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Minecraft Education Edition joins the class

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Microsoft South Africa recently released Minecraft: Education Edition, which has reached more than 75 000 students globally since its launch last year.

Minecraft: Education Edition is an open-world game that promotes creativity, collaboration and problem-solving, built with the help of more than 50 000 students and educators who participated in Microsoft’s early access programme and provided valuable feedback to help fine-tune the experience across a diverse set of learning environments.

As part of the official launch in South Africa, Microsoft together with Minecraft ambassador/creative consultant in education Stephen Reid, director of Scottish-based company ImmersiveMinds, is hosting teacher training sessions in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Reid has almost 20 years experience in working to bring technology to the classroom and spent the last decade focused on games-based learning, with six of those on the development of Minecraft as a tool for curriculum learning.

”The key to harnessing technology as an effective tool for teaching and learning is in recognising its place in the everyday lives of our young people,” he says. “The tools they embrace and enjoy using are not the tools we tend to deploy in our school systems readily.

“It’s a three-step process for me: 1. Find something that works in engaging and enthusing the children I’m working with. 2. Learn how to use it myself. 3. Apply what I’ve learned to my curriculum teaching. This means I can meet children in their own world, using the tools they use and bring the learning to them in a fun and effective way. Technology should not be viewed as a stand-alone tool, but as a powerful part of any teacher toolkit, complimentary to traditional tools.”

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Microsoft provided the following information:

Minecraft: Education Edition is a simple and fun way to augment student achievement, empower teachers and enrich the overall learning experience for their students. The game comes with a number of benefits:

Student Engagement

Minecraft: Education Edition brings the classroom and curriculum to students in an environment they are already comfortable with. It offers the same Minecraft experience many students enjoy already, but with some additional capabilities that enable them to collaborate in the classroom, as well as support for educators to deliver learning activities within the game.

“Technology is increasingly making head way in the classroom, with textbooks, battered notebooks and worn-down pencils giving way to e-readers, tablets, laptops and a multitude of software and digital tools that are completely changing the way that students learn,” says Angela Schaerer, Teacher Engagement Lead for Microsoft South Africa.

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Collaboration

The game is designed so that students can work in teams to solve problems, or as a whole class to master challenges within the game. Engaging in work teams and learning environments that foster co-operation in the classroom helps prepare students for their futures. It has the same benefits associated with teamwork for teachers. One of the biggest perks is the almost immediate sharing of knowledge from teachers all over the globe.

Creative Exploration

Children learn naturally through a combination of observation, trial and error and play-based practice. An open-learning environment like Minecraft allows students the freedom to experiment and challenge themselves. Much like real life, there are no step-by-step instructions — students must try, fail and try again to achieve the result they want.

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Tangible Learning Outcomes

To create a fully inclusive classroom, educators are challenged to create learning activities that cater to all types of learners. With Minecraft: Education Edition, educators are able to align projects and activities directly to specific learning outcomes and curriculum standards. What’s more, learning-by-doing gives students a sense of accomplishment when they can demonstrate their knowledge.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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