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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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SA startups in Visa final

Leading fintech companies from the Sub-Sahara Africa technology startup community have made it to the finals of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative.

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Among the 12 chosen, from the 238 total entries, South African startups Howler and FinChatBot will compete against innovators from across Sub Sahara Africa for a chance to secure funding of up to US$50,000 to develop their ideas when the initiative concludes in Johannesburg on July 24. 

Fintechs in Africa are making incredible strides; not only to bring more convenience to consumers, but also to enable people who would not otherwise have access to financial services or even a way to connect to the formal banking system. Venture funding for African startups jumped by 51% to $195 million in 2017 and fintech in Africa is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years as it continues to disrupt the traditional financial sector. With a clear goal of reducing reliance on cash, building digital payment based economies and increasing financial inclusion, Visa is committed to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and driving innovation in its payments landscape. 

The Sub Saharan Africa edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative challenged local fintech startup to deliver solutions based around three real life business challenges: 

  • How can startups leverage Visa Developer APIs to either:  Enable smaller merchants to accept payments in-store digitally OR Provide a safe and secure solution for online merchants to drive eCommerce and reduce cash on delivery?
  • How can startups use Visa’s APIs to leverage mass reach and social media partner platforms like Facebook to help businesses operating in fast-paced consumer centric environments improve cash flow and receive payments? 
  • How can startups leverage technology to provide services that are functional for illiterate customers to provide them with secure transaction experiences that build and enhance their confidence in the banking system?. 

Entrants were asked to submit ideas to leverage Visa’s network and technologies to resolve against at least one of the challenges. One winner per brief will be selected, with each receiving funding of US$25,000. Winners will be invited to a working meeting with Visa and may be presented with the opportunity to create a prototype. Visa will then select one overall winner to receive an additional US$25,000.

Geraldine Mitchley, Senior Director – Digital Solutions, Sub-Sahara Africa, Visa, said: “We are delighted with the response to our Visa’s Everywhere Initiative and the quality of submissions we received is an indication of the region’s rich talent pool and innovative spirit.”

“Launching this innovation program in the region has been an exciting time for the Visa SSA team, and the takeup reflects Africa’s enthusiasm to develop and pioneer solutions to the continent’s challenge – particularly in the payments technology space. I would like to congratulate the finalists and  wish them luck as they enter the final stretch.  When they come together for the final, they will not only have the chance to turn their ideas into reality, but also potentially help shape the future of payments in the region.”  

Howler which enables cashless transactions and end-to-end ticket handling for consumers and event organisers is competing in the first challenge and FinChatBot, which aims to automate part of customer services for financial service providers through AI-powered conversations is competing in the third challenge. 

The SSA edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative will wrap up on July 24 in Johannesburg, with each finalist having an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges from Visa and the payments industry. 

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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