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Welcome to Steve Jobs School

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Long gone are the days when kids began their education with some crayons and paper. LIRON SEGEV takes a look at how children in the Netherlands are beginning their education using an iPad when enrolling in one of the thirteen Steve Jobs Schools.

Like most people, my schooling education began with a large box of Crayola colouring pens and paper. But if you live in the Netherlands, that is considered so ‚”old-school‚”, as today’s education begins with an iPad.

If you live in the Netherlands, then you have the opportunity to send your child to one of thirteen Steve Jobs Schools that don’t allow pen or paper at school as everything is conducted on the iPad.

The schools operate according to the principles of the O4NT foundation (Education for a New Era) where the program aims at promoting the child’s individual talents and developing skills for the new tech savvy world. These skills include information processing, collaboration and developing a critical, problem-solving and creative mind.

Each child is given an iPad and has access to the virtual school. When the kids are in the physical school building, the children will move around the various ‚’subject rooms’ according to their individual schedule (we used to call it a Timetable). For example the language room, maths room, creative lab, gym or technology lab. They also attend planned activities that they have pre-registered for. Using the iPad and the school software the children are also able to maintain their own portfolio, documenting their progress and achievements.

Parents can follow exactly what their child has been doing during the day via a separate app.

Even the notion of school hours is challenged and vacations will be very flexible once the O4NT method is completely implemented. Because the ‚’virtual school’ is available on an iPad all the time, parents are free to book their vacation at a convenient time and to determine what their child’s school hours will be. School and out-of-school care are seamlessly integrated.

There are also no traditional classroom levels such as Grade 1 and Grade 2. Only groups of children grouped by age. Kids aged 4 7 are in one group and kids aged 8 12 in another.

This technological approach has major impact on the role of the teacher. In the O4NT approach, teachers will no longer simply convey knowledge to a group of children: they will be transformed into coaches that support children with their individual and group projects. Because educational apps are used for basic skills, the learning process can be completely adapted to the individual child’s learning speed and style.

The Tools of the Teaching Trade

In order to this School to operate and achieve its goals, software apps have been developed by or in collaboration with O4NT:

sCoolSpace is a virtual schoolyard where children can meet each other and their coaches digitally. All children design their own avatar, made up from a photograph of their face and a number of special elements. A small circle below the avatar indicates whether or not they are physically present in the school building at that particular time. Students can communicate with each other via instant messaging or by video using Facetime or Skype. The kids can also display their creative work on the ‚’Wall of Fame’ which is used as an exhibition space for digital creations.

TikTik sCoolTool automatically keeps track of the student’s calendar so that teachers and parents can see what their children are doing at school. It automatically logs the student’s presence when they arrive at school with their tablet and will display their schedule. Children can also create their own activities such as presentations and invite others to attend. Students can then share their achievements with each other and with the teacher through their personal portfolio which contains the results of group projects. This means that photographs, videos, presentations and screen shots, as well as additional reports, are always available in the digital archives.

sCoolProjects is used to work on research projects and other assignments in small groups, supported by a coach.

iDesk Learning Tracker allows the teachers and parents (and publishers) to follow the results their children achieved using educational apps.

DigiTalenten will annually report on what the student’s digital life looks like and what IT skills children have mastered.

Symbaloo is used for sharing and distributing knowledge, within the school as well as between schools and O4NT.

By now some parents reading this are having heart-failure but when you see your 2 year old use your iPad way before they can read and write, you realise that today’s children are adapting to technology much faster than any generation before so surely the schooling system needs to be adapting too. If today’s kids are learning through technology then this method of learning plays right to their strength and will undoughtidly set them up for what the tech world has to throw at them.

Malcolm Gladwell refers to to 10 000 hours in his book the Tipping Point. This is the amount of hours that someone usually has if they excel in their chosen field. This type of schooling system that identifies and nurtures the individual child’s talents will surely contribute massively to the child’s 10 000 quota of excellence.

* Liron Segev is also known as The Techie Guy. You can read his blog athttp://www.thetechieguy.com or follow him on Twitter on @Liron_Segev

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A career in data science – or your money back

The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees

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The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa. 

Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place.  The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT. 

The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.

“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.

Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.

 “There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.  

“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”

The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate. 

“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.

EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.  

In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course.  In year two, this number increased to 400.  

“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.

“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”

There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55. 

“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.

To find out more, visit  http://www.explore-datascience.net.

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Triggerfish launches free digital learning Academy online

Platform designed for anyone wanting to understand more about career opportunities in animation.

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Triggerfish, in partnership with Goethe-Institut and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, has launched Triggerfish Academy, a free digital learning platform for anyone wanting to understand more about the career opportunities and how to get started in the field of animation. 

The website features 25 free video tutorials, quizzes and animation exercises introducing animation as a career and the principles of storytelling, storyboarding and animation, as well as several additional resources to help guide aspiring animators into a career in animation. 

“The South African animation industry is growing – and so is the demand for skilled animators globally,” said Noemie Njangiru, head of Culture and Development at Goethe-Institut Johannesburg, pointing to  the success of recent Triggerfish projects like the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes; Mama K’s Team 4, recently announced by Netflix as their first original animated series from Africa; and this year’s New York Children’s Festival and Shanghai International Film and TV Festival winner Zog.  

Njangiru also highlighted the opportunities for animation outside the traditional film industry, within fields like advertising, app and web design, architecture, engineering, gaming, industrial design, medicine, and the motor industry, not to mention growth sectors like augmented reality and virtual reality

The course was created by Tim Argall, currently the animation director on Triggerfish’s third feature film, Seal Team. He’s roped in many of the South African animation industry’s brightest stars, from Malcolm Wope, character designer on Mama K’s Team 4, and Annike Pienaar, now working at Illumination in Paris on Sing 2, to Daniel Snaddon, co-director of the multi-award-winning BBC adaptations Stick Man and Zog, and Faghrie Coenraad, lead dressing and finaling artist on the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes, as well as Triggerfish head of production Mike Buckland. The featured talent share not just their skills but also their stories, from how they broke the news they wanted to be animators to their parents, to common myths about the animation industry. 

“As kids, animation is part of our lives, so we don’t really think about the idea that animation is actually somebody’s job,” said Argall. “When I was a kid, I loved animation and I loved to draw. I remember when I was about 12, I thought: ‘I really want to see my drawings come to life. I want to be an animator.’ But I had no idea where to even begin.” 

Triggerfish Academy is his attempt to make it easier for the next generation of African animators: an accessible starter kit for anyone considering a career in animation. 

“By the end of working through this course, you’ll have all the background you need to know whether animation is a good choice for your career,” said Njangiru.  

Aspiring animators can also use Triggerfish Academyto learn how to write and animate their own short story, then post their animation on the Academy’s Facebook group for feedback and advice from professional animators. 

Triggerfish Academy is set up so that youth can play with it directly, but it’s also been designed to double as an activity plan for teachers, NGOs and after school programmes to use. Schools, organisations and other animation studios who are interested in using it can contact Triggerfish for additional free classroom resources.

Triggerfish Academy is just one of a number of Triggerfish initiatives to train and diversify the next generation of African animators, like sponsoring bursaries to The Animation School; the Mama K’s Team 4 Writers Lab with Netflix; the pan-African Triggerfish Story Lab, supported by The Walt Disney Company and the Department of Trade and Industry; Animate Africa webinars; Draw For Life; and the Triggerfish Foundation schools outreach programme. For more information, visit www.triggerfish.com/academy.  

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