The country’s reading crisis has once again come into the spotlight through the latest findings of the Progress In International Reading Literacy Study which reveals that as many as 78% of Grade 4 children cannot read.
There is a solution to the Foundation Phase reading crisis that the education system in South Africa currently faces. The early introduction and integration of digital tools in the classroom can and has proven to improve literacy levels amongst children, a SchoolNet South Africa (SNSA) study has found.
The country’s reading crisis has once again come into the spotlight through the latest findings of the Progress In International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). It has revealed that many of country’s children are struggling to read; that as much as 78% of Grade 4 children cannot read for meaning in any language.
While the research study of this project, called Learning Gains through Play (LGP), showed learning gains in all foundational literacies tracked, the most interesting findings were of gains in oral English language skills acquired subconsciously through play by second language learners.
Ten schools in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape each received a bank of learner tablets and an Xbox Kinect (including carefully selected apps and games) which, along with intensive teacher development and support, were integrated in teaching and learning activities in Grade R and Grade 1 classrooms. Learners were tracked over a four year period to assess their progress in foundational skills.
Data was compared with control school learners who were assessed and tracked in the same manner (but did not enjoy the benefits of any of the LGP project inputs). Results showed improvements in achievement in all five foundational literacies of gross-motor skills, fine-motor skills, numeracy, visual literacy and oral English communication skills.
This last literacy is of particular interest as the learning gains were substantial and furthermore, because the language of learning and teaching is a hotly debated topic in South Africa. With eleven official languages there is little consensus on which is more beneficial, for children to learn in their mother tongue or in the universal language of English.
This issue is particularly contentious in the first grades of Foundation Phase in South Africa. SchoolNet’s Learning Gains through Play project has shown that in the early grades, children can acquire English language skills “on their own” through engaging with learning games and apps that use English as the medium of instruction.
This acquisition of English is very different to the formal learning of a language with its structures and rules. Acquisition is a subconscious immersive method to understand and make meaning, similar to the way in which babies learn their mother tongue.
For the LGP children learning was mediated by their educators; it was not really learning “on their own” but learning driven by a need to make understanding of the games and apps in order to engage and entertain themselves with the digital tools that they found so exciting. One of the LGP findings was that learners’ curiosity was sufficiently enabled to trigger self-driven learning.
The theory of second language acquisition (SLA) was proposed by linguistic professor Stephen Krashen (1981) and according to Krashen and Terrell (1995), students learning a second language move through five predictable stages: Preproduction, Early Production, Speech Emergence, Intermediate Fluency, and Advanced Fluency.
“With the majority of learners in South Africa learning in their home language in Foundation Phase and then making an abrupt switch to learning in English from Grade 4 (and this coupled with the addition of three more subjects), providing tablets, Xboxes, apps and games in English for learners in the early grades is an effective strategy for preparing learners for success in the Intermediate Phase and beyond,” says SNSA’s Executive Director, Janet Thomson.
The worst hit from the reading crisis are poor and disadvantaged children, who make up 25% of the population who live in extreme poverty. An alarming fact is that learning deficiencies in the early grades accumulate and have a far greater detrimental impact in later grades and across all subjects including Mathematics.
Only the top 16% of Grade 3 Maths students are achieving at the Grade 3 level (Spaull & Kotze, 2015). Clearly the vast majority of South African learners are not meeting the curriculum requirements even at the very start of their journey through the schooling system.
In addition to the county’s poor reading culture, reading is also generally taught badly resulting in what the The Conversation has dubbed a “cognitive catastrophe”. The publication argued recently that “failing to learn to read is bad for the cognition necessary to function effectively in a modern society.” This essentially means that we are raising generations of cognitively stunted individuals who then become stuck in intergeneration poverty.
One of the reasons why the PIRLS Study tested 13 000 Grade 4 children is because it is in the Foundation Phase “that the base for all future learning is established, and if the rudiments of reading, writing and calculating are not firmly entrenched by the end of Grade 3, then both learning opportunities and the larger life chances of young citizens will be curtailed” (National Education, Evaluation and Development Unit, 2013).
Wannacry still alive
One and a half years after its epidemic, WannaCry ransomware tops the list of the most widespread cryptor families and the ransomware has attacked 74,621 unique users worldwide.
These attacks accounted for 28.72% of all users targeted by cryptors in Q3 2018. The percentage has risen over the last year, demonstrating more than two thirds growth against Q3 2017, when its share in cryptor attacks was 16.78%. This is just one of the main findings from Kaspersky Lab’s Q3 IT threat evolution report.
A series of cyberattacks with WannaCry cryptor occurred in May 2017 and is still considered to be one of the biggest ransomware epidemics in history. Even though Windows released a patch for its operating system to close the vulnerability exploited by EternalBlue 2 months prior to the start of the attacks, WannaCry still affected hundreds of thousands devices around the globe. As cryptors do, WannaCry turned files on victims’ computers into encrypted data and demanded ransom for decryption keys (created by threat actors to decipher the files and transform them back into the original data) making it impossible to operate the infected device.
The consequences of the WannaCry epidemic were devastating: as the victims were mainly organisations with networked systems – the work of businesses, factories and hospitals was paralysed. Even though this case demonstrated the dangers cryptors pose, and most of PCs around the world have been updated to resist the EternalBlue exploit, the statistics show that criminals still try to exploit those computers that weren’t patched and there are still plenty of them around the globe.
Overall, Kaspersky Lab security solution protected 259,867 unique users from cryptors attacks, showing a substantial rise of 39% since Q2 2018, when the figure was 158,921. The growth was rapid yet steady, with a monthly observed increase in the number of users.
“The rising share of WannaCry attacks is another reminder that epidemics don’t end as fast as they start – there are always long-running consequences. In the case of cryptors, attacks can be so severe that it is necessary to take preventive measures and patch the device, rather than deal with encrypted files later,” said Fedor Sinitsyn, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
To reduce the risk of infection by WannaCry and other cryptors, users are advised to:
- Always update your operating system to eliminate recent vulnerabilities and use a robust security solution with updated databases. It is also important to use the security solution that has specialised technologies to protect your data from ransomware, as Kaspersky Lab’s solutions do. Even if the newest yet unknown malware does manage to sneak through, Kaspersky Lab’s System Watcher technology is able to block and roll back all malicious changes made on a device, including the encryption of files.
- If you have bad luck and all your files are encrypted with cryptomalware, it is not recommended to pay cybercriminals, as it encourages them to continue their dirty business and infect more people’s devices. It is better to find a decryptor on the Internet – some of them are available for free here: https://noransom.kaspersky.com/
· It is also important to always have fresh backup copies of your files to be able to replace them in case they are lost (e.g. due to malware or a broken device), and store them not only on the physical object but also in cloud storage for greater reliability (don’t forget to protect your cloud storage with strong hack-proof password!)
· If you’re a business, enhance your preferred third-party security solution with the newest version of the free Kaspersky Anti-Ransomware Tool.
· To protect the corporate environment, educate your employees and IT teams, keep sensitive data separate, restrict access, and always back up everything.
· Use a dedicated security solution, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business that is powered by behaviour detection and able to roll back malicious actions. It should also include Vulnerability and Patch management features that automatically eliminates vulnerabilities and installs updates. This reduces the risk of vulnerabilities in popular software being used by cybercriminals.
· Last, but not least, remember that ransomware is a criminal offence. You shouldn’t pay. If you become a victim, report it to your local law enforcement agency.
Nokia 6.1 gets slice of Pie
HMD Global has announced that the Nokia 6.1 will start receiving Android 9 Pie – the second smartphone in the portfolio to receive the latest version of Android less than a month after the update arrived on the Nokia 7 plus.
Packed with Google’s newest software and building on the features of Android 8.0 Oreo, Android 9 Pie’s focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning gives owners a more customised and tailored experience.
Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 Mobile Platform, the Nokia 6.1 is over 60% faster than its predecessor. Also, now offering enhanced Dual-Sight, ZEISS optics, USB-C fast-charging, Nokia spatial audio and pure, secure and up-to-date Android Oreo.
The Nokia 6.1 has been selected by Google to join the Android One family and therefore users get exclusive access to Apps Actions – a feature only available to Android One and Google Pixel devices. App Actions helps users get things done faster by predicting their next move and displaying the right action on right away.
Now with Android 9 Pie, the Nokia 6.1’s already impressive battery life is further complimented with the introduction of Adaptive Battery, an update that uses deep learning to understand usage patterns and prioritise battery power on the most important apps.
Other key features of Android 9
· Slices – Identifies relevant information on favourite apps to make them more easily accessible when needed
· Adaptive Brightness – Automatically adapts phone brightness by learning from interactions with different settings
· New system navigation – Features a single home button that provides intelligent predictions and suggestions (user enabled)