Schools ICT conference 2008: Notes

The Schools ICT conference was held from 1-3 October 2008 in Cape Town. In addition to my blog post about the conference, notes about other interesting presentations are below.

Thumb tribe tackles mathematics
Laura Butgereit, Meraka Institute. Download presentation (5.6Mb).

  • The thumb tribe is everywhere. You recognise them by their poor posture and absent mindedness.
  • MXit: 45% of subscribers are 12-18 years old.
  • Would the thumb tribe compete at maths skills competitions on MXit?
  • Dr Math began in January 2007. Now have 3,700 kids using the it. 1 tutor can handle about 100 kids an hour.
  • Over Christmas holidays 2007-08 they added a simple addition competition.
  • The thumb tribe found it within a day and started competing — over the holidays!
  • When someone else beats your best score, you get a message telling you this.
  • Kids were playing at 11:30pm on a Sunday night doing grade 8 geometry.


  • New participant is sent the current TopScore name and score
  • Participant receives a problem
  • Participant replies
  • After 10 replies, the participant has the opportunity to become the TopScore
  • The “old” TopScore is invited back to reclaim his/her title

Types of competition: + – / *, prime factors, root of a straight line, real factors of a quadratic, real roots of a quadratic, etc. The kids choose which competition they want to enter.

Success in maths benefits social behaviour: as a player climbed from the bottom to the top of the score board, she changed her name from PIMP(*)STAR to QunOfMaths to smartyCAT

Ethics challenges and measures of Dr Math:

  • Approval from the Tshwane University of Technology Ethics Committee
  • Collect no personal info
  • MXit provides the cell no. Dr Math protects them all
  • All humans who come into contact with our system must sign an agreement/code of conduct about handling cell phone numbers
  • Participants are told NOT to give their personal details
  • All conversations are recorded (for research, to protect the kids and the tutors)
  • Good tutor handling of situations are emailed to all the tutors

With a Gmail account, any teacher can talk to MXit subscribers (through Google Talk when logged into gmail) for after hour tutoring.

Forget about websites, schools need wapsites
Rodney Johnson, Rocklands High School, Mitchells Plain, spoke about how they’d used Kwikwap so set up a WAP site for their school. The site can be managed from the web or cellphone, and can be accessed via both.

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