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Time to disrupt one-size-fits-all education

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Director at Top Dog Education, CLAUDIA SWARTZBERG, describes how it creates digital content that learners can study in their own time, and at their own pace.

We’re living in exciting times – there’s no doubt about that. Innovation and advancement are radically changing the way we live, work, and access information. So much so, in fact, that if you were to transport someone from just 50 years ago into our modern world, they’d have a hard time making sense of just about anything.

But one thing hasn’t changed in 50 years, or even 100, for that matter. Our one-size-fits-all, low-tech and pre-digital educational systems have stubbornly endured for far too long, contributing to an education crisis that is far from an exclusively South African problem. All recent research shows that learners have much to gain from digital learning and a more personalised approach to their educational development.

As a   young learner, I struggled academically in primary school myself, but was lucky enough to have a very patient father who would take it upon himself to tutor me and explain concepts in a way that made sense to me – in other words, he personalised my learning. This was a turning point that sparked my passion for academics and turned me into a top performer in my class. The only problem is that not every parent has the time or know-how to help their kids in the same way, and our teachers already have their hands full as it is.

Along with my brother, Ryan, we founded Top Dog Education with the dream of giving every South African learner easy and affordable access to the kind of learning personalisation that helped them thrive – and the internet was the natural choice to help them achieve their goal. With a team of programmers, educational psychologists and expert teachers, they set about creating engaging, affordable digital content that learners can study in their own time, and at their own pace, in order to supplement the material and concepts they are being taught in school.

But the real magic of Top Dog Education is more subtle than flashy tutorials and a slick website. The system differs from similar products in the market in its application of technology, with ingenious solutions so seamlessly built into the platform, that it’s as good as having a tutor right by your side. The underlying system for all Top Dog products is deep performance analysis of each individual. Based on this continual analysis, each student gets a personal improvement path to follow, which adapts and grows with the student over time.

Our program doesn’t just feed you material. As you work through it, it is actively tracking your unique strengths and weaknesses with deep analysis, getting to know your individual learning style, and creating an educational experience that is built just for you.

The result? An assisted learning tool that is perfectly aligned to current South African curricula, presented in such a way that students are more engaged by the materials than ever, and are motivated to reach goals and milestones they have set for themselves.

It was Albert Einstein who once famously said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Top Dog Education represents a giant leap forward in recognising that everybody requires a different approach in order to learn to their fullest potential, providing learners with the freedom and flexibility to achieve outstanding improvement in their own style, and at their own pace.

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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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