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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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AppDate: Prepare for space

In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Space Nation Navigator, Hitman Sniper, Snake Mask, Memrise, WhatsApp Web, and Carrot Weather.

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Space Nation Navigator

Space Nation Navigator is a bit of a strange app. It is part game, part exercise and part educational. On the game side, users have to navigate the Mars Rover, put the International Space Station back into orbit or move their Martians to safety before a sand storm hits Mars. When it comes to exercise, Space Nation Navigator provides users with a range of exercises and Yoga videos to prepare them for space travel and working in an anti-gravity environment. The education aspect teaches users about the planets, and star constellations, and then offers quizzes on what has been taught.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Memrise

Memrise takes a new approach to help people learn new languages. Instead of providing a user with random phrases and words to memorise, the app connects you with a person already fluent in the language you want to learn. In turn, the person you are speaking to wants to learn the language in which you are fluent. Once your profile is filled out and languages selected, it connects you with people around the world who are interested in your language, and then allows you to chat with them in real-time. Memrise also lets one learn new languages through games, chatbots and grammarbots that help with spelling, tenses and pronunciations.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Hitman Sniper

Hitman Sniper is loosely based on the Agent 47 movie released a few years ago. The game offers players the ability to hone their shooting skills through a range of training courses and, once they think they are ready, they can start taking out the bad guys. Things start off easy enough, but they get more and more difficult as one progresses through the 150 missions on offer. One will also have to upgrade various gun components, like scopes, magazine capacities and silencers, to make the missions a little easier. Hitman Sniper lets users buy 16 to tackle each of the missions – either with real money or via the points accumulated by completing missions. Money and points can also be used to upgrade firearms.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: R7 – with a range of in-app purchases.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Snake Mask

The iconic Snake game that was preinstalled on most older Nokia phones has had a complete make-over. It now uses Facebook’s AR technology, meaning that you have to navigate the snake around obstacles in your home or office, all the while collecting coins and stars that change the snake’s speed and length. Unfortunately, Snake Mask is only available on Nokia’s new range of smartphones. However, it should not take long before it slithers onto other devices.

 

Platform: New Nokia smartphones running Android.

Cost: Free to use through the Facebook app installed on the device.

Stockists: Available through the Facebook app.

 

WhatsApp Web

Although this is by no means a new app, it is an extremely useful one, and one that not many people know about. Tapping out WhatsApps on your phone is easy enough, but thanks to WhatsApp Web it can be even easier. Open the WhatApp Web page under WhatsApp and you will see a QR code. Scan this code through WhatsApp on your mobile and you will be shown a replica of what you would normally see on your phone. You can then type and reply to messages using your computer instead of having to stop everything and unlock your phone every time a message comes through. WhatsApp Web is great if you share your computer with other people as it automatically disconnects when the browser is closed. However WhatsApp also offers an app that when installed will stay connected to your phone unless you manually remove it.

 

Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Cost: Free to use and install

Stockists: Visit www.WhatsApp.com

 

Carrot Weather

There are thousands of weather apps on the Internet these days and all of them do the same thing – inform you of the weather in your area. However, Carrot Weather has taken what is just another app and turned it into something fun. By fun, I mean sarcastic, rude and completely politically incorrect. A user starts off by selecting religious and political views. It then asks about personality, ranging from friendly to homicidal to overkill – which includes profanity. So, for instance, instead of waking up to to the standard partly cloudy forecast, Carrot Weather will display something like: “It’s only partly sunny, the sun is a total effing failure.” It also has a range of insults that it throws at you whenever you open the app – some of them downright insulting, so it is definitely not for those who are easily offended. The app’s user interface is very simple, displaying a week’s daily forecast and hourly forecasts for the day selected.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download but with adverts. The premium, advert free version costs R12 per month.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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SA Start-up reinvents PABX

For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.

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Enter BuzzBox (www.buzzboxcloud.co.za), a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.

What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.

BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.

He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”

BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.

Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.

The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.

Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.

The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.

One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.

Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.

BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.

The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here: https://buzzboxcloud.co.za/pricing/

BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.

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