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Social media to help matrics

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With just a few days to go before matric final exams, education expert WONGA NTSHINGA shares some insights and tips into how social media can be leveraged as a revision resource to maximise exam performance.

With the SA National Senior Certificate Exams set to kick off soon, matrics should now start putting the final touches on their preparation for probably the most important exams in their lives. And in this period of revision, these learners have a surprising ally: social media, if used correctly, can give them just the right boost to make them perform at their best, an expert says.

Wonga Ntshinga, Senior Head of Programme at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s leading private higher education institution, says social media is no longer just good for fun and games, and has stepped up to become a resource to be reckoned with for learners serious about their studies.

“We have noticed how particularly four platforms – WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – are being harnessed for revision,” says Ntshinga.

He says that the various platforms are being used in different ways, each one according to its strengths.

“WhatsApp Messenger is being used as a cross-platform mobile messaging application to create study groups,” he says.

“For instance, a group will be called G12_Science_Class_SchoolName. Members of that group then discuss issues concerning the study materials, questions, papers and even admin issues around particular exams. Because WhatsApp Messenger is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia, many learners are able to collaborate on this platform regardless of device.

“WhatsApp also allows users to send each other unlimited images, video and audio messages. So, you can create a video of how you solved a particular Mathematics equation or Physical Science experience and share it with your group. Alternatively, you can record a tutorial and pass it on to your peers.”

Ntshinga says that another popular option is YouTube, the video-sharing service, from where videos can be viewed over a myriad of devices, including mobile, TV and laptop.

“YouTube has many videos related to Grade 12 content. For instance, if you search for “Grade 12 Physical Science”, you will get an extensive list of videos that may be helpful in your preparations. Or you could narrow your search to a particular area that you find challenging.”

Ntshinga says learners should however be warned, and potentially assisted by their teachers, parents or guardians, in order to avoid stumbling upon inappropriate content.

Additionally, downloading videos could be expensive because of data charges, so it might be necessary to view such videos in libraries or other areas where free Wi-Fi is available.

“Another great platform for collaborating with your peers in the lead-up to the exams, is Facebook Groups,” says Ntshinga.

“Here, your study group can share possible questions that can come up in the examination papers or use the group to post previous question papers. Each time your peers post important subject matter you will get a notification.”

Ntshinga says it is important however to mute notifications while studying, as incoming messages could become a distraction.

“Focus on what you are doing at the moment when in front of your books, and catch up on your notifications when taking a break,” he says.

Finally, learners can follow interesting topics and users on Twitter, Ntshinga advises.

“Some people consider Twitter to be a waste of time, but if used carefully, you can learn a lot,” he says.

“Follow interesting topics and users. For example, if you search #biology, you are presented with user @Molecular who tweets about the latest news, research, books and journals in molecular biology, cell biology, genetics and stem cells.”

Ntshinga says the platforms above, that gained popularity in recent years, provide educational accessibility from any device and location to improve learner reach while also increasing positive social interaction between learners.

“The use of technology, which has become so pervasive, gives the learners a self-service setting that is robust and user-friendly to learning new concepts and to connect with each other. Ideally all schools and higher education institutions should have ICT infrastructure to support the school operationally and academically. ICT solutions can promote learner-teacher performance; improve learner-teacher interaction and provide blended learning channels,” he says.

Ntshinga encourages parents and teachers to assist learners in accessing ICT tools both at home and at school, especially during this time of preparing for prelims and final exams.

“Many learners love technology and use it to the fullest. With technology costs having reduced drastically over the years, parents and teachers should consider making use of these tools as they can improve grades, participation, knowledge and confidence.

“Most importantly, they can help make learning just a little bit more fun.”

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Meet the ambassador to the future

Tilly Lockey, 14, lost her hands as a toddler, but sees it as a massive opportunity to embrace technology. She chatted with ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK about the human of tomorrow.

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Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

It is a description that defines 14-year-old Tilly Lockey: She lost her hands at the age of 15 months, and now uses bionic hands to show the world how to overcome disability.

That could easily read as an advertisement for a prosthetics company, but Tilly refuses to be defined by marketing messages. She has not only embraced what is supposed to be a disability, but wants to become nothing less than an ambassador to the future.

Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

That is in effect what she is achieving by pushing the boundaries of what is possible with artificial hands. It means that, eventually, she will have more capabilities built into her body than most able-bodied humans can imagine. She collaborates closely with Open Bionics, a start-up that is using 3D printing to create low-cost prosthetics with high-tech capabilities.

“I have very high hopes for the future,” she said during a chat on the sidelines of the SingularityU Summit at Kyalami north of Johannesburg. From Newcastle-on-Tyne in the United Kingdom, she was at the Summit as a guest speaker, chaperoned by her father Adam and sister Tia. 

“When I started working with Open Bionics, I wanted it to include lighting, music, Bluetooth, a projector in my palm, all over-optimistic things. But then I feel that is not too far away, and then a disability would turn into and enhancement of normal human hands. I’m really excited about it.

“I know there’s a couple of things they are working on right now, like trying to get the built-in battery thinner, because it’s hard to get overcoats and jackets over it, so they are trying to get the hands slimmer. They’re working on haptic feedback, to give a sense of touch of vibration, which tells me of I have a good grip on something. It could be coming soon. These hands I’m using now were made in the past five years. In another five years, I think we’ll have all of it.”

The hands in question are called Hero Arms, which its creators, Open Bionics, say is “the world’s first clinically approved 3D-printed bionic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics”.

Click here to read more about the development of Open Bionics’s Hero Arms.

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How Tilly Lockey became a Hero

Part 2 of ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK’s interview with Tilly Lockey explores her amazing career.

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Picture courtesy SingularityU South Africa 2019 Summit

This is the second part of this series of articles. To start from the beginning, click here.

Tilly Lockey was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia Strain B when she was 15 months old.

Her mother spotted the tell-tale signs one day in 2007: a fast-spreading skin rash that looks like pinpricks, along with symptoms like lethargy and bruising. She was rushed to hospital, but the bacterial poisoning spread so aggressively, doctors gave Tilley no chance of survival. They had to make a quick decision to amputate her hands to save her life.

Twelve years later, her future truly came into focus: “I was surprised with really cool Alita: Battle Angel bionic Hero Arms and went on the blue carpet at the world premiere of the movie with Rosa Salazar and director James Cameron.”

That pivotal moment in her life would not have been possible without the intensive efforts of her mother, Sara, to raise funds to buy something better than the metal prosthetics issued by the National Health Service in the UK. She increased Tilley’s profile with a campaign to “Give Tilley a Hand”, and today works as a fundraiser and events organiser for the Meningitis Now support group. Her involvement in an event meant she was unable to join Tilley on her trip to South Africa last week, when she spoke at the SingularityU Summit. After coming off stage, Tilley told us that Sara was her biggest inspiration in her life, and the closest to a role model.

“I’m usually a speaker at her events. I tell everyone my story and what I’m doing now and give these kids inspiration, because they often feel they can’t do anything because of what Meningitis did to them.

“I am home schooled now, which is pretty cool, because I’m able to have a career and get educated at the same time. I feel I can do a lot of things that friends can’t do. I can take a whole class on an aeroplane. I have a great time traveling and meeting so many inspiring people who are making a difference in the world.”

The form of Mengingitis that attacked her leaves hidden scars and issues that only become apparent years later. She is almost absurdly cheerful about the challenges that have faced her.

“I personally figured out that my left leg had stopped growing. I’m still finding out things it has caused, but you survive. At least I’m here and I’m alive.”

It does help that she’s comfortable in the spotlight, happy to give interviews, and eager to show what she can do with her bionic hands.

“I want to go into public speaking a lot more, and it could be an option as career. I want it to continue because it’s a lot of fun, and I feel I’ve got a story to share. If I can inspire people to change the world, I will. “

Her travels this year will still take her to Barcelona, Jakarta and New York. In the Big Apple, she will accept a humanitarian award, and intends “to give a funky speech”.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, she will take part in a fashion catwalk and do a makeup tutorial live. She learned to do makeup with one of her bionic hands when she fractured her right elbow in a fall at school

“I got makeup for Christmas and wanted to play with it, and got the idea of doing it with an open hand. It took a lot of perseverance and patience, but after studying how to do it, I was able to recreate a full makeup routine using one hand. It wasn’t a great situation at the time, but now I’m happy it happened because it got me into doing what I do now.”

What she is doing with makeup is remarkable in its own right. She gives tutorials on YouTube, where she says she is “kinda new”, as she has “only around 16,000 followers”. That may well soon expand into cooking videos.

In other words, everything is an opportunity: “I could be sad, just sit on my bed and cry, or I can live my life and realise what I’ve got: these amazing bionic Hero Arms.

“All I want to do is help give people confidence in themselves, accept who they are, accept their scars and everything about them. That they don’t have to impress everybody and just be themselves.”

Read more in the third article of the series about how family remains at the centre of Tilly’s life.

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