App targets 1m African learners

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 30 Jun 2014
Rethink is looking at providing content in more African languages in the near future.
Rethink is looking at providing content in more African languages in the near future.

South African-based education-centred technology company, Rethink Education aims to reach one million African high school learners via mobile channels and provide free access to engaging, curriculum-aligned maths and science content in multiple languages.

The company says it focuses directly on the high school market in an effort to make current technology more useful in the schooling system. Rethink Education's app, available on Mxit, is now available in English and, more recently, in Afrikaans.

It believes that there is a shortage of digital content in Afrikaans, and Rethink decided to offer its content in Afrikaans as its mission to deliver high-quality education resources to all students through leveraging technology and interactive, exciting content to help learners master their studies effectively and efficiently.

The team behind the technology is made up of Douglas Hoernle, who leads the development of the technology, and Nishant Lalla, who has been behind the development of the Mxit application. The primary aim of the Mxit application was to reach disadvantaged youth around SA, the company says.

Rethink is looking at providing content in more African languages in the near future, but wants to broaden the range of subjects offered on the platform.

Rethink Education has had over 447 000 active users since releasing the application in 2013.

Hoernle is of the view that an average high school learner does not want to engage with technology like one might expect.

"They are not interested in learning by means of traditional PC-based educational software. They don't just want an electronic textbook. In their preferred use of technology, they interact; they use 'chat' styled community platforms such as Mxit, WhatAspp, BBM, Facebook and Twitter.

"The Rethink Education platforms feed into the style preference by delivering educational content broken down into 'bite-size bits' and presented through a chat interface," says Hoernle.

He explains that Rethink's online platforms have been created to aid learning in South African high schools and can be used to complement the teaching of core maths and science concepts, both inside and outside the classroom.

The different platforms, both mobile and Web, give learners access to high school mathematics and science in a chat styled interface, he adds.

He also points out that one of Rethink's platforms provides the complete Grade 8-12 maths, physics, chemistry and natural science curricula in both English and Afrikaans, to any user via Mxit.

Rethink's software allows for usage date to be monitored and completion of chapters on the platform to be recorded, he notes.

To access the app, a scholar needs a mobile phone with a data connection, Hoernle says, adding that learners can download the Rethink app free from the app sections within Mxit.

On entering the app, learners can select their grade and subject of choice from the maths, science, chemistry and physics options.

"An educator avatar guides and prompts the learner through the syllabus with various bits of information and questions," he concludes.