Embracing a Pandemic

Contributed by Adrie Schoeman, MD of Master Maths, a member of ADESSA.

Master Maths has been around for more than 40 years. After so many years in business, with franchise centres in nearly every town in South Africa and some in Namibia, we have a solid rhythm. Our structures and processes are in place.  However, when that announcement came that our country (like the rest of the world) will go into a hard lock down, the uncertainty kicked in and the fear was real. This pandemic did not choose it’s victims, we were all (small and large businesses) in the same boat. None of us could ever have foreseen a scenario where a pandemic just changed our normal day into something really surreal. 

We had to trust our investment made into solid systems and it stood the test of time. Master Maths has invested substantially in developing a new LMS system, which we were in the process of rolling out. The pandemic forced us to fast track this and with good support and collaboration tools, the pace at which franchisees adapted to the new technology, ensured that we could proceed with our business in a new “normal” manner. Our learners could use our platform and with some additional applications, were able to continue their learning path. Parents had the knowledge that the monitoring and support from the franchise centre was there. Online learning became the new “normal” and we will never be able to thank our clients for their support and trust during this year!

But more than anything else, I saw grit in action!  Grit means courage, a show of strength of character, a never give up attitude, a true commitment… not a word you hear often, but one I now, know the meaning of and experienced first-hand. Not only amongst colleagues and franchisees, but also amongst our learners, parents and every schoolteacher.  Being involved in education we all had one goal – support learners as best we can.

I was asked to write about Master Maths’ experience of this pandemic.

This is a story of a learner’s experience, shared with me … it is but one, but a similar story was told by every franchisee I spoke to.

“Today was my first session back at the centre since lockdown. When I arrived at the centre, it felt weird and strange and honestly I was totally freaked out. Thank goodness for my mask, although I hate the thing! I was greeted by a “please wait before entering” sign at the door. There was someone coming towards me, her eyes looked vaguely familiar, but I didn’t recognize her immediately, until I heard her… hallo how are you, welcome back…of course…did she put one some weight and look at the hair…  It is sanitizing, temperature measures, cleaning shoes and questionnaires, but then I was seated and a familiar feeling of being back at the centre started kicking in.  I missed seeing my tutor…. online is ok, but not the same.”

The question most asked and written about in the media – is teaching going to change to virtual teaching in future? At Master Maths we embrace technology. It is a fantastic tool, but online tutoring only, will never be able to replace the experience of being able to see and interact with a tutor/teacher. We are happy to see us slowly getting back to business as normal!

Overcome the loss in learning due to COVID-19

Contributed by Minda Marshall of LectorSA, a member of ADESSA

A wise man once told the story of how he went on a joy ride with a boat off the South African coast. It was a beautiful day, but within a short time, a storm came up. He described how thankful he was that he had an experienced skipper. I remember how he told us that he was standing behind the skipper – watching over his shoulder.  The skipper explained to him: “You must be able to see the way through the waves,” as they safely navigated to the beach.

In the eye of the storm

Governments, educators, parents and students are currently facing a perfect storm. The challenge now is to find the way out of the storm. International figures indicate that 1.6 billion students around the world were out of school at the peak of the COVID-19 lockdown in April 2020. Many countries will be severely challenged to achieve their Learning Poverty goals.[i] 

According to the World Bank,we need rapid, decisive, and coordinated action. They indicate that we were already living in a learning crisis before the pandemic. The situation threatens to pose a massive setback to hard-won gains in human capital.[ii] Before the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic, the world was already struggling with a learning crisis, with 53 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries living in learning poverty being unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10. Up to 7 million students from primary and secondary education could drop out of school due to the income shock of the pandemic alone.[iii]

The added challenges we face is that I4R is placing a higher demand on learning, unlearning and relearning. We will all need to achieve higher, to develop more, to read faster, think smarter, learn better in the future. Even students that were doing good before might not be doing well enough going forward. We are all faced with oceans of information.  Neuroscience has shown that the cognitive load exceeds the capacity of the working memory, intellectual abilities decrease. We must find a way to increase life-long learning effectively and to bridge gaps caused in learning by, and worsen through, the lockdown.

To read the full article, click here.

Find out how you can join us in finding the way out of the storm. www.eyebraingym.com


[i] https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/06/18/covid-19-could-lead-to-permanent-loss-in-learning-and-trillions-of-dollars-in-lost-earnings

[ii] https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/06/18/covid-19-could-lead-to-permanent-loss-in-learning-and-trillions-of-dollars-in-lost-earnings

[iii] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/education/publication/simulating-potential-impacts-of-covid-19-school-closures-learning-outcomes-a-set-of-global-estimates

SA Company Launches A World First: AI-Based Risk Screening Mobile App – KEY FOR COVID-19

The Instant Vitals app converts a mobile phone into a key vital signs medical device that could save lives when screening for Covid-19 symptoms. The AI screening and risk management app safeguards people through detection of health risks by measuring key vital sign indicators.

South African company, UC-Wireless (Pty) Ltd, has launched Instant Vitals, the world’s first smart mobile-based app that provides advanced healthcare risk wellness and Covid-19 screening for business staff, clients and personal users. The app screens the main recognised symptoms and measures vital signs, which are key early indicators for health risk especially Covid-19, including oxygen saturation, heart rate and respiratory rate, using the mobile phone’s camera and Artificial Intelligence (AI) incorporated into the app, turning mobile devices into an easy-to-use clinical tool exhibiting an acceptable standard of medical device accuracy.

The presentation of Covid-19 in respect of the various signs and symptoms from several reviews, studies and reports, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), state that temperature measurement alone is ineffective in detecting a possible Covid-19 infection. Asymptomatic patients don’t reveal symptoms and aren’t aware of an infection. There’s proof that the critical early warning signs of Covid-19, include a reduction in oxygen saturation (below 95%), and/or a high resting heart rate (above 100 beats per minute), or an increase in respiratory rate (above 20 breaths per minute) in a resting person.

For more information, visit https://instant-vitals.com/

Quentin Daffarn – CEO of UC-Wireless

Does the cascade model work for technology training for teachers?

When we think of a cascade in nature we have a vision of big quantities of water rushing down a river.  In education this image has become a metaphor for a particular training model: one teacher from a school (or a district) is trained; the newly trained one trains a few more; each one of them trains a few more, until all have received the training.

The cascade training model is an attempt to fast-track training of great numbers of teachers.  Cost saving is one of the perceived benefits of this approach – only one teacher needs to attend an expensive training course.  The knowledge gained on the course can then be passed on progressively to all in the organization.

When you introduce technology into your school and have the need to train all teachers in its use, this may be a tempting strategy.  In theory the cascade training model seems to be cost and time effective.  But does it work?

In a cascade in nature the force of gravity ensures that the all the water reaches the bottom.  The force of gravity – a pull from below – is not operative when you try to empower all your teachers with technology skills.

You probably would select the most qualified person in terms of passion and affinity to technology, as well as training ability, to be at the top of the cascade.  If the members of the first group who receive training are less qualified, the effectiveness of the training they offer to subsequent groups will be diluted.  They can only pass on what they themselves value, remember and understand.

In many cases the envisaged cascade is reduced to a mere trickle of knowledge when it reaches the last teachers.

Minimal knowledge may reach the teachers at the bottom

The cascade model may be useful for creating initial technology awareness among all staff members.  When more intensive training is required, you can’t depend on this model.  Teachers are at different levels of technical competency; a one-size-fits-all training approach will not yield desired results.

If you want technology training of your teachers to be effective, don’t just put a ‘model’ in place, hoping it will work.  Ensure that each teacher receives all the training, coaching and support they need to make them skilled users of technology teaching tools.

The Social Dilemma – are your students puppets to social media?

Netflix smash hit movie on the influence of social media is one of the most talked about this year.

With 4.5bn online – and approximately 4bn of them on mobile devices – social media is now as commonplace as eating lunch. It is not an exaggeration to say that most people spend more time on social media than they do eating or bathing, or even talking in person to other human beings. 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – and COVID-19 – have dramatically accelerated the adoption of technologies and smart devices, but are we ploughing into the future as the untested guinea pigs of these technologies, in a race to compete or to be accepted socially?

Netflix’s new smash hit documentary, The Social Dilemma, poses this question on the impact of these digital platforms, using the voices of a number of former senior-executives-turned-whistleblowers who reveal the true motivations of some of the most powerful companies on earth. 

The movie illustrates that society finds itself as the product in ‘the attention economy‘ – where time on screen means competitive advantage to giants like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google (FAANG). The longer we stay on a single platform, the more data they collect, the more customized the ads are which can be served to you based upon your digital choices and preferences, and the higher the company value. 

The debate is whether we are all just “lab rats” in an egotistical race to market dominance, or as Tristan Harris from the Centre for Humane Technologies puts it, “The race to the bottom of the brain stem”. Which social platform can gain significant edge to amass the most data and retain marketshare, eyeballs and influence?

That last word – influence – is, of course, the concern. Adults feel that they have the critical thinking skills to discern when they are being manipulated and ‘sold’ a dummy. For this reason, many may be entertained by the movie, even shocked, but little in their concrete daily patterns of behavior may change. 

Getting this message into Generation Z, however, can shape the way they consume content, and give them the opportunity to get up to speed with the reality of social manipulation, at a critical formative junction. 

And many adults can establish an objective view of what social media really is – tech companies competing in the attention economy.That doesn’t mean they stop using it, it means they see it for what it is. MySociaLife, the leading digital life skills program in South African schools proposes, “We need to help kids to move from safer to smarter so they can explore and excel.”

Dean McCoubrey, Founder of MySociaLife, says, “I have been following many of these speakers and other professors in the movie for the last few years – I communicate with a few of them in the US via LinkedIn and email, and some are often happy to help our education program here in South Africa. They were a significant reason why I decided to move from being a media agency agency owner myself, to teach kids in schools about media literacy, online safety and their use of devices and social platforms.”

Parents work hard to build a values system in the home, and schools seek to do similar. Parents want, and society desperately needs, our kids to have an informed and balanced world view, compassion, empathy, and the skills of critical thinking. While the internet exposes us to more, and educates us, an algorithm can swim upstream against these values, feeding us more and more information to keep us glued to our screens. When you add in the science of how the brain works and the dopamine that gets delivered to the pleasure centre in the brain – when you get a like or succeed in a mission on a game – you can understand why devices are stuck into our palms, bags and back pockets. Before long we can believe what we are being fed, rather than contemplate it or challenge it. Virtual hamsters on a wheel. 

MySociaLife deeply believes critical thinking, and the 8 digital soft skills that they teach in schools, will be the superpower combination to accompany technical ability, for Generation Z. The problem is that schools need more understanding of the complexity of life online and how to straddle the line of popular culture and important life skills while inspiring their students to embrace technology safely and intelligently. 

“Right now, there aren’t enough educators that can understand this massive landscape of digital identity, reputation management, privacy, security, sexuality online, critical thinking, mental health, compassion – and empathy and how this looks in an online context. That’s what makes our program successful. Students find it relatable and they give us credit for it, saying that it impacts the way the view this digital world they operate in,” he concludes. For interviews, please contact Mediaweb on info@mediaweb.co.za or call 0214193144

UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES DOES TECHNOLOGY AS A TEACHING TOOL NOT LEAD TO SUCCESS?

Technology does not always lead to success in education– it does not automatically lead to improved teaching and learning.

The introduction of technology in the business world only yields results when it supports the objectives of the organization. A good organization structure must be present. Throwing a lot of technology at a problem will not make it disappear if the establishment itself is dysfunctional.

The same principle is true in a school environment. Attractive as the use of technology may appear when face-to-face teaching is disrupted, it is unlikely to add much value under the following circumstances:

Poor leadership: Where the principal, management team and governing body do not give clear direction in general educational matters, it is doubtful that they will do so when it comes to the use of technology as a teaching and learning tool. If sound leadership is lacking, this matter must be addressed before you even think of introducing technology.

Dysfunctional schools: Sadly, some schools fall into this category. Some schools struggled to persuade learners and their teacher to be in the same classroom at the same time during the pre-pandemic period. One could hardly expect technology to make a difference in such schools now.

Unwilling teachers: Where teachers resisted the use of technology in the classroom in the past, one can hardly expect results now. Hesitancy to use technology now may be a result of a lack of exposure to technology in the past.

Technical support: Nothing is as disheartening to teachers (and to learners) as when the technology fails when they try to use it. Planning to use technology as a teaching and a learning tool must include some form of maintenance and support.

Training is not available: If no training is available, technology may end up missing the purpose of using it. Along with the technology, adequate training for teachers must be provided. A lack of training is perhaps the biggest reason why technology fails as a teaching and learning tool.

There is ample evidence that technology can lead to improved teaching and learning – success depends on the environment in which you try to embed it.

Snapplify’s cloud services tools help partners to champion access to education support

A new partnership between Snapplify and Tenacious Tutors will make access to tutoring services even easier for students. The development is in line with Snapplify’s strategy to effect meaningful change in the education industry through innovation, and collaboration with partners.

Snapplify, already well established in the African edtech industry, has recently become known for their Free Access programme, which launched earlier this year in response to COVID-19-related school closures. Through the Free Access programme, Snapplify has enabled access to more than 250 000 e-textbooks – at no cost to the students and parents struggling through the challenges of remote learning.

Earlier this year, the pan-African edtech company announced the launch of Snapplify Cloud Services, making their award-winning technology available to other businesses. Now, online tutoring company Tenacious Tutors has harnessed Snapplify Access, the company’s education-specific authentication technology, to provide simple and seamless login and access to their e-learning services.

‘Tenacious Tutors is proud and excited to be partnering with Snapplify. Snapplify is Africa’s leading educational resource distributor and this is 100% in line with the Tenacious Tutors’ vision to provide quality and affordable education throughout Africa,’ said Ridhwaan Basa, co-founder of Tenacious Tutors. Snapplify’s mission to provide high-quality tools, to both businesses in the wider education ecosystem and education institutions directly, has also seen them integrating reading assessment tools powered by Scholastic’s Literacy Pro.


‘Scholastic is excited to partner with Snapplify to provide students and teachers in South Africa with access to their amazing range of ebooks and Scholastic’s award-winning reading assessment programme, Literacy Pro. Snapplify’s strong relationships with schools and the quality of their products align with Scholastic’s mission to enrich the lives of all children with the joy and power of reading. Together, our programmes will provide an engaging and academic reading experience that can easily be delivered in the classroom or at home, creating a new generation of confident and lifelong readers,’ said Zahid Khokhar of Scholastic.

These tools enable educators to administer proven literacy improvement programmes for students, and are helpful for developing the skills of both remedial and advanced readers.

Snapplify’s focus on integrating tools that can help to boost literacy rates and encourage reading ties directly into the vision and mission of the Snapplify Foundation, which seeks to accelerate social and digital inclusion through increased access to educational tools that can be used in literacy interventions.

‘Snapplify is always searching for ways to support students through their education journey. Having seen the power of collaborative partnerships, time and time again, to grow the education industry through sustainable, purposeful developments, we are particularly proud of our relationships with partners like Scholastic and Tenacious Tutors,’ said Tarryn-Anne Anderson, Snapplify’s Growth Director.

SCHOOLSCAPE IT 2020 CONFERENCE

For an inspiring look into the latest edtech products and solutions from the country’s leading players, join @SchoolAdvisorPosts at #SchoolscapeIT2020. Schools and parents are invited to see top IT solutions in action in the classroom environment and connect with other schools to see how they’re winning with edtech. Bonus – you’ll also earn SACE Points for attending! Mark your calendars – 18-20 August 2020. Find out more & register (for free) here.

SchoolSCAPE IT 202o ONLINE CONFERENCE

#SchoolscapeIT2020 is an online summit by @SchoolAdvisorPosts showcasing top IT and edtech solutions that will inspire and equip schools. Schools will see innovative IT solutions in action presented from real school classrooms, and get the chance to chat to peers from other schools to see what IT solutions they have successfully implemented. 

School heads, IT managers and teachers; join in on 18-20 August ‘20 to get on the front foot in edtech and technology solutions. Find out more & register (for free) HERE.