Johannesburg - It’s a computer base that’s smaller and cheaper than an iPhone and can connect to equipment new and old – and if Project Galvanise has its way, there’ll be at least 20 in every school across the country within the next few years.
Tuesday saw 20 of these mini-computers being set up at Thabisile Primary School in Diepkloof, Soweto, much to the delight of its pupils and staff, who gathered eagerly in the new computer lab to see the first of the machines up and running.
The pilot project was designed to prove to the Department of Basic Education that it shouldn’t have to spend a fortune on equipment for schools to have fully functioning technical centres.
Project co-ordinator Nicole van Dyk said that after hearing the department was considering using iPads as teaching tools, she decided to find a cheaper alternative that relied on donations of peripheral equipment.
“I’ve always felt strongly that South African schools are lacking in the technological aspects… it doesn’t have to be that way,” she said.
She recruited a group of friends to join her team, and, after approaching the Gauteng Department of Education earlier this year to pitch the idea, Thabisile Primary was chosen for the test run.
The computer bases, known as Cubie Boards, can fit in the palm of your hand, and can be modified to work with brand-new flat-screen TVs or the oldest box-screen computer monitors.
Connect them to a USB keyboard and mouse and you’ve got an Android operating system and the potential to run educational apps that are available at any application store.
While regular PCs require at least 400 watts of power to work, these machines can run on cellphone batteries, making them ideal for schools that have limited electricity.
Van Dyk said that ideally, businesses with older computer screens would be able to donate their equipment to schools, lessening electronic waste and bringing down the costs even further.
According to Greg McKeen, who brought his web-design company Telamenta on board for the project, the current machines will use an educational website, called mycyberwall.co.za, to teach hundreds of pupils.
A science teacher at Thabisile, Wilfred Mashele, said he was delighted.
Van Dyk said she plans to bring a full report on the results to the department in the next year so that she can push for the project to be implemented in rural schools that lack such equipment. - The Star