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Acer launches answer to Pi

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Acer has announced the CloudProfessor, a stand-alone mini-computer which connects to mobile devices or laptops, and is designed to help youngsters both learn to code and create. 

Acer says the CloudProfessor is the culmination of 40 years of effort to bring together hardware, software, and service into one transportable device. It is aimed at making technology accessible to everyone and at educating the current generation on how to code and use sensors and motors to build a digital solution for everyday problems.

More and more countries are adopting computer programming as part of its school curricula as an increasing number of jobs in the future will require a basic skill level in ICT.

Says Glenn du Toit, Acer BYOC Digital Business Development: “With CloudProfessor, we are able to give everyone the opportunity to see how easy it can be to design the next great innovation by combining actual sensors and motors and then choosing between a variety of programming languages, including JavaScript, as well as Blockly, to get their innovation programmed and working. This provides younger learners with the building and visual interface they need to start innovating in the new Internet of Things era.”

The solution is made for implementation in the education system to encourage and allow both learners and teachers to create solutions for next generation.

As Barak Obama said, “In the new economic environment, computer science isn’t an optional skill but rather a basic skill.”

Du Toit says: “The CloudProfessor is targeted towards the education sector under the Acer umbrella to equip learners of all ages to become digital citizens and not just consumers of digital content but creators of digital solutions. It will help students become contributors to the digital society and not just consumers of a digital society.

“For example, using the CloudProfessor an individual can develop an application that turns lights on at home when they are not in, which allows for convenience and safety. Moreover, the device can build a full industrial irrigation system to be used on a farm. It’s a tool that allows hands-on experience, which promotes diverse experiences and encourages professional multi-industry integration through all the generations.”

Acer, in conjunction with CloudClub.Africa, is using the CloudProfessor with the University of Johannesburg in a project to teach non-technical and non-engineering students how the digital world will integrate into their chosen field. This is where the CloudProfessor is expected to come into its own in making IoT easy for non-technical students.

Importance of Coding Vs Digital Disruption 

Coding skills are in demand across a broad range of careers, not just for programmers. The ability not only to use but also to program software is often required from business people who work with data, from designers and marketers who create websites, from engineers who build products and technologies, and from scientists who conduct research.

According to a Burning Glass Report, an analytics software company, seven million job openings in 2015 were in occupations that required coding skills, and programming jobs overall are growing 12% faster than the market average.

However, says du Toit, the introduction of CloudProfessor is not digital disruption, it’s about digital education. CloudProfessor is a second-generation educational tool which is a practical and a necessary addition to education in South Africa and globally.

“CloudProfessor is a step further than simple coding and robotics. There is 40 hours of robotics lessons in both Javascript and Blockley catering to a range of age groups, by including industrial sensors and motors into the expanded lessons. However, in the process the focus shifts from simply following instructions to building a robot, to identifying a problem, then building a solution”.

How does it work?

1.     Build and connect all the elements received in the box.

2.     Download the CloudProfessor app which is customised for mobile [Andriod and iOS], tablets and the Acer Chromebook. Scan the QR code to get started.

3.     Once you have done this – login into your CloudProfessor app and enable your Bluetooth to pair with your CloudProfessor device.

4.     Download the LED 101 app to access lessons and modules on how to code and develop, the first step in your cloud and IoT education.

5.     Watch the video here.

“It’s a cross-platform tool which will work in any school. All that is needed is a tablet or a smartphone or even a Chromebook. The lessons are directly linked to STEAM education methodology and covers topics addressed in subjects such as Economic Management Sciences [EMS], Science and Technology, Mathematics. Added to this, coding and problem solving that is inherent in the CloudProfessor lessons that follow a logical process and requires learners to follow through a chronological organisation of tasks which helps kids better understand the processes of Maths, Science and even general life skills.”

Another great feature of the CloudProfessor as an education tool is the fact that it is mobile and can literally be used to teach learners to build solutions and code from anywhere.

“As its usable from a mobile device, all that is needed is a power bank. It’s not technology that requires masses and masses of infrastructure such as screens, PCs, or even a notebook.”

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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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