schools

SENT – Schools eNetwork Trust

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 | internet | Comments Off

A guest post by Ian Anderson of SENT

The Schools eNetwork Trust (SENT) is a non-profit organisation, which was established  in 2011 to provide free internet access and other services to schools. The pilot project has started in the Western Cape, and has achieved sixty applications and over twenty-five installations of schools. The vision is that in time, depending on input and assistance, this service will become available to schools in other provinces.

The initiative is a blue print for the implementation of a provincial schools Wide Area Network (WAN), which we have called the Intranet. The intranet is not designed to take over the administration of the schools networks although it should help; it is designed to connect the schools with service providers and enable appropriate services.

We understand that many of our schools do not have the necessary technical skills, or the finances, to employ these skills directly to run networks and manage complex technical services. SENT supports this process and provides the resource base that directly improves productivity and reduces operational costs.

SENT provides a WAN connection into which schools are connected for internet access that also includes various secure services including email, web proxy and remote backup.  An amount of 20gb of bandwidth is provided with up to a 5mb synchronous speed.

A message from the CEO, Dave Couves:

As the CEO of Comtel Communications, we support SENT with all the resources we can provide, as connecting schools is a very realistic goal.

At this stage the entire project is financed by a commitment from Comtel Communications, which has pledged R1 million in resources, with the assistance of Scoop Distribution Cape Town, who has supplied R40 000 worth of wireless equipment. Other keen stakeholders are welcome to contact us at info@sent.org.za .

For more information or to register your school in the Western Cape, please visit our website for a free Line of site and installation.

An opportunity for schools

 

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Internet connectivity for schools

Thursday, June 30th, 2011 | internet | 2 Comments

The value of the internet can not be questioned. All efforts to provide connectivity to schools deserve your support and applause.

However (there is alway a ‘however’!)

Such a bridge may be fashionable ... but of what practical use is it?

 … the promise of connectivity to schools who do not have technology in working order, is like the promise of a bridge where there is no river.

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Is ICT in schools always successful?

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011 | education, technology, Tips | 4 Comments

When technology is installed in a school some believe that it will lead to immediate improvement in teaching and learning.  Wrong assumption!  It does not always work that way.

Consider the following conditions under which ICT will not  be succesful:

ICT is unlikely to succeed in a school that does not have good leadership. 

ICT is unlikely to succeed in a dysfunctional school – first sort out management issues before investing in expensive tools. 

ICT is unlikely to succeed in a school in the absence of adequate infrastructure – attend to this first. 

ICT is unlikely to succeed in a school where teachers are not motivated to become involved and try it out in the classroom. 

ICT is unlikely to succeed in a school where technical support is not freely available.

If ICT is not as succesful in your school as you would like it to be, it may be owing to one or more of these factors.  Identifying the barrier is the first step towards removing it.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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What is the role of the principal when technology is introduced into a school?

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 | education, technology | Comments Off

When technology is introduced into a school, the importance of the principal’s role can’t be overstated – without strong leadership an investment in technology is in jeopardy.

What do we expect of the principal?  Let’s look at a few essentials:

Understand the technology: The principal must be convinced that technology will make a difference to teaching and learning.  Such an understanding will require a thorough knowledge of available technologies and how they support the pedagogy.

Give clear direction: It is not good enough to allow technology into the school.  Unambiguous direction must be given to teachers as to how and when they should use the equipment.

Create training opportunities: This entails more than identifying available training and arranging for sessions for staff members – the principal must allow teachers time to undergo training and insist that all those who are scheduled to be trained must indeed attend the sessions.

Monitor on an ongoing basis: Even after clear directives are given and adequate training is provided, some teachers may still not use technology at their disposal.  The principal can only gauge the successful use of the equipment if constant monitoring takes place.  The easiest way to do this is by taking a walkabout from time to time – this also gives the principal the opportunity to observe good practice, give commendation, or offer encouragement where needed.

Set the example: A good example is by far the best way in which a principal can promote successful use of technology.  People follow their leaders – teachers follow the heads of their schools.  Teachers will take their cue from a principal who is a technology practitioner.

Principals play a crucial role in successful use of technology – schools with such leaders are truly blessed.

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How can computer facitities at my school help me?

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009 | laptops, training | Comments Off

You are in a fortunate position if you are teaching at a school where computers are available for teaching and learning.  The computer facility in your school can be a great help to you to learn how to use your laptop, and also to get optimal use from it.

Many teachers are hesitant to hook up with the experts at school.  Don’t feel intimidated by your peers when they appear to have more technical knowledge than you – learn from them as much as you can.  The brief fable of the Boy and the Nettles contains a powerful message for you.

A boy was stung by a nettle.  He ran home and said to his mother: “Although it hurts me very much, I only touched it gently.” 

“That was just why it stung you,” said his mother.  “The next time you touch a nettle, grasp it boldly, and it will be soft as silk to your hand, and not in the least hurt you.” 

The moral of the story: whatever you do, do with all your might. Don’t be half-hearted.

If your school has computers, use all the opportunities that this may present to you.

Training: Make use of any training opportunities that are arranged by the school, or offered to the school by training institutions.

Printing: If you can’t afford a printer, take your printing to school and print what you need on the school’s printer.

Internet: If you don’t have an internet connection of your own, use the facilities at school.  You can download material you need and save it for later use.

Vendors: Hardware and software vendors often do presentations or demonstrations at your school.  View these sessions as learning opportunities.  At times they may even allow you to use their products as part of their licence agreements with the school.

Your school could be a valuable source of encouragement and help to you while you are coming to grips with your laptop.  Don’t be like the boy with the nettle: grab the opportunity firmly with both hands.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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By hook or by crook

Saturday, February 14th, 2009 | Feasibility | 1 Comment

Fishermen conceal hooks in pieces of bait in the hope that an unwary fish would be fooled into thinking that a morsel of food is up for grabs. The fish is, in effect, offered a free lunch. But since there is no such thing as a free lunch, the fish often has to pay a price by becoming the lunch itself.

Schools should take a lesson from this. Beware of anything that seems to be free – particularly on the technology front.  Search for the hooks.  There may be none, but you could never be too careful.  Consider a few possibilities.

Second hand computers are donated to a school.  This is usually done when it is no longer financially viable for the donor to maintain the equipment.  The hidden hook is that the high cost of maintenance is transferred to the school.

Microsoft has a free licence agreement with schools in South Africa according to which schools may use most of their products at no cost.  But this agreement is only valid for a few years.  What happens after this period?  Is this a clever trick to hook schools into a product from which it would be difficult to be extricated?

An alternative to proprietary software is open source software.  The promise is that it is free and can liberate a school from money-grabbing software companies.  Is there a hidden hook?  Is it possible that some companies are preparing to enrich themselves through consultancy and training that must inevitably happen when schools try to come to grips with an unfamiliar technical platform?

Donors offer free technology to schools.  Why would they do this?  What do they hope to get in return?  Often the cost to install the equipment exceeds the value of the donation.  Could one afford to accept such gifts?

Then there are the NGOs (Non Government Organizations) and NPOs (Not for Profit Organizations).  Through a published philanthropic guise a school may be tempted into a relationship with such a body.  But you simply have to investigate the remuneration packages of the executives of these organizations to see how noble the organization really is.  And what do they expect in return for their services?

Of course, these examples are generalizations and do not apply to all who offer free services and products to schools.  There are some honest give-aways out there – but they are few and far between.

School principals and teachers are, in general, naïve when it comes to commercial tricks.  Often schools are cash strapped and in need of assistance.  For these reasons one can not blame them if they get hooked.

A warning is in order – look out for the hooks and the crooks.

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Security in computer rooms

Sunday, February 1st, 2009 | Implementation Issues, security | 1 Comment

During summer vacation periods in the Western Cape, schools are the target of criminals.  This year many schools were vandalized once again.  But only two out of a thousand Khanya computer facilites were broken into with a loss of only a few pieces of equipment.

This is good news amidst all the bad news we receive daily.

To what could this good fortune be attributed?  Strict security measures undoubtedly play a major role.  Windows, doors and ceilings are secured – yes, the ceiling is an easy way for thieves to enter the computer room.  Alarm systems and the presence of security guards also act as deterrents.

The Khanya Story gives a glimpse into some of the efforts that go into securing the computer facilities in schools:

The safety bars must not be thin

  They must be thick and strong

The burglars – may they never win –

  Their tries must all go wrong

 

The stone guards on the outside wall

  Firm be they and robust 

No stone or rock may through them fall

  They are an abs’lute must

 

A flimsy gate is not enough

  To keep intruders out

One’s needed that is strong and tough

  The thieving one to flout

 

Attempt to find a safety door

  One made of heavy steel

Impossible through it to bore

  No one the goods can steal

 

Fort Knox – a place that’s quite secure –

  The lessons to be learned

Of entry points make doubly sure

  Full safety will be earned

 

The same rule you can here apply

  Pants with a belt you hold

To feel secure and keep them high

  Are braces to you sold

 

A double safety door is not

  An over kill at all

It will keep out the wicked lot

  The thieves both great and small

 

So brace it up and bolt it down

  Of thieves who’re bold beware

Protect the lab like a fine crown

  Be brave and take good care

In addition to our own safety precautions, Khanya formed a partnership with ITCrimes – all components of each piece of computer equipment are recorded electronically and made available to the police force.  In this way stolen equipment could be tracked with ease.  I believe that this initiative plays a major role in making thieves think twice before they would target a computer room protected in this way.

If, in spite of all these precautions, criminals still get away with the loot, a good, paid up insurance policy will soften the blow.  Schools are encouraged to keep their policies up to date to ensure that they are adequately covered.

In our experience, the most effective protection mechanism is the committed involvement of the community. When community members are actively involved in the process of creating a computer facility for the school right from the start, they are sure to assume a protective role.  The low incidence of burglaries in computer rooms this year once again proves the wisdom of this approach.

We will continue to use belts, braces, buttons, bolts and whatever bulwarks can be built to bolster the security of precious technology facilities at schools.

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