Case Studies

Team Deep Blue – My Thoughts

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” — Steve jobs

DSC_0095There is an old saying that there are two people who are happier at someone else’s success than their own: a teacher and a father. I believe this is true because I don’t think winning the IBM Youth Innovation Challenge myself would have made me as happy as seeing my students win.

I am proud of our students who worked hard, put in the effort and work well as a team. I am excited about where this could possibly go; I mean, they won the first ever Hackathon held in South Africa by none other than IBM – this is no small accomplishment, and considering that they will now be offered internships at IBM, I am sure there are big things in store for these bright minds.

This is a realisation of our vision at IT varsity to produce the best developers in the country who will be comparable to the best in other countries. Our team is not happy to merely go through the motions of lecturing, giving exams and providing qualifications; we are aiming for much more. We live by the words of Steve Jobs quoted above. We want to do something that really matters. We want to produce the best. We want to make our little dent in the universe. And this week, we made a tiny little dent.

We have an awesome team, each of whom is passionate about technology and about empowering others. There is no substitute for a great team, and I am grateful to be working with such awesome people, and I sincerely hope we can do much greater things going forward.

Whenever our students go out there, winning awards, gathering accolades, becoming success stories of their own, we will always be here, working behind the scenes to ensure that they get all the support they need long after they’ve graduated and moved on. And we will be busy producing the next cohort of winners.

That is what IT varsity is all about.

Beware: Your Social Media comments can have severe legal implications

Can your opinions and negative comments about individuals, companies and brands that you post on Twitter hurt you – legally speaking?

The short answer: yes. At a presentation at the Social Media Evening (@smevedbn) which was held at IT varsity recently, Social Media Law specialist, Emma Sadleir (@EmmaSadleir)  explained that whatever you publish on social media could land you in hot water.

Ms Sadleir explained that Social Media law is “the law that regulates any conversation that takes place over the internet, called User Generated Content (UGC)”. She went on to explain that the instant you publish information (including Tweets, Retweets and Facebook comments) you are subject to the same laws that would apply to the traditional media. In short, every person who has access to the internet and publishes content is considered a publisher.

Ms Sadlier provided real-world examples of people who made statements on social media, only to meet disastrous consequences. One such example is that of Justine Sacco, the PR executive who was fired over her infamous tweet: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

Ms Stucco published the tweet as she boarded a plane for a 11 hour flight, totally unaware that during her flight her tweet would go viral and cause an international outrage. Nontheless, she was subsequently fired from her job.

Freedom of Expression versus Defamation – where does one end and the other begin?

As far as freedom of expression on the internet is concerned, Ms Sadleir explained that while freedom of expression is a very important constitutional right, that right is not unlimited. “If your speech infringes on the rights of another, violates copyright or constitutes hate speech then your freedom is legally limited.” says Sadleir.

Are negative comments about your employer subject to defamation law?

Yes. Ms Sadlier provided examples of employees who posted negative comments about the companies they worked for on their personal profiles, resulting in dismissal.

In summary, Ms Sadlier compared social media to a billboard: just as you wouldn’t put certain types of comments next to your your name and picture on a billboard, do not do so on social media.

KidsLearningCodeZA

kids learning code zaMany technology experts believe that the next big frontier for technology is not Silicon Valley USA, but Africa. Many also believe that Africa is on the brink of a major technology revolution, and that South Africa is ideally suited to become the forerunner in the revolution.

But South Africa’s major challenge is that it lacks skilled ICT professionals. This is a major hindrance that is keeping back the local economy in an increasingly information-centric global economy. We need a constant supply of young professionals with the right IT skills; skills that are relevant, up-to-date and in tune with global technological trends.

At IT varsity we believe that South Africa has sufficient potential talent, but we are failing to harness it from a young age.

The big question is, how do we harness local talent talent? How do we get more kids, especially girls (sadly, females make up about 12% to 15% of SA’s IT workforce!) into technology? Not only that, but how do we train them to be among the best in the world?

We believe that we have the answers to these questions.

The Solution

Kids from middle to high-income homes have far more tech opportunities at their disposal than those from low-income homes due to the fact that they have access to computers and other devices at home as well as Internet access.

And yet there are so many extremely bright children in rural areas and townships who deserve an opportunity and, given one, will show the world what they can do. In empowering these children, we are empowering the entire economy; because it is these kids who will go on to fill the much-needed skills gap in the IT sector in this country. Further, it is possible that some of these kids will be great innovators of the future, developing solutions for people all over the world.

We believe that the only way to overcome this unfair situation is to:

  1. Provide coding classes to kids in rural areas and townships
  2. Provide them with computers of their own so that they can continue their learning

 

The Benefits

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” Margaret Mead

In most parts of the world a lot of emphasis is placed on teaching kids to code, because coding present numerous benefits, as listed below:

Benefits of coding classes:

  • Identify and harness talent from a young age
  • Encourage learners to get into IT careers
  • Coding teaches people how to think
  • Coding enhances problem-solving abilities
  • Encourage learners to start innovating from as young as possible
  • Encourage an entrepreneurial spirit
  • Improve the overall levels IT skills among students currently in schools.

We believe that this training must be made accessible to all children.

At this stage we are unaware of any institute on South Africa that is actively teaching coding skills to kids of all backgrounds, so we at IT varsity have decided to address the problem by piloting classes at a couple of schools. This has proven quite successful, and now we would like to extend the scope to include as many other schools as possible.

IT varsity is the ideal institute to offer such classes because it is our core business to teach advanced coding skills.

If you are interested in this project, and wish to learn more, please view the Project Summary here.

Zero to Web Developer in 12 Weeks!

Botcamp Grad

Haroon Vankra receiving his certificate from IT varsity CEO, Bilal Kathrada

Last Thursday we had a mini graduation at IT varsity for two of our Dev Bootcamp students, Haroon Thami Vankra and Sahal Motala.

Now there are a few rather amazing and inspiring  points about these two guys:

  1. Neither of them had ever coded before, but they are now Web Developers who’ve created their own mobile-friendly web application called NotesPlus. Click here to see their app.
  2. They used no frameworks – everything is “hand-coded”
  3. Sahal, at only 15 years old , is our youngest Dev Bootcamper to date!
  4. They achieved this in just 12 weeks.

How they did it (the Techie details)

Sahal Motala receiving his cert from Bilal Kathrada

Sahal Motala receiving his cert from Bilal Kathrada

Haroon and Sahal started out the intense 12 week course by learning to code HTML and CSS. They learned to design fully-fledged, beautiful, professional, responsive web sites.

From there they moved on to the PHP programming language and MySQL databases, where they learned to create secure database-driven web apps. They covered end-to-end app development, including database access, web app security, authentication and authorisation, form validations, the whole shabang. This proved very challenging, but they pulled it off with hard work and dedication.

Once they gained a thorough understanding of the basic concepts, they were required to work as a team to create the NotesPlus app. To plan and track the project, they used Trello.

For version control, they used Git.

Where to from here?

Haroon has already found a job as a Web Developer (to be quite honest, it was more like the job found him!). Sahal, who is being home-schooled, is going back to school to complete his formal studies, under solemn oath that he will never stop coding.

We’re really proud of these youngsters, and wish them the best going forward.

Do programmers still need a computer science degree to land a great job?

Degree or no, demand for coding talent continues to make it easier for hopeful programmers seeking a job. However, landing the gig might not be the biggest challenge for those on non-traditional paths.

App Dev

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The simplest tech brands of 2013: Amazon, Google, and Samsung make the top 10 while Apple and Nokia drop out

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Siegel+Gale today released its fourth annual Global Brand Simplicity Index after surveying more than 10,000 consumers in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Three technology firms made the top 10 list: Amazon, Google, and Samsung.

“Brands were evaluated based on a question related to the simplicity/complexity of products, services, interactions and communications in relation to industry peers,” the company explained. “The score takes into consideration the consistency of responses, the difference between user and non-user perceptions and the Simplicity Score for the brand’s industry.”

Here are the full results:

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Amazon took second place thanks in large part to a customer-first commitment such as its easy-to-use one-click ordering feature, according to Siegel+Gale. The firm further noted that every part of Amazon is driven by data that tracks customer experience successes and failures, so “it’s no surprise the online retail giant keeps landing near the top of the Simplicity Index.”

Google dropped from first last year to third this year, even though it is still “a synonym for simplicity” thanks to its friendly and intuitive user interface. Samsung took eighth place since its Android-operated Galaxy line has been stealing iPhone market share with and “elegant design and easy-to-use functionality.”

The last two companies naturally bring us to two three brands: Apple, Nokia, and Bing. Apple, which was in the top 10 last year, fell 14 spots to 19, letting Samsung overtake it. Though still atop the list in India, Nokia also fell out of the top 10 in the global rankings (it’s at number 12 now, down from seventh place last year). Microsoft’s search engine meanwhile continued to climb: it rose 42 spots this year to 26 as respondents said they liked its more visual approach, intuitive qualities, and ease of navigation.

Other notable technology mentions include: YouTube at 13 (up from 26th), LG at 16 (up from 18th), Yahoo at 18 (down from 8th), Canon at 20 (up from 42nd), Lenovo at 21 (down from 16th), Sony at 22 (down from 21st), HTC at 23 (down from 15th), Panasonic at 28 (up from 49th), eBay at 29 (up from 37th), Skype at 31 (down from 32nd), MSN at 36 (down from 38th), Dell at 39th (up from 41st), HP at 41st (down from 32nd), Microsoft at 51 (up from 61st), Facebook at 59 (up from 72nd), iTunes at 60 (up from 64th), Motorola at 63 (down from 54th), Twitter at 66 (up from 70th), BlackBerry at 77 (down from 43rd), Google+ at 83 (up from 87th), and LinkedIn at 84 (down from 78th).

You can read the full 35-page report for yourself here: Global Brand Simplicity Index 2013 (PDF).

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Article originally taken from The Next Web

Microsoft Windows 8.1 review: A more customizable, coherent experience with a nod to desktop diehards

microsoft1

When Windows 8 was first introduced last year, many users resisted the touch-orientated changes that Microsoft had made to the platform, such as creating separate UIs for different working areas with the Desktop and Windows 8 modes.

It seems that the removal of the trusty Start button, present since Windows 95, also displeased many people. And that’s putting it mildly.

However, with today’s official launch of Windows 8.1, it’s time to see if the changes that the company has made to the operating system iron out these issues, or indeed, raise new ones of its own.

For anyone familiar with Windows 8, making the jump across to Windows 8.1 will be a painless experience, and while there are plenty of changes under the bonnet, we’re going to focus on all the newest, most useful ones here. You’ll still find the same general way of navigating, and key ‘Charms’  (Search, Share. Start, Devices, Settings) just a swipe away on the right side of the screen. Swiping from the left still cycles you through apps and swiping up from the bottom usually brings up additional options for whichever app you are using. Naturally, all of this only applies when using it in Windows 8 mode, rather than the desktop – there it’s business as usual.

Getting (re) acquainted

Once Windows is installed and you’re all ready to go, you’ll probably want to link up your Microsoft account. If you don’t have one, while it’s not necessary, it’s required to get the most out of the features of the OS, like SkyDrive, for example.

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This is a little frustrating if you’re a Google user usually, but it’s the same with any platform that allows you to download apps from a centralized store.

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If you’re happy to sign in using an existing (or freshly created) Microsoft account, I’d recommend doing so. It will save you time logging in to things later individually and will allow for automatic syncing of apps and your desktop. More on that later though. You can tell that I have here because you can see my profile picture in the top-right hand corner.

If you’re in Europe, you’ll need to make a choice of your default browser at some point too, as was the case with Windows 8 first time around.

Screenshot-16

 

Article originally taken from The Next Web

Doing it for themselves

Companies are taking up the task of providing the needed skills themselves in order to survive.

Any company establishing a presence across Africa has many challenges to overcome. Those problems multiply exponentially when you happen to be a consumer electronics provider like Samsung.

“Unfortunately, the reality is that even BSc electronics graduates still need to be retrained for the workplace. Kea’ Modimoeng, Public Affairs and Common Shared Values manager, Samsung Africa. |^#_^|0”

The Korean firm has been expanding its geographic reach aggressively and is no stranger to the debilitating effects of the lack of strong technical and technology skills in its new African operations.

 samsung

“Being an electronics provider with an established business in Africa, we realise it’s a promising continent, but there’s also a great need for skills development. We acknowledge those realities as our point of departure as we do business in Africa,” says Kea’ Modimoeng, Public Affairs and Common Shared Values manager for Samsung Africa. “We established the Samsung Electronics Engineering Academy in 2011 to ensure that we have job-ready graduates. Unfortunately, the reality is that even BSc electronics graduates still need to be retrained for the workplace.

“As an industry leader, we said, ‘Let us commit ourselves to creating the right kind of job entrants we need’.”

The company now has three such academies in the main regions covering Southern, East and West Africa.

“In East Africa, we’ve seen positive growth… and interest in electronics and ICTs increasing by the day in terms of the education systems, with moves to create the classrooms of the future,” he says.

East Africa’s rapid rise as a centre of technological innovation and appetite makes it a key strategic hub for Samsung, which has been underscored with the opening of a second regional academy in Ethiopia in September.

Basic education and skills development are key to this programme, with Samsung continually building new partnerships with technical high schools, further education training colleges and universities.

“Maths and science really are the base for technical skills. We cannot over-emphasise the importance of this and that learners prioritise these subjects.

“For some reason, the amount of exposure learners get is not of the desired level. It’s important to note that even in South Africa there are schools in townships that excel. It’s important to realise that it’s not all doom and gloom. I’ve seen schools in townships that are really driven.”

Article originally taken from ITWeb

iPads in education: where to draw the line?

Apple’s iPad is rapidly finding its way into education systems all over the world. Schools in countries as diverse as South Korea, the Netherlands, Thailand, the UK and the US are using the best-selling tablet to supplement, and in some cases even entirely replace, traditional teaching methods.

apple logo

In South Korea, printed textbooks are no longer used at all. In the Netherlands, a chain of private schools is soon to open which doesn’t have any traditional teaching methods at all: pupils will instead use iPads to learn at their own pace. iPads also have considerable advantages for developing countries: there is a large number of freely available apps for them and the units are competitively priced and portable.

Richard Firth, serial entrepreneur and CEO of MIP Holdings, believes that iPads certainly have a place in the classroom of the future but he cautions that while this tool is great for primary school children, it should be replaced with a notebook computer in high school.

“The iPad is good for junior schools. It simplifies IT and it’s a consumption tool. At this level, primary school learners are consumers of information and we have found that the iPad works very well for them.”

Productivity tools

Firth says that just as in the workplace, where tablets are excellent productivity tools for consumers of information but not so much for creators, schools with older pupils should not be using consumption tools to teach IT.

“Tablets don’t teach kids how to actually use IT. The types of projects high school students need to do, such as creating websites and writing programs, can’t be done with an iPad. It is not a productivity tool, it’s a consumption tool. There is a logical cutover in the education process to where high school learners become creators of information rather than consumers, so the right tool needs to be chosen carefully.”

The other disadvantage of tablets is their strongly personal nature. Laptops and desktops can be managed in the context of a school’s IT environment but tablets cannot, notes Firth.

“For instance, it must be left up to the pupil to back up the device because no-one else can access an individual’s iCloud. If it gets lost, all the school work is gone. A laptop, whether personal or not, at least allows for backups when pupils use the school IT ecosystem.”

It is too early to tell what impact iPads will have on the education process as a whole, says Firth. The product itself didn’t even exist five years ago and educators are still finding out what works and what doesn’t in the classroom.

“There is a definite mode of use of a tablet that should not be ignored by schools. However, high school pupils that are learning IT or programming or any other kind of problem solving should not be using a media consumption device as the platform to do so,” he concludes.

 ipads
Article originally published in the Curriculum Development Group in Google Groups