICT, Left2Write and ReedHouseSystems, went together to rural Nkwalini in the Eastern Cape for several reasons. One was to hold a social networking workshop using awareNet for learners, teachers and community coordinators of the Zwelenqaba SSSchool (27.-28.09.11). Richard Strickland from eKhaya ICT updated the awareNet server and the laptops’ browsers and fixed a few of the laptops of the solar school computer lab. Anna Wertlen from the VSA brushed up the teachers’ and coordinator’s knowledge and introduced about 50 new learners to awareNet. Erika Wertlen from Left2Write chaired a session about blogging and publishing during the workshop. Then, all learners blogged about solar energy. Additionally, Mrs E Wertlen delivered a great donation of books and magazines to the school’s library on behalf of Left2Write. Further, Ronald Wertlen as director of RHS followed up on an investigation of mobile banking and most importantly was concerned with maintaining relationships with the community and the schools in advance of the TeleWeaver rollout.
The community welcomed us warmly and had prepared our visit well. The learners worked with great enthusiasm and concentration and thanked us with a self-composed song about computers and solar energy. Siphiwo Msindwana, the community coordinator, acted very professionally by consulting eKhaya ICT for mediation between the community and the school. Disagreements werecleared. The teachers were overwhelmed by the generosity of Left2Write and promised to use the new resources wisely.
We also paid a visit to Bulunbula Incubator to maintain our partnership and talk about current and future projects.A German member of the VSA came all the way to accompany us and ask a lot of questions to show oversea’s interest. All in all, it was a very successful and very busy trip. We hope that we can repeat it soon in many other rural schools in South Africa and beyond. Please, contact us if you are interested.
We had a fantastic music event at Peace Day yesterday, here in Grahamstown-South Africa! We celebrated Peace and awareNet with great HipHop music that was composed especially for this event. It took us only 2 months to get five groups together and train them to perform their own song in the contest while they learned how to use computers and the Internet in a productive and creative manner.
In the beginning, we showed Jeremy Gilley’s short movie about Peace One Day to give everyone the background about our cooperation. Then, there was a motivational message from Sakhile Moleshe, a musician who also grew up in the Eastern Cape and is now an international celebrity. We had great guest artists: Inyaniso, the Boys in Motion, Keegan Too Chilled Prince and Roddy Zipp. The judges, Erika Wertlen from Left2Write, Jared Lang and the latter two guest artists who all took their duty very seriously. And last but not least the prizes for the best song (Mary Waters High School: professional music video), best rapper (Benjamin Mahlasela SS: head phones and an Inyaniso CD) and best singers (also MWHS: Inyaniso CDs), sponsored by SonicArtStudio, the Makana Municipality, well and us. We even had to quickly hand out an additional certificate for the best group who showed us true heart and peaceful awareness: Victoria Girls High School. Thank you all for putting so much energy, money and passion into the training, songs and judging! You were fantastic!
We loved all the songs so much that we decided that they will all be recorded. We will make an awareNet Peace Day album and turn this into a new tradition here in Grahamstown. Watch out for more next year on Peace Day, 21/09/12, the Day of Global Truce!
awareNet is aiming for something bigger this year. The Village Scribe Association decided that either awareNet will become more famous and used by more learners pretty soon, or it’s not worth investing into it anymore. So, we hope that this will become a great success story…!
It all started with the rather unpleasant and surprising news that Thozi Ngeju, our community coordinator, decided that he will rather work for Rhodes University now than for us. That means that Anna Wertlen is now the new temporary community coordinator and manager of the current music project on awareNet, which involves the production of a professional awareNet theme song which will be made public on Peace Day (21/09). The trick is that 6 awareNet schools are involved and the whole progress is being documented on awareNet as an educational resource. We found absolutely amazing partners:
- Gabriel Spilkin who produced the instrumental version of the song
- Corinne Cooper and her Sonic Art Studio in conjunction with the Inyaniso HipHop band who train the kids to rhyme, rap, sing and perform on stage with the promise to record them afterwards
- Richard Strickland from eKhaya ICT who constantly adapts the software to our needs
- Jeremy Gilley from Peace One Day who promised to screen a 2 min video clip of our project at his own music event on Peace Day in the O2 Arena in London, UK
- Akua Afram from Aries Music, UK, who promised to find a patron for our project.
- Jayne Morgan from Radio Grahamstown Y4Y who promised to broadcast a show on our project on the 22/08/11
At the moment, we are negotiating with the Makana Municipality how they are going to support us, eg. by sponsoring Noluthando Hall for the battle of songs on stage and some finance for the recording. We further try to persuade the Sakhuluntu Cultural Group to do a Chalk4Peace picture on Peace Day next to Noluthando Hall. And most of all, we are practising with the learners every day. They are fantastic and surprise us every single time. They show everyone that they are keen to learn something and can commit to a project. Watch them on YouTube!
The Grahamstown Foundation awarded 4 awareNet users with free tickets for the National Schools Festival in Grahamstown (10.-14.7.11) after they had successfully proven that they are good reporters by documenting their experiences at the National Arts Festival on awareNet. Faith du Plessies, Krista du Plooy, Ayanda Twani and Siyamtanda Tokwe went out and thoroughly enjoyed the Festival. They were very grateful for this opportunity to learn so much while having a lot of fun!
In return, the 4 learners started a project on awareNet in which they reported about their experiences at the Schools Festival for other awareNet users to read, take part and leave comments. Other awareNet users actually became so interested in the project that they joined and also added their experiences. So, thank you very much to: Hannah Godlonton, Motolani Adesina, Jessica Wentworth, Neliswa Mamani, Tamani Chithambo and Siyanda Makunga. You collaborated in a great way! (Non users can also read the project, but will not able to leave comments or read personal information. The awareNet project can be found here.)
I would like to add a heartwarming message (sms) that I received from Ayanda after the Festival: “I would just like to thank you for allowing me to experience what is now the best zenith of my matric year. All the memories and the powerful productions are ones that I will treasure forever. Thank you and I hope that next year more girls can have the same upliftment as I.”
awareNet learners in Grahamstown were awarded with free tickets to the show ‘Vagina Monologues’ on Thursday 11/08/11 at Rhodes’ Nun’s Chapel. The ‘Vagina Monologues’ is a play written by Eve Ensler, performed every year worldwide. In Grahamstown is was performed by a variety of Rhodes students which proved to be very skilled and presented an excellent and moving performance.
9 learners from Victoria Girls High School attended the show and reflected their experience, thoughts and feelings about the show and it’s different topics afterwards on awareNet. They discussed it in a forum and will start a project about their own women’s monologues.
The VSA is very grateful to Amy Caroline Goodenough for establishing this cooperation and attending one of the awareNet sessions at VGHS to answer questions and give some background about the show. She also provided her own literature for awareNet’s data base, which can be read and commented by all awareNet users now. Thank you very much, Amy!
The VSA and a lot of amazing partners become serious now about the awareNet theme Song Project. You probably wonder what it’s all about. Let me explain. It’s going to be an amazing story for Peace Day, I hope.
It all started with the idea that awareNet needs a song for the learners and all partners to sing, to identify, to unify and to let everyone feel the strength. Music is an expression of life. Gabriel Spilkin kindly offered to produce a song in a style that was determined by the awareNet users: We added a poll to awareNet. At the moment it looks like HipHop, RnB and House are the favourites. Thank you for donating your professional work, Gabriel!
The local band Inyaniso (on YouTube) kindly offered to train kids from four schools (Mahlasela PSS, Nyaluza SS, Mary Waters HS and VGHS) how to sing and rap. Our first session took place yesterday at Mahlasela PSS and the artists Zukani, Melikhaya, Sivuyile and Lunga did wonders to the faces and the bodies of the learners. Thank you for your spirit! From being scared and shy they slowly took a liking in the idea and started tapping their feet and quickly trying to learn the words. Smiles! The best thing that could happen was that the equipment didn’t work, so we had to listen to a song by Inyaniso from their car’s loudspeakers. Classic! And can you believe it: One of the learners was already playing the exact song from his phone even though it’s not even published yet! How is that?! - These kids are amazingly connected and just naturally using technology as part of their life.
We are also very grateful to Corinne Cooper, owner of SonicArtStudio and lecturer of Sound Technology at Rhodes University. She offered to work with the kids on the song and to record them after they have shown their performance on stage on Peace Day. This is absolutely fantastic. The VSA is very much looking forward to having a song that can be played and sung online and offline. We will make sure that people will listen to it not only in Africa, but overseas and in connection with the aware Yet? Campaign.
What I currently work on is to find a suitable hall for the music event on Peace Day and to find some form of sponsorship to pay for the rent, the music equipment, the advertising and some material. If you think this is a good project and this is worth a donation, please contact us. I will keep you updated about the project. Watch this space and follow us on facebook and twitter!