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Redefining the role of classroom tech

While addressing the unaffordability of technology in the education sector is critical, there is another pressing consideration that it seeks – and desperately needs – change.

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Much has been made around technology as some sort of panacea for all education system ills. But in a country where a promising national pass rate of 75% doesn’t quite distract from the harsh reality that just under 50% of the Grade 2 cohort class enrolment dropped out of the schooling system before writing their Matric exams (source), you would be forgiven for desperately seeking a silver bullet.

“In South Africa, where rainwater floods classrooms and children cannot concentrate for the hunger ache in their bellies, it’s to be expected that even relatively minor progress in improving access through technology – such as an online enrolment system –  would be lauded as a massive leap towards transformation,” says Alan Goldberg, Director of Education at Digicape, an Apple Premium Reseller.

But if technology alone had the power to solve all education’s challenges, you could “bet your bottom dollar that government would find a way to drop thousands of computers into schools,” remarks Goldberg.

Goldberg agrees that the introduction of devices like iPads and tablets into classrooms is a move in the right direction. And tech giants are coming to the party, offering a range of affordable devices which cater to a chronically under-resourced and overburdened education system. Apple’s low-cost iPad, for example, has been dubbed a ‘love letter to education’ by Mashable.

While addressing the unaffordability of technology is critical, there is another pressing consideration for a sector that seeks – and desperately needs – change.

It is simply this: schools, for the most part, haven’t yet unlocked technology’s potential for transformation. “Teachers are using technology to substitute traditional learning tools and methods. A laptop replaces a paper workbook, or a report is typed up and submitted via email, instead of dropped on a teacher’s desk.

“This is a start, but to truly transform, technology needs to augment, modify and ultimately redefine the learning process,” explains Goldberg.

What does this mean?

“Many of the tablets and devices currently on the market have been predicated around the teacher, rather than the learner. In short, technology has been designed to cater to the existing structures and systems.”

Not Apple. “Apple’s point of departure is that it has designed its eco-system through the lens of, ‘what do we need to do to prepare our children for their future careers? And here’s the kicker: We have no idea what these jobs will even look like.’

“Consider an environment where – instead of reading, writing and reciting extensive sections of information at a time – learning is re-envisioned by focusing on the intended outcome, while not prescribing the path to getting there.”

At the Apple Special Event held in Chicago in March, countless examples of redefined learning experiences – with jaw-dropping outcomes – were offered up by enthusiastic educators to a jammed auditorium.

One speaker referred to a school in Alabama, where a local teacher wanted to better engage learners in class projects. For a world wars project, he decided to invite war veterans to the school to be interviewed by students. Students had the opportunity to take ownership of their learning, using their iPads to record interviews and create rich media stories.

The result was a personal and collaborative learning experience, allowing students to make deeper connections between war and its impact on communities.

“The classroom of the future enables learning to happen everywhere. On a hike, for example, an iPad could snap pics of plant and wildlife. The plant species is identified through referencing any number of online sources, and then an app like Clips is used to create a video report; complete with text, graphics, notes and more.

Goldberg believes that in these instances, the technology doesn’t simply substitute an old-school notebook – instead, it modifies and redefines the entire learning experience. “Students are content creators, not just information consumers.”

People are often averse to change, admits Goldberg, yet “transformation, by its very nature, involves reimagining the entire eco-system.”

In the classroom of the future, not only does learning looks vastly different, but the role of the educator undergoes a massive shift. “The importance of this role remains, yet it has evolved; the teacher becomes facilitator, with greater agency and responsibility passing into the hands of the student.

“Without a skilled educator to guide and facilitate the process, technology, in itself, is redundant.

Ultimately, says Goldberg, technology – while powerful – is simply a tool. “To genuinely transform the education sector, we need role players to seek solutions outside the confines of the past and present, looking to the future to find the classroom that best engages our next generation.”

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Car buyers to start abandoning fuel-power by 2025

Car buyers in the United States and Europe expect electric vehicles to become a viable alternative to fuel-powered cars in the next five years.

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A new report outlining consumer expectations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and their viability as replacements for traditional fuel-powered cars or internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles suggests a massive shift beginning in 2025.

The conclusion emerges from a report by human behaviour and analytics firm Escalent, entitled The Future of BEV: How to Capture the Hearts and Minds of Consumers. It reveals the intent of many consumers in the United States and Europe to abandon ICE vehicles altogether, citing the improved infrastructure and range of BEVs.

The Future of BEV gives auto and mobility manufacturers a strategic view of the benefits of their products in the eyes of consumers and highlights the areas of opportunity for automakers to push the innovation boundaries of BEVs to spur broad adoption of the technology.

“While most buyers don’t plan to choose BEVs over gasoline-powered cars within the next five years, consumers have told us there is a clear intention to take BEVs seriously in the five years that follow,” says Mark Carpenter, joint managing director of Escalent’s UK office. “However, manufacturers will need to tap into the emotional value of BEVs rather than just the rational and functional aspects to seize on that intent and inspire broader consumer adoption.”

The study demonstrates a significant shift in consumers’ expectations that BEVs will become viable alternatives to—and competitors with—ICE vehicles over the coming decade. Though 70% of Americans plan to buy a gasoline-powered car within the next year, just 37% expect to make that same purchase in five to ten years. Similarly, while 50% of European consumers favour buying vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel in the near-term, that figure drops to just 23% in five to ten years.

At the same time, consumers on both sides of the Atlantic see BEV adoption rising to 36% in Europe and 16% in the US, with respondents also indicating intent to purchase hybrids and hydrogen-powered cars.

Infrastructure clearly continues to be one of the biggest barriers to adoption. While some work is being done in Europe as well as in the US, the data show there is a significant need for some players to take ownership if manufacturers want to move the needle on BEV adoption.

US and European consumers have stark differences in opinion as to which entities they believe are primarily responsible for providing BEV charging stations. American consumers consider carmakers (45%) the primary party responsible, followed by fuel companies, local government/transport authorities, and the national government in fourth. On the other hand, European consumers view the national government (29%) as the primary party responsible for providing BEV infrastructure, followed by carmakers, local government/transport authorities and fuel companies.

For a full copy of the report, visit https://landing.escalent.co/download-the-future-of-bev.

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New cell phone to help with dementia and memory loss

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A new cell phone that takes simplicity to the extreme is designed to address the unique needs of people with dementia and other forms of memory loss. The RAZ Memory Cell Phone, developed by RAZ Mobility, a provider of mobile assistive technology, was launched this week. The handset is also well-suited for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer’s dementia, with one in ten people over the age of 65 diagnosed with the disease. The number of people with dementia is expected to increase rapidly as the proportion of the population 65 and older increases. The American Psychiatric Association reports that approximately one percent of the population has an intellectual disability.

The RAZ Memory Cell Phone consists of one primary screen, and one screen only. It is always on and includes pictures and names of up to six contacts and a button to call 911. That’s it! There are no applications or settings to cause confusion. No notifications or operating system updates. No distractions. Users can simply tap and hold the picture of the person they wish to call.

Caregivers manage the RAZ Memory Cell Phone through a simple online portal. The portal is used to create and edit the contacts, track the location of the phone/user and select certain options, such as the option to restrict incoming calls to people in the user’s contacts, thereby avoiding unwanted calls such as predatory robocalls.

The RAZ Memory Cell Phone can now be ordered at https://www.razmobility.com/solutions/memory-cellphone/.

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