Intel Classmates Project
Initiated in February 2008 the Classmates Project looked primarily at the logistics needed to implement low-spec learner Classmate Notebooks within mainstream schools.
Classmate Notebooks are ‘made for schools’ low-spec laptops that use solid state technology. This means that the machines are rather robust and not easily broken if handled less delicately. The Classmates are placed within a fit-for-purpose mobile trolley for charging and storing. They connect wirelessly to a server and have to connect to the server to retrieve any software as the machines themselves do not have the capacity to have software loaded locally.
The classmate technology is relatively inexpensive and Intel was of the opinion that its affordability could revolutionise the educational world with regard to access to technology. The project would test its cost effectiveness and whether it was capable of meeting the educational needs of learners at specifically identified Khanya schools.
The stakeholders all contributed in a meaningful manner to the project – Intel provided 350 Classmate Notebooks and 150 minimum spec desktop computers; Telkom agreed to assist the schools with connectivity; Eskom provided assistance with electricity supply and Khanya both project managed the project and assisted with the funding for the necessary infrastructure.
Three key geographical areas were identified by the stakeholders as being common to their CSI development areas. These were Khayelitsha, Atlantis and Grabouw. The technology would be piloted in a limited number of schools to ensure raised access to technology and four schools were therefore identified to participate - Kathleen Murray Primary and Umyezo Wama Apile Combined School in Grabouw, Isikhokelo Primary (a well-managed school in which the project has a great chance of success) in Khayelitsha and Reygersdal Primary (a large school with some, though limited, technology) in Atlantis.
In each of the primary schools the Grade 4 class section – as the bridgeway between the Foundation and Intermediate Phases - was identified to be the primary users of the technology. Literacy was identified as the Learning Area where the technology would best play a role within the grade. Each learner would have direct access to his/her own Classmate, loaded with appropriate literacy software to be used whenever the educator wished to.
The installation of the classmate computers has successfully been completed at three of the pilot schools. Installation at Umyezo Wama Apile Secondary could not be completed because of electrical infrastructural problems and it will be completed as soon as these problems have been resolved.
Curriculum training in the use of the Talking Stories software has been undertaken at the three schools and learners and educators have responded with enthusiasm to the technology.