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Students give mobile and tablet textbook thumbs up

Students in South Africa face a lot of challenges when it comes to their education – whether it’s an absent teacher or undelivered textbooks. However, innovative efforts to both empower and engage students by providing them with technology-inspired learning tools are starting to get the recognition they deserve. Siyavula is part of this movement.

Siyavula is an organisation that facilitates the creation of openly licensed resources under a Creative Commons copyright license by supporting the collaboration between teachers and postgraduate students; who volunteer to develop these resources.

In 2011, the organization was approached by the Department of Basic Education to write openly licensed textbooks that would be printed and distributed by the department. With their eye-catching covers, these textbooks have received a resounding response from students and teachers alike, encouraging them to continue publishing their Grade 10, 11 and 12 Mathematics and Physical Science textbooks on a number of platforms and in compatible formats namely; mobile phones, tablets, Mxit and online.

On the 28th of June, Siyavula invited four Grade 11 students from the LEAP Maths and Science School to test and evaluate the online versions of these textbooks on various platforms. Versions of the textbooks can also be accessed and viewed on a WAP enabled mobile phone through Mxit. Additionally, the textbooks can be viewed using smart phones, tablets and on computers with clear and easy to navigate interfaces.

The online versions of the textbooks are interactive, allowing students to access worked solutions, supporting video material and other media resources including exercises to test their knowledge. The online textbooks also allow students to track their progress and identify problem areas.

Carine Grobbelaar, the Marketing Co-ordinator for Siyavula believes that this initiative will make key resources available to a lot of students, especially on mobile phones, because many students have access to phones that also access the internet – making it the easiest and most effective way to make these resources available to a large student population.

Being able to access the textbooks in this way “is convenient because [you] have the textbook everywhere [you] go on [your] phone and self-study becomes easier“, remarked Elethu Nkala, one of the students present.

The students all agreed how helpful this will be when studying and completing homework. Now, if they get stumped by a question or section, they can access videos or intricately worked out solutions, “where in the past we had to wait for our teacher to explain further to us, the following day”, noted fellow student, Ciza Syvlane.

The consensus by the end of the day was that they were ready to learn using technology platforms which are more familiar to them; and through an integrated and interactive approach to learning like Siyavula’s online version of the textbooks.

Perhaps, this is a start towards circumventing notions of the teacher being the gatekeeper to a student’s access to information, as well as problems associated with textbook distribution. If students are empowered with learning tools that they are accustomed to and that they find intuitive to use, it becomes possible to increase their accessibility to essential resources and ultimately allows them to take charge of their education.

Check out Siyavula’s mobi books on m.everythingscience.co.za and m.everythingmaths.co.za

Image: Students, Elethu Nkala and Ciza Sylvane during the workshop

 

 

 

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6 User

  1. Ernest ubisi says:

    Siyavula is doing great job to accelerate excellence both maths and science through its media intiatives however the programme does embrace student from rural areas,because they don’t have a access to internet.

  2. Derek Keats says:

    It is a pity that Siyavula could not make their content Open Educational Resources. They do no, however, conform to the UNESCO definition of Open Educational Resources and this makes them much less useful in real, meaningful education than they could be. Doing more of the same and making it slightly cheaper is an improvement, but it is far short of the revolution we need in education.

    • Ewald Zietsman says:

      Hi Derek,

      The source code to our books are available (as Mark noted) for download under a CC-BY licence, however the downloadable PDF versions are CC-BY-ND (for specific reasons). This may not be clear at a glance. I assume you have a problem with the ND clause. The LaTeX source code clearly states the CC-BY licence. I hope this clears things up. Any comments are welcome.

  3. Mark Horner says:

    Hi Derek

    I don’t understand your conclusion.

    The books are under a CC-BY licence so all re-use/revision/remixing/redistribution permitted. The source format is open, opensource software exists for all platforms for editing and compiling a book. The source is available on github or from the table of contents page for the books on the sites everythingmaths or everythingscience.co.za and we’re making it even more accessible by pushing it out in print/web/mobile/Mxit channels all using Plone – an opensource CMS.

    The UNESCO definition, as I understand it, is satisfied. So is the Hewlett Foundation’s and I’m happy to consider any others you recommend. Ultimately, we’re having a huge, positive impact on learners lives and still being extremely open so I can definitely sleep at night.

    I welcome feedback about how we can do more. The first few educators are starting to make their own versions of our books which is really exciting and we’re putting together tools to make it even easier for them to edit.

    Mark

  4. Blinds says:

    Just like religion, education is becoming something that every human should have direct access to. People today find spirituality in a more direct form, without the need for organised religion, it seems that with these technologies, the same will happen to education.

    No more needing to go through someone to get the desired result, simply have a desire to learn and then search out open source materials and learn – great initiative, keep up the good work

  5. laptop says:

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