Friday, 14 December 2012

Introducing The African Storybook Project...

This is a  reflection  by Fiona Beal from SchoolNet on the initial workshop of the African Storybook project  held in Johannesburg last month.
If you had been walking past the Boardroom in the offices of Saide (South African Distance Education) in Johannesburg on Saturday 10 November 2012 you would have heard loud hoots of laughter. If you had tiptoed to the door and peeped inside to see what was happening you might have seen a group of adults sitting totally engrossed in a very unusual form of storytelling.

Jemma Khan demonstrating the art of Kamisihibai 
South African performance artist Jemma Khan was presenting some of her stories based on the unique style of Japanese storytelling known as the art of Kamisihibai. In the YouTube video below Jemma explains some of the features of this unusual form of storytelling. 

At the end of the story you would have heard the group calling, “More! More!” and certainly you would have smiled as another story was whipped out and related with deep emotion and humour.

Later on as you walked past the boardroom again you would have heard loud guffaws of laughter. This time when you peeped on you would have seen the words of a story up on a screen and the audience acting out the story with great enjoyment with Nicholas Welch, a young South African comedian and his two colleagues, Jefferson Tshabalala and Jeremiah Mntonga calling out the next form of action. 

Nic and Co getting the workshop participants involved
You might even have heard an event being related from the point of view of two cows who had been silently observing an incident as they chewed the cud (Nic and co once again).

Two cows commenting on an incident they had observed
related in Shona by Nicholas Welch and Jeremiah Mntonga
You would have certainly been highly entertained by Jefferson Tshabalala in his performance of the Xhosa weatherman.  In fact, at this stage you would have sat down and joined the fun.

Jefferson Tshabalala's enthusiastic weather report
It was a day to remember.  If a school day was like this day then an enormous amount of learning would take place. This was the initial workshop of the African Storybook Project which is due to be launched in early 2013.Those of us at the workshop were exposed to so many exciting methods of reading and writing stories. We heard how an author extracted stories from children in a holiday club for refugees. We played fun storytelling games where we received pieces of a puzzle, had to find the rest of the picture, quickly create a group story and relate it to the whole group. We discussed so many aspects of reading and writing. This was a day when reading and writing came alive. 

Find the missing pieces and create a story
You'll be hearing a lot more about the African storybook project in 2013 when it is officially launched by Saide. The project is  funded by Comic Relief in Britain for a four year period and the initial pilot will involve three countries namely South Africa, Kenya and Uganda. The end result will be a lovely website of African stories  for younger students in many African languages and in many different.formats which will contribute to the improvement of reading and writing for young African children. We will elaborate on this initial workshop and the project itself in future blog posts. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Great News: SchoolNet won the WCED tender to supply all schools with one tablet per school! The Scary News: to be delivered within a week!

submitted by janet Thomson CEO of SchoolNet
SchoolNet SA was delighted to be awarded the WCED tender to supply every government school in the Western Cape with one tablet computer and to conduct training for WCED department officials. The drawback however was that the deliveries had to be concluded within one week! Finding 1 527 schools on a map was going to be difficult enough let alone tracking down the principals in order for them to sign to verify delivery.

Donald Grant handing over a tablet
Nirvanen Moodle, the Managing Director of Softstart which is SchoolNet’s hardware partner, described the process as being “just like delivering credit cards”. Not surprisingly the process has had some hiccups, but the majority of devices were delivered within the deadline. The MEC for Education in the Western Cape, Donald Grant, was even able to make three of the deliveries himself. Here Donald Grant is seen handing over an Android tablet to Mrs Booi, Principal of Phandulwazi High School in Phillipi. Looking on is the District Manager for Phillipi, Ms Thandeka Jafta and Janet Thomson CEO of SchoolNet SA.

Training of  WCED officials at Kuilsrivier
SchoolNet SA’s core business is teacher training with a focus on improving learning through the effective use of technology in the classroom. It was logical therefore for SchoolNet to offer a higher level of training for schools than that specified in the terms of the tender. SchoolNet is currently developing a professional development course for teachers using tablet devices in the classroom. Fuel Online is partnering with SchoolNet on the digital design of the course which will use a blended model of delivery and have flexible choices of study from twelve modules about the effective use of tablets in education. The first training in this course for the Western Cape schools will commence in January 2013. Basic Training on the Tablet for WCED department officials has already taken place in Kuilsriver as can be seen in this photo.

SchoolNet is anticipating that there will be a great demand for this courseware as more teachers, schools and provinces recognise the value of using tablets, not only for improving communication between schools, districts and provincial officials but also for enhancing learning in the classroom.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

30 Days of Google #14: How to create a live Hangout on Air


I have been quite fascinated by the concept of a Google Hangout plus the concept of Google+ Hangouts On Air, which lets you broadcast to an unlimited audience.  I have experienced both and this is a real hit from Google. (I can’t say that I fully understand it all perfectly) yet I must admit! In this post I want to talk more about the live Hangout on Air and show how to create one.

What exactly is a Google Hangout on Air?

A normal Hangout can only have ten viewers but Hangouts On Air allow you to publicly broadcast your Hangouts on YouTube and your Google+ stream for anyone to watch. This is amazing – it’s like having your own live video show on the web!

When broadcasting, your video will stream live on your YouTube account as well as on your Google+ stream. This means you can share your YouTube URL with anyone who wants to watch your broadcast live or they can watch in your Google+ stream.

So what is the process then for a hangout on Air?

Here is a brief summary:
1. Create your hangout or schedule your hangout and invite people.
If you invite more than 25 people they won’t get a personal invite but
the invitation will rather just occur in your stream.
Also note that this is the time you have to decide whether it will be a Hangout on air. Check the button that enables Hangouts on Air.

2. Prepare your YouTube channel.This might only be necessary the first time you use a Google+ hangout

3. Edit Your Hangout When Complete
After your Hangout On Air, you can edit the video in your YouTube account(connected to your Google+ account). Simply go to your Video Manager page and click on the Video Editor link on top of the page.
4. Share Your Recorded HangoutOnce you’re happy with your video, you can then share it just like any other YouTube video.
A Slideshare on how to create a live Hangout on Air

Please take a look at this SlideShare entitled, ‘How to create a Google+ Hangout on Air' and which has more detail on how to create a Hangout on Air.

Extra reading

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Touchable Earth project touches down in SA

clip_image002 image                               

Submitted by Janet Thomson CEO of SchoolNet
Tudor Clee from New Zealand returned to South Africa this week - bearing tablets!

clip_image008SchoolNetters will remember in July we reported about the development of a digital world atlas application for tablets that would allow children from around the world to teach each other about their own countries. You can read the blogpost here.  SchoolNet had become involved through Ed Gragert of IEARN (International Education and Resource Network). Now, the developer, Tudor Clee has made another flying visit to South Africa; this time to donate 10 Google Nexus tablets to each of the schools that took part in the creation of videos for the world atlas app.

Touchable Earth is an application for tablets that provides engaging, hands-on information for children in countries across the world. The project has captured children in their authentic environments showcasing indigenous culture, schooling, friends and every day facts about their country. Now it was time to test the app and find out whether it really is as easy and as engaging as everyone had hoped.

Delivery to Lakeview Full Service Primary – Soweto

clip_image012Tudor arrived in Johannesburg after a whirlwind sprint from Auckland via Sydney, New York and London. He sourced the hardware in New York and arrived at O R Tambo with 30 tablet computers as carry-on luggage. Once in Johannesburg SchoolNet’s Omashani Naidoo helped him source some serious antennae for boosting the internet speed to the schools and then spent many hours configuring the devices and loading Touchable Earth. They then sped on to Soweto, to Lakeview Full Service Primary school where Tudor donated 10 Google Nexus tablets.

First off they had to ensure that the wi-fi was connected and was working. A Gauteng thunderstorm prevented installation of the antenna. However the router was installed and tested. Tudor and Omashani tested the connectivity and speed using Skype video conference. This connection proved stable for up to 20 metres from the principal’s office. One of the amazing anecdotes is a little boy who arrived to see Tudor talking via Skype and he was given the tablet to play with. He was awe struck that he could talk and see someone without physically being next to him. He kept looking behind the tablet for the physical Omashani. After playing on the Touchable Earth app he remarked, “I am going there to Nepal”

When the antenna was finally installed a download speed of 5 mbs was achieved. This is a phenomenally good speed and Tudor remarked that this is what he gets in New Zealand. Ms Elizabeth Shiburi, Deputy Chief Education Specialist in the E-Learning Unit of the Johannesburg Central District was on hand to receive Tudor and expressed her gratitude for connecting Lakeview to the world.

Delivery to Isibongo Primary School in Mpophomeni

clip_image016With his load a little lighter now, Tudor was able to fly to Pietermaritzburg and arrived at Isibongo Primary, Mpophomeni in the KZN Midlands carrying all the tablets, the modem and the rest of his connectivity paraphernalia.

Mrs Ndlovu, principal of Isibongo welcomed Tudor warmly to the school and was the first person to eagerly use the tablet, soon followed by other teachers and ably assisted by Hlengiwe Mfeka from SchoolNet SA. Mrs Nldovu expressed her gratitude on behalf of the school and the Department for the generous donation of tablets from Tudor. She promised to make every effort to ensure full use of the potential for these new devices.

As Tudor spent time with the handyman erecting the antenna outside, those children who had taken part in the filming for the South African part of the project, were called into the principal’s office to see themselves on video for the first time and to see how other children around the world would see them.

Siphokazi seeing herself on video for 
the first time
Hlengiwe Mfeka, Nokuthula Buthelezi and Mrs Ndlovu (principal)

They did not tire of watching, listening and reading
Nandipha seeing herself  for the 
first time on Video

Gradually more and more children squeezed into the principal’s office to crowd around the tablets. There was delight combined with a little self-conscious embarrassment when children first saw themselves on video but before long they were hooked on exploring the lives of other children from around the world. They also had considerable interest in the footage of children from other parts of South Africa and were soon trying to replicate the dancing and the singing that they saw in the videos. Four girls quickly leant a song with actions about a butterfly that they watched being sung by a grade 4 learner from Nepal.

The learners occupied the principal’s office for hours and hours; some of the boys were eventually lying on the floor to carry on watching, listening and reading, simply because they were too tired to stand or sit in the same position any longer. At four in the afternoon the tired bodies were sent home after reluctantly handing back the tablets. The learners said they could not wait to get back to school next year!

Here is a YouTube video that Tudor uploaded to the Touchable Earth Facebook page.Tudor says, "This is Isibongo Primary School in Mpophomeni township South Africa. Touchable Earth with great assistance from SchoolNet South Africa and have just donated 10 Google Nexus tablets with Touchable Earth preloaded. The kids are seeing themselves in the videos as we made the program here. We are installing 3G Internet prepaid for a year."


Further uses in the classroom

clip_image026SchoolNet SA has worked closely for many years with all of the high schools in Mpophomeni and will now be supporting teachers at Isibongo Primary. SchoolNet has donated 25 netbooks to the Zenzeleni Community Centre for use by those primary schools in Mpophomeni that still do not have any technology. Hlengiwe Mfeka will be assisting teachers to explore other effective learning uses for the donated tablets - apart from using Touchable Earth.

SchoolNet's tablet course for educators  has been developed

SchoolNet SA has recently developed a comprehensive course for teachers to help them use tablets in the curriculum and in their professional lives generally. The course takes teachers on a learning journey through the use of a tablet as an e-reader, a planning tool, a writing tool, a creator of content (using the camera and the recorder) as a communication tool, for research and assessment as well as an educational content provider. SchoolNet will be sourcing digital content and e-text books as well as allowing the teachers to join the SchoolNet Premium Membership programme that provides resources and peer support for teachers using technology in their teaching.

The potential of the tablets to revolutionise learning is well-documented in first world countries but the Touchable Earth initiative has given children in some of the poorest areas of South Africa the chance to participate in this digital revolution.

Touchable Earth… moving forward

Although there are a number of countries already available and featured on the app, Tudor is promising to have Touchable Earth updated with more countries included over the next few months. He is leaving South Africa immediately to continue on his whirlwind tour to deliver tablets to children in other parts of the world. His next stop on Sunday will be Iraq.

Visit these Facebook pages and as well as SchoolNet’s website

You can link from here to more information about Touchable Earth

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

30 Days of Google #13: Get the hang of a Google+ hangout (plus webinar recording)


What is a Google hangout?
Google+ is Google's new social networking tool. I have only just discovered its amazing potential since attending the Google Teacher Academy in New York in October. Google has put a lot of funding into developing Google+ and they are committed to making it work well for education, so it will just get better and better I am sure. Once you have created a circle of friends in Google+ you can choose to hang out with them on Google+. This allows you to video chat, IM chat, watch YouTube videos together, and more.

Summary of benefits
Google Hangouts are part of Google+, Google's new free social networking tool. On a Hangout 10 people (possible 15 on Google Apps) can:
*video chat
*IM (instant message) chat
*watch YouTube videos together
*collaborate on a Google Doc
*use a whiteboard collaboratively
*add effects for fun
*record the Hangout directly on YouTube
*live stream for more viewers
*A minimum of two people
*and more…

A Slideshare showing the steps
This slideshare was used in the SchoolNet webinar of the same name and shows the steps in creating a hangout.

Webinar recording:
Last week SchoolNet had a webinar whih was presented by me (Fiona Beal) on 'Get the hang of a Google Hangout'. Here is the recording (22 mins)

Ideas for using a hangout in the the classroom
• Read a story
• Bring in an expert/guest speaker/author|
• Share from a Slideshare
• Homework tutoring
• Professional Development meeting
• Work on a project together
• Virtual penpals
• Global classroom discussions
• Career Day wit panelists
• Attend other hangouts (Google has a whole library of hangouts)
• Extended discussion on a class topic
• Subject-related hangouts
• Conduct workshops and seminars

Additional reading and viewing
a) A tutorial 
Please note that Google updates its products continually so some features in this video might look different.

b) Further Reading
*How to use Google Hangouts 
*How to Use Google+ Hangouts for Teaching
*How to create a Google event

Monday, 3 December 2012

30 Days of Google #12: How to send a message and share a circle using Google+

Google circles are a feature of Google+ and they can be very useful for keeping in contact with a group of people. For example I have a circle called Google PD clan.

How I send a message to the Google PD clan
Whenever I want to send something to that group this is what I would do:

1. In my Google+ stream I would write a message.


2. Decide which circle or person I am going to send it to, select them and press ‘Share’ (in this case to a circle called  Google PD clan).


How would I share the whole circle with the Google PD clan?
If one creates a specific circle for a specific purpose (such as my 'Google PD clan' circle),  I could actually share my my whole circle with the group members.  To do this I would choose the option to 'share a circle'.  The group members would then receive the shared circle option/invite but would have to accept it and name it.  


Why not try sharing a circle?

30 Days of Google #11: How to create a new circle in Google+

Google+ works on the concept of circles each with the level of privacy that you decide on. This post shows you how to create a circle after you have completed your profile in Google+.

1. Make sure you have joined Google+ (on the top left of your Gmail account) and have filled in your profile.After doing that go to your Google+ page and go down the left side till you get to Circles. Click on ‘Create a circle’.


2. Give your circle a name i.e. My technology friends


3. Now choose how you are going to find people for your circle. Click on ‘Add a new person’


4. A number of selections will come up in which case you click on the picture you recognise.


5. However if you don’t know the person which is possible in our case rather use the email address and only one person will show up. Click on the name and add that person.


Why not create a circle following the steps above? (Choose a few folk that you know have gmail addresses.)  Then send a message to that circle. To reinforce your learning about circles, here is a video that explains it really well.

Further reading
How to create circles in Google+