Each monthly report will be broken up into 5 different posts. One general post about how we are and what we have been up to and 4 based on investment area (telecommunication, IPR, communication and analytical skills and open and collaborative resources). Each post will be tagged appropriately and all posts from the same month will be categorised as such (this month’s is February 2008).
Each month the Institute of Futures Research publishes a paper about developments in education or technology globally. This month’s Education Trends shows an alarming rate of attrition in the South African education system. Only about a quarter of those that enter the education system matriculate. Given the skills gap we are currently facing in this country, it does not bode well for the next generation.
When reading figures like this, it only strengthens my resolve that we must make systemic change. That is why it is imperative that we face this crisis and start to think about how to solve it, and think about how to solve it now. Building more schools, having feeding programmes and looking at security issues are all vital areas to intervene, yet they do not ask the tough questions. What next? What is beyond? How can everyone benefit? What sort of society are we building? We must allow those with potential and motivation, to have access to, and permission to use, information that could make a difference.
What we do in this area:
“The Shuttleworth Foundation is involved in research into the idea that the two core skills acquired by learners at school are communications and analysis. As such, the transfer of these skills should be prioritised – especially in the African context where resources are often scarce and fundamental skills require specific focus.”
This month’s highlights:
The AAA Lab at Stanford’s School of Education has created an artificially intelligent, interactive software package called Teachable Agents (TAs). Learners learn science and maths by teaching a TA through well-structured visual representations that help to shape and organize their thinking. A growing empirical base that supports the truism that people “really learn” when they teach someone else; TAs are premised on this. We are looking into the feasability of implementing it in South Africa with Wordwise and believe it could have a great impact.
Steve Vosloo (Communication and Analytical Skills Fellow) has had 2 papers accepted to education conferences this month.
Digital Storytelling for Africa: Case Study of an International Digital Media Project for eLearning Africa (May, Ghana)
Kusasa: Humanising eLearning using Illustrated Characters (co-authored with Barry Kayton) for ED-MEDIA (July, Austria)
Steve Vosloo attended the Integrated Education Programme (IEP) conference, at which the preliminary results of a four-year project to improve learner performance in numeracy, literacy, maths and science in four of the poorest provinces were announced. He blogged about his thoughts and findings. A buzz pharase that is circulating in education circles in South Africa is the “Mathew Effect”. Taking its name from the book of Matthew, and highlighting how those with, get more, those without, increasingly get less.
A review of the Kusasa teacher’s material for grade 4 was conducted by the Western Cape Education Department. This material was positively received. The quarterly trustee meeting gave us an opportunity to provide feedback to Mark Shuttleworth on the progress of the project. What was apparent is that the project in its current state does not align with all of Marks objectives. The project team is in the process of finalizing a response plan to address this and develop options.
The project evaluation is now taking place. We are in the early stages of developing the frameworks for conducting an outcomes mapping exercise and also for case studies of both schools and learners.
The LAMS Foundation has released to Kusasa a build of Ubuntu Server optimized for VMWare with LAMS pre-installed and configured for deployment. This is currently under test and will be deployed into Grove Primary shortly.
Groote Schuur Primary School has been added to the implementation shortlist. These schools are being assessed with a view to rolling out existing grade 4 content as scheduled in the 2nd term.
We have initiated a project called Plus Time with the HSRC and the WCED. It aims to test whether simply increasing the amount of time spent on acquiring communication and analytical skills will have a positive effect on all subjects at school.
We held 2 workshops in February to share the preliminary findings of the study. Tutors, material developers, delegates and principals from the participating schools, academics at higher education institutes and senior officials from the district office, the WCED and DoE Curriculum and Research Directorates attended the workshops.
The aim of the workshop was to share the research data, as well as its analysis and findings with the stakeholders. Participants were also exposed to the rationale behind decisions on issues such as the need for the research, the research design and the criteria for the selection of project schools.
Dr Cas Prinsloo of the HSRC reported extensively on all the aforementioned aspects. He did however make it clear that it was a draft report and that the final report would become available at a later date.
It was hoped that after the conferences, the participants and the WCED would have greater clarity around the research findings and its implications for policy and strategic initiatives in education at large and for Mathematics and English Language Education in particular.
Some of the more interesting findings and contextual variables:
- The better learners’ attendance at the English tutorial sessions had been, the higher their Mathematics post-test scores were.
- Reading newspapers more frequently was only associated with higher performance improvement scores in Mathematics for high-attendance learners. Reading magazines more frequently, on the other hand, was only associated with higher performance improvement scores in English.
- Facilities at home: for Maths, satellite TV appears detrimental, but PCs not. For English, both appear conducive.
We are currently studying the final report, and will be meeting with the WCED to present recommendations and to plot a way forward. The findings were inconsistent, and the effects smaller than expected on the whole.
What we do in this area:
“The cost of bandwidth in Africa poses a barrier to the continent’s effective participation in international trade and the knowledge economy, while limiting local markets and education. Without adequate bandwidth Africa runs the risk of being left behind in the global race. The Shuttleworth Foundation is, therefore, actively investing in a project portfolio that will contribute towards solving bandwidth limitations in the African context.”
This month’s highlights:
We are developing 3 strategies within telecommunications.
1) The Democratisation of the Telecommunication Infrastructure. Trying to understand better how people can do it for themselves. One of the most promising opportunities in this area is the “village telco” model. Essentially “an easy-to-use connectivity solution that provides extensible local telephony with the possibility of upstream voice and/or data connectivity via POTS, mobile, or other IP services.” We have met with dabba.co.za and explored township locations of this pilot and are exploring how entrepreneurs would be able to support and run with this model.
There are parallels between this project and one in India. Dr. Mike Best from Georgia Tech is sending us the results to see if we can improve the experiment here.
2) Cities as hubs of innovation. Cities have a large role to play in developing this infrastructure and can really help to drive innovation. We are currently investigating municipal fibre strategies and the broader role of fibre such as Seacom.
3) Telecommunications policy. It is vital that policy allows the innovations we are trying to drive. We are working with Alison Gilwald from the LINK centre to deliver a paper on what policy needs to look like to get the most benefit for the citizens of South Africa. What are the points and leverage and what must we do?
Steve Song (Telecommunication Fellow) has blog postings at :
What we do in this area:
“Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) were originally instituted to encourage the creation and invention of public goods for the benefit of society by allowing creators and inventors to protect their intellectual property. However, IPR has become overly restrictive in recent times as corporate interests have led to an ever increasing demand for lock-down on rights.
The Shuttleworth Foundation supports initiatives that call for the establishment of national and global IPR regimes that seek an appropriate balance between encouraging innovation and benefiting society, the original purpose of creating the rights.”
This month’s highlights:
In a courageous and hugely impressive move, the Minister for the Public Service and Administration Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi set the Minimum Interoperability Standards for Information Systems (MIOS) in government, which will mean a move to Open Source Software. We believe that the implementation of this standard will greatly enhance interoperability and document management.
We are actively campaigning against Microsoft’s proposed OOXML standard and believe that the ODF, being a current and working standard needs to be maintained. ODF essentially means that no matter what document writing software you use, the actual content will not be lost over time by interoperability issues. South Africa voted in opposition to the proposed standard in September, and we are now in an appeal process.
We enabled Nnenna Nwakanma from FOSSFA to attend the ISO ballot resolution meeting on OOXML in Geneva as part of the CODINORM, the Standards Board of Cote d’Ivoire, delegation. She has been fantastic in helping us understand the African debate and see where the pressure points with other African nations are. Nnenna’s preliminary feedback has been that the meeting did not cover nearly all of the discussion points on the table and that there is a great deal to be done in sharing information between vote-entitled African countries in the 30 days before the final vote is due. She is leading a group discussion and initiatives on this.
Andrew Rens participated in an interview debate for Brainstorm Magazine with Microsoft representative David Ives on OOXML and open standards. The interview will be published in the April edition of Brainstorm.
What we do in this area:
“Teachers, learners and authors around the world are increasingly seeing the potential of open educational resources. As part of a broader movement to open up education, these resources can increase access to learning opportunities and encourage more collaborative, student-centric learning. The Shuttleworth Foundation works closely with the innovators and activists who are bringing this movement to life.”
This month’s highlights:
Mark Horner‘s (Siyavula Project Manager) proposal for a presentation on Open and Collaborative Resources has been accepted for eLearning Africa. He will be presenting at the event in Ghana in May. The excerpt is not on the website yet, but will be shortly. He will be specifically talking about the project, what we have learnt so far and how Open Educational Resources (OER’s) are used in South Africa.
Mark Horner met with representatives of Indigo+ng from South Korea and is invited to attend their annual working session in South Korea in September. At this event they bring together 6 projects from across the world who have succeeded in inspiring, engaging and mobilising the youth in education. Indigo+ng is an organisation focused on youth development towards critical engagement and embracing education and learning. They travelled to South Africa specifically to meet with Mark based on his work on the Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) and Siyavula.
FHSST has received good feedback from tutoring initiatives finding their materials online and using them in their outreach programmes. It is clear that there is a huge need for OER’s that can be accessed and redistributed freely in a decentralised manner. Many students still have not received their text books, even though the 1st term is almost over. The viral adoption of the materials is encouraging for both the FHSST and Siyavula initiatives.
Press related to the Cape Town Open Education Declaration has lead to a large influx of enquiries, proposals and offers of support for our OCR initiatives. It’s encouraging and enlightening to engage with so many individuals and organisations who are in desperate need of educational resources or who have resources to offer. Whilst most of the offers of resources have been with profit motives in mind, it allows us to have the open licensing and open resources conversation with a much wider audience, potentially increasing our impact in this area.
The Shuttleworth Foundation’s mission is to drive innovation in education and technology. Philosophically, we do that by: accelerating great ideas and removing barriers. Practically that means we pilot projects and pedagogies, and back excellent people to drive help drive our agenda.
The way we do business, entertain and educate has changed due to the communication afforded through technology. Shouldn’t everyone, including those that have the least (and hence the most to gain) be able to benefit?
Open is a very important word to us at the Foundation. Open source, open standards, open licenses, open access. Ultimately all of these things allow the developing world to participate in the wonderful knowledge economy that has transformed the worlds of those with access.
Currently we are focused on: telecommunications (everyone must have access to be able to participate), intellectual property (everyone must be able to participate legally and freely), open and collaborative educational resources (learners need to have access on their terms, and in their context) and communication and analytical skills (new skills that are needed to be able to participate meaningfully).
We believe that innovation happens within these areas quicker and more efficiently if we share. Regularly, those that are at our offices in Cape Town have lunch together to discuss an article, watch a TED talk (a recent and welcome addition), review books and ideas in these areas. We also use this time to debrief and solicit ideas from the team about particular issues. One such lunchtime concentrated on the first in a series of papers we are going to release about how we work. We will be highlighting our successful (and not so successful) processes and practises and inviting you to learn and help us learn in the process.
Out of that meeting, we began to focus on how we report on the activities within the Foundation. We report on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis (to internal stakeholders, trustees, and publicly, respectively). This involves a lot of thought about what has happened and some thought on what we have learnt from it – but not enough and not shared widely enough for anyone else to benefit.
With this in mind, I am going to start blogging the monthly reports. These reports are made up from all within the Foundation and is simply re-purposed to ensure they are readable. We hope you enjoy!