Archive for the ‘Innovation’ tag
The teacher group consisting of Sarah Hanton, Boudina McConnachie and Anna Wertlen were one of the top 20 finalists in the Microsoft Partners in Learning Forum, South Africa 2012. Hanton and McConnachie took part in a judging process at the Durban Hilton on the first and second of April, where they presented their work on awareNet and were awarded a Judges Award for Innovative Use of Social Networking. They won prizes including software for schools and a 3 month subscription to Brittanica online, and also spent a day at the SA Basic Education Conference.
McConnachie describes the day: “The judging was quite strenuous, we did 4 different sessions each with a different judge. Some other teachers presented good projects, too.” Hanton also thinks that the team could have done better and commented: “The judging process was so hectic that we didn’t really get a chance to network with other teachers there or really get to grips with their projects.” Better feedback on how the projects were scored would help for next years entry, which will hopefully build on this success.
Although the project didn’t make into the top 4, we are very proud that it was rewarded, and we are sure that the audience has become aware of the benefits of our work and ideas of innovative teaching and online collaboration. Thank you very much for your hard work!
If you are interested to also start a project on awareNet as part of your curriculum or co-curriculum, please contact us.
The “Good Vibrations” Project by Sarah Hanton, Boudina McConnachie and Anna Wertlen has been selected for the finals of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Forum competition! The project involves peer-teaching, outreach and obviously the usage of awareNet and is described in detail in our previous blog.
This year, finalists are not only invited to attend the Forum which includes a workshop and the award ceremony at the Hilton Hotel in Durban (1.-4.4.12), they are also being sponsored by Microsoft to attend the South African Basic Education Conference as part of their prize. Congratulations and the VSA is holding thumbs that the presentation will be successful!
Anna and Ron Wertlen went to the SANGONet Conference this week (01-03/11/11), at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg to present the awareNet social network to an international audience of educators, politicians, funders and activists.
SANGONet brings together everyone interested in ICT for rural development (#ICT4RD). The conference was very well organised and it was made sure that the different parties exchanged important information about their programmes, products, funding methods, initiatives and reasons for failure or success.
The VSA demonstrated how awareNet works, and eKhaya ICT additionally introduced the concept of Reed House Systems’ Teleweaver. Especially, the awareNet demonstration attracted three large groups of listeners. We were approached with requests for installations of awareNet at schools (in local mesh networks) as well as the usage of awareNet as a service delivery platform for specific content from potential partners. We are looking forward to follow up on all those offers and ideas.
The awareNet software now has DVD distribution for Microsoft(R) Windows(TM) – allowing anyone to set up their own social networking site and run it from an ordinary windows computer (XP, Vista or 7).
Once installed, awareNet can be run as a standalone site, or join with other awareNet installations in a peer-to-peer network. The peer-to-peer aspect allows users in to collaborate and share content while logged in to their local servers, merging smaller social networking sites into one larger one through voluntary trust relationships, and enabling remote or centralized administration. The current version of the P2P protocol works behind firewalls, over slow or intermittent connections and includes security features such as RSA signing of all transfers, without requiring any special configuration.
This is an important step for awareNet as many of the underprivileged and rural schools we hope could benefit from this software do not have access to the technical skills needed to set up a conventional web server, configure Windows or Linux networking and manage hardware, software and users. Nor do they have much time for staff to devote to the overhead this would usually require. Many, however, do have some working Windows computers, often older, donated machines, hooked up to a wired ethernet, perhaps with some limited internet connectivity.
Where schools do not have any internet connectivity awareNet can include and manage local copies of many online resources – entire wikis, video libraries, collections of books and so on, bringing learners at least part way across the digital divide.
Using this DVD, we hope that educators with only basic computer literacy can set up and manage the kinds of services that schools in the developed world take for granted – wikis, blogs, forums, instant messaging, video sharing, etc. Ideally, these networks can be owned by the schools and administered solely around their needs, not dependant support from NGOs or government programs and not compromised in their mission by the requirements of advertisers or commercial interests.
Like the Linux version, the Windows distribution runs on top of industry standard Free/Libre Open Source Software: Apache2, MySQL and PHP5, all controlled from XAMPP. Both versions offer the same set of features, and now have much better support for Internet Explorer (from version 7 on).
The windows distribution is not yet generally available as a complete, packaged product, but please do contact us if you’d like to bring awareNet to your school, help with testing, or just play with it.
Ron Wertlen from eKhaya ICT has created a video about the idea and functionality of awareNet, the online social networking site for learners that was co-developed by eKhaya ICT and the VSA.
You can find the video on the eKhaya ICT website and on YouTube. Please, have a look at it! We would be interested to get your feed back: Did you like the video, did you understand what it is about, what would you welcome to be different?
The VSA thanks Ron Wertlen for making this short film. We hope you enjoy the film, too!
VSA submitted 5 pictures for eLearning Africa Photo Competition – help us win and vote for us! no comments
The eLearning Africa Conference Photo Competition asked for pictures with the theme Capture this! How ICTs are empowering people across Africa. The VSA submitted 5 pictures including descriptions.
M favourite description is this one: Upstarters being aware (to vote click here)
An innovative, true multimedia project that drew a lot of attention: The Village Scribe Association (international NGO) and eKhaya ICT (South African local IT business) developed a social networking software awareNet especially designed to be used largely offline, adapting to rural and peri-urban setting. Eastern Cape learners benefit from free lessons and a partnership with the Zazi Foundation for educational video content about health: teachAIDS videos, provided by the Stanford University School of Education. Inspired by the World AIDS Day 2010, learners collaboratively worked on a project about HIV/AIDS in wiki style. Certain parts of this projects were selected online by the Management of Grocott’s Mail, Grahamstown’s independent newspaper, to be included in the November 2010 Upstart supplement (The Paper for Youth by Youth). Here you can see the learners proudly reading their articles in the Upstart Paper. The photograph was taken by Rhodes University Community Engagement volunteers who work with the learners on several projects on awareNet. Together they started an awareNet photo project in which photos for the ‘eLearning Africa Photo Competition 2011′ were taken, uploaded, described, and chosen for submission.
The other pictures are called:
- Curiosity, awareness and motivation (to vote click here)
- Solar Panels, Off-line Internet and awareNet (to vote click here)
- Rural SA cooperates with German University (to vote click here)
- When power is more of a problem than owning a cell (to vote click here)
Please, help us to win the competition and vote for us! Thank you.
awareNet is now sending daily automated updates about certain activity to @VillageScribeSA. Please, follow us to see what’s going on in our social network for South African and other interested learners.
Insights that are posted are completely anonymous to protect the privacy of the awareNet users, e.g. you will receive a note about which project was created or edited, but not by whom.
This new exciting feature keeps all awareNet users up to date, e.g. our Community Engagement volunteers receive a note about the learners’ activity while they are not on site and can go online to react faster which in turn is very appreciated by the learners.
We also hope to attract more users to our social network. If you are interested in joining, please contact us! Every learner or teacher is welcome!
To get things going one has to go out and meet people. Best if you don’t know what the goal is. Anna and Ron Wertlen went to Cape Town for three quite different and very interesting meetings.
- RLabs and Marlon Parker in Athlone: The VSA, eKhaya ICT and RLabs want to work closely together and use each others brains, facilities, softwares and applications, developing new ways of connecting communities and educating and involving different people into the various ongoing projects.
- Mr Maxwell and Mr Kilpert in Plumstead: The VSA and eKhaya ICT are planning to develop and produce a new product to enable teachers without Internet access to impart the pros and risks of the Internet. We talked to skilled and committed creative designers and concept developers and decided to go ahead as soon as we have the financial backup.
- Private investors at the Waterfront: We discussed the possibility of the VSA as a benefactor of a new multi-million Rand development project at the Wild Coast whose profit will be fed into community projects. Benefits can only be expected from the second half of 2012.
Ron and I have just registered for the Net Prophet Conference in Cape Town. Anna will represent the VSA and Ron eKhaya ICT. Together we will present our Village Scribe Project, awareNet, TeleWeaver and much more.
This is how Net Prophet describes itself on its homepage:
Take the most innovative/successful/creative/ambitious thinkers and entrepreneurs in the Internet space, and ask them to share their stories, ideas and predictions for the future in a format that is fresh, relevant and engaging. The result: Net Prophet.
This description is so promising, we are very much looking forward to this event, also hoping to meet Marlon Parker and Craig Ross from RLabs and several others. Meet us in Cape Town, Mutual Park, 12 May 2011!
TeleWeaver is a hybrid on- and offline product which allows access to Internet services in a manner that is friendly to mesh networks. Mesh networks are an important source of access in the African environment. Another unique feature of TeleWeaver is its low-maintenance architecture. Through OSGi, a technology standard developed for motor vehicle software and mobile phones, the product becomes very robust. At the same time it allows external developers to deploy their software extensions to the platform.
The first version includes Career, Tourism and Survey functionality. It is being released toward the end of March and will allow village scribes to provide services to their communities.
At the same time the development team will be able to monitor the kinds of problems that are experienced in the field. It will also be a good test to see what costs will be incurred in terms of Internet access, on a rudimentary system.
TeleWeaver is a product of the SAFIPA funded ESTIMA project.