Project director Ron Beyers of the Meraka Institute
at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR
) will soon initiate a research component using SMART’s Bridgit conferencing software that allows a quick, easy and effective way to share voice, video and data over the Internet.
The original project was initiated in 2003 in association with St Alban’s College
and has subsequently been adopted by the Meraka Institute. Interactive whiteboards
were a major component of the infrastructure from its inception. An interactive whiteboard is a large touch-sensitive screen that works with a computer and a data projector. Interactive whiteboards engage students by providing immediate access to a wide range of digital materials and a common focus for the entire class.
Five schools in the Pretoria area of South Africa’s Gauteng province were linked by Motorola’s broadband Canopy radio connections
to enable virtual interactive collaborative lessons using SMART technologies.
The project has now entered its second phase with the inclusion of ten Dinaledi schools in a geographic area called the Mpumalanga Radio Corridor, which spreads to the northeastern borders of South Africa. The last of these schools to be connected was in the town of Middleburg at the end of April 2008.
The aim is to supply all the Ulwazi schools
with interactive whiteboards as an essential component of the interactive, online education process. Other technology in the mix includes five-channel sound card speakers, webcams, microphones and video conferencing software. Initially the project was used to ‘web conference
’ interactive online lessons between schools that encouraged participation by learners. This enabled schools to share scarce skilled resources. Learners and teachers were provided with access to information and top educators.
Rural clinics and business hubs can be connected to the network to assist with e-health and entrepreneurial services. There are many opportunities for social and community initiatives to use the technology installed at these schools.
What started out as a simple experiment in using connectivity to overcome a transport problem for learners has evolved into a project with key elements of promoting a social transformation process in rural communities.
Source: Interactive Classrooms