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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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Samsung S10 in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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