Archive for the ‘Educational Technologies’ Category

In robotics classes, Armenian teens dream of high-tech future

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

YEREVAN: In a sleek classroom in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, one of the poorest post-Soviet republics, 14-year-old Nazeli Ter-Petrosyan peers at the screen of her Apple Mac.

During a computer programming course offered at the high-tech Tumo school, Ter-Petrosyan and her classmates learn how to digitise medieval texts.

“I’m developing a programme to enable artificial intelligence to read old manuscripts,” said the teen.

Her computer screen features a page from a 15th century Bible held at Armenia’s famed repository of ancient writings, the Matenadaran.

Armenia, which is known for its rich history and troubled past, has grappled with poverty, unemployment and a brain drain since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But despite a stagnant economy, Armenia’s tech sector has been booming over the past decade, boosting hopes that one day the resource-poor country can become a global IT powerhouse.

Tumo is a cutting edge, after-school learning centre, where around 7,000 Armenians aged 12 to 18, from all walks of life, study for free.

Packed with hundreds of computers with industry standard software, 3D printers, video cameras and an animation studio, Tumo gives youngsters an opportunity to study web design, robotics, animation, music, digital media and more.

The project has been so successful that there is already a Tumo school in Paris and plans for others in Europe and the United States are under way.

In one of the centre’s workshops, students are buzzing with excitement as they learn how to build robots from Lego kits and programme them to perform tasks like collecting rubbish or making a salad.

“We are working on projects that we will be able to later use in our everyday life,” said Davit Harutyunyan, 14, as he showed off a half-assembled robot.

The South Caucasus country of three million people boasts a vibrant startup scene and its tech workers have been a driving force behind a wave of peaceful protests that ousted the old elite from power in 2018.

Tumo aims to raise the next generation of tech professionals and play a role in creating a knowledge-based economy in a country where 30 per cent of the population live in poverty.

“We’ve got very ambitious plans,” chief development officer Pegor Papazian told AFP.

“We want to become one of the world’s most competitive labour markets,” added Papazian, who holds a master’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.

The non-profit centre was founded in 2011 by Sam and Sylva Simonian, a US-based couple who are part of the influential Armenian diaspora formed largely as a result of World War I massacres by the Ottoman forces.

The school occupies two floors of a six-storey pink tufa stone building, located on the outskirts of Yerevan in the shadow of Mount Ararat which stands just across the border in Turkey.

The Simonians provided the initial investment of $60 million to set up the project but it is now largely self-sustaining, with the centre renting out several floors to tech companies.

The school’s gleaming facade and huge windows contrast with dilapidated Soviet-era residential buildings nearby.

Inside the futuristic, open-plan premises, mobile computer workstations allow students to move around freely.

“In Armenia what Tumo offers is extraordinary,” Julian Sefton-Green, a professor of new media education at Deakin University, in the Australian city of Melbourne, told AFP in emailed comments.

Tumo offers “a particular vision of a techno future,” said Sefton-Green, who visited the school and studied its educational model.

On average, students spend two to three years at the centre.

They create their own learning plans and are assisted by instructors, many of whom come from companies such as Google and Pixar.

There are no grades and, at the end of their studies, students receive digital portfolios showcasing their work.

Tumo has established three satellites across the country and Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh.

Plans are under way to open more than 20 centres over the next 10 years.

Papazian said the staff had been struck by the poverty in which some of their students live. “We are helping them discover a new world,” he added.

The authorities have embraced the initiative and it has become a ritual for foreign dignitaries and other top guests to visit the school.

Grammy-award winning rapper Kanye West, whose wife Kim Kardashian is of Armenian descent, toured the premises in 2015.

Last year, the school also earned rave reviews from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“This Tumo is not for Armenia only. It’s international. It’s a philosophy,” she said in August during the first visit to Armenia by a German chancellor.

In some ways, the Tumo project could be viewed as being ahead of its time for Armenia, which still lacks the rule of law and a stable economy, among other things.

Sefton-Green said that only time would tell if the pioneering school would help reshape the country.

“Unless there is structural economic response to the kind of investment Tumo has offered, it is possible that benefits will not be felt,” he said.


Read more @

Sharp Malaysia hosts PM, minister at smart interactive classroom

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

GEORGETOWN: In the spirit of promoting 21st century education, Sharp Electronics (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (Sharp) recently hosted Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Minister of Education, Dr Maszlee Malik at its smart interactive classroom in Penang.

“Sharp’s smart education solutions comprising interactive whiteboards and engaging education content allow educators to present lessons in an engaging way to help improve retention and interest among students. This approach caters to a wide range of learning styles be it visual, auditory, reading, writing, or kinesthetic.

“Our smart technology is poised to upgrade classrooms from traditional blackboards to dust-free screens that present multiple functions for teaching and learning when paired with user-friendly teaching applications. These functions include quick answering, work comparing, screen broadcasting, and brain storming, among others. The result is a highly engaged classroom where students play a more active role in taking ownership of their lessons and the overall learning process,” said Sharp managing director, Robert Wu.

Tun Dr Mahathir shared a light moment listening to the chatter of young students at Sharp’s Smart Interactive Classroom. At the same time, Dr Maszlee witnessed a young group of tech-savvy preschoolers interact with an artificial intelligent educational robot at Sharp’s Smart Kindergarten area. The designated smart education areas showcased Sharp’s dedication to champion 21st century learning.

Sharp recently announced its debut in the smart education solution sphere through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Eduspec Holdings Berhad (Eduspec), an integrated education solutions provider. The strategic partnership is poised to benefit the local education sector as it aims to equip 100 classrooms across Malaysia with smart education solutions comprising advanced digital tools, software and interactive educational content, directly elevating the education experience in schools and campuses nationwide.

Read more @

5G: Five things to know

Monday, May 20th, 2019
5G is already available in South Korea and for fixed Internet lines in some US cities. It is also available in parts of Estonia, Finland and Switzerland. — AP

5G is already available in South Korea and for fixed Internet lines in some US cities. It is also available in parts of Estonia, Finland and Switzerland. — AP

PARIS/LONDON: It is heralded as an essential step to a brave new world of technology, but in the here and now, super-fast 5G networking is already pitting China against the West.

Here are five things to know about the fifth-generation successor to today’s 4G technology, which is a decade old and struggling to keep pace with global broadband demand.

What is 5G?

5G promises radically quicker transfers of data, instigating major changes to an array of products and services from self-driving cars to “telemedicine”.

The market for streaming videogames, a rapidly growing area, will get a huge lift, as will the “Internet of Things” – domestic appliances, lighting and other at-home technologies connected and operated remotely.

It’s not just about speed of downloads and uploads. 5G promises much lower “latency” than 4G. That is the time lag between a command being sent by a user and a device acting on it.

In the real world, that brings into play the possibility of factory robots being operated remotely or surgeons operating on patients from far away using augmented reality glasses.

The most visible gain from lower latency could be with the widespread advent of self-driving cars. But these will need 5G networks to cover large areas, which is some way off.

When’s it coming?

5G is already here in South Korea and for fixed internet lines in some US cities. It is also available in parts of Estonia, Finland and Switzerland.

The global breakthrough – widespread ultra-fast mobile networks on a par with 4G today – is still in the works.

Japan and China are targeting 2020 for nationwide rollouts. The rest of Asia and Europe will follow over the decade.

But mobile communications industry body GSMA, which represents 800 operators worldwide, estimates 5G will account for just 15% of total global mobile connections in 2025.

And when will most of us see 5G smartphones? China’s Huawei was set to launch a 5G phone May 16 in London.

But broad adoption by consumers depends on 5G networks spreading far enough, and for the handhelds’ chips and other architecture to be capable of handling the added workload.

5G, give us a wave

Governments first need to harmonise standards for the award of so-called millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum, which will carry the vast data flows promised by 5G.

That high-frequency mmWave spectrum starts at about 30 gigahertz. In contrast, 4G networks operate at lower than 6 GHz.

That means not only ultra-fast broadband but also much greater bandwidth for many more users and devices to be connected to the network at the same time.

Who’s building it?

To bring the promised speeds to the masses, 5G requires a whole new infrastructure of masts, base stations and receivers.

Among the networking companies in the race are Huawei, Sweden’s Ericsson and Nokia of Finland. South Korean giant Samsung and China’s ZTE are other infrastructure players.

Huawei says it offers better technology at a lower cost. The Chinese leader, however, is hitting hurdles in the global race.

What’s the fuss?

The US government says Huawei – founded by former Chinese army engineer Ren Zhengfei – is a security risk and has urged allies including Britain to shun its equipment over fears it could serve as a Trojan horse for Chinese intelligence services.

The US government has banned all federal agencies from acquiring Huawei equipment. Others including Australia, Japan and India have followed suit.

Against the backdrop of a US-China trade war, on May 14 US President Donald Trump went further by effectively barring Huawei from the US market.

China then formally arrested two Canadians already being held on suspicion of stealing state secrets in a case seen as retaliation over Canada’s arrest of a Huawei executive on a US extradition request.

Read more @

Digital technology as a powerful enabler

Monday, May 6th, 2019

Prof Asma speaks on the current state of science, technology and innovation during the 24th Annual General Meeting,

Prof Asma speaks on the current state of science, technology and innovation during the 24th Annual General Meeting,

ALTERNATIVE energy sources are fast becoming a primary option to power many countries worldwide.

The increasing adoption of alternative energy sources is further fuelled by concerns on energy security and climate change risks that are making headlines in recent years.

Malaysia is paving the way towards making alternative energy sources a viable power option for the country via several national policies, legislation and strategies.

To echo these national efforts, the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) has conducted several studies relevant to the energy sector and has published the following reports that provide input on hydrogen as an energy source: Advisory Report on Energy Usage and Energy Efficiency in Transportation, Carbon Free Energy: Roadmap for Malaysia and The Blueprint for Fuel Cell Industries in Malaysia.

With that in mind, ASM organised the 12th General Assembly with the theme “Hydrogen Economy: What is the Way Forward for Malaysia” on April 27.

The topic was chosen to identify the current landscape of hydrogen economy in Malaysia and to discuss its advantages as well as issues faced in fully implementing this promising source of clean energy.

In the following 24th Annual General Meeting, ASM president Prof Datuk Dr Asma Ismail addressed the current state of science, technology and innovation (STI) of the country.

Prof Asma, who is also Universiti Sains Malaysia vice-chancellor, said that to achieve excellence in STI in pursuit of a progressive, harmonious, prosperous and sustainable Malaysia, the nation must exhibit the level of passion and devotion it had back in the early days, when it paved the way for Malaysia’s success in the commodities sector with oil palm and rubber, as well as the health sector through novel discoveries in tropical diseases.

Fast forward to the present, she highlighted the advent of emerging new fields in science, well-established disciplines being shaken up by new questions that challenge conventional knowledge and convergence of disciplines that result in new insights and astounding revelations.

Having the above mentioned passion and devotion would ensure Malaysia has the upper hand in finding our strength in STI to pursue and excel in them.

Prof Asma urged the nation to appreciate knowledge of science and technology and realise the power of digital technology as a powerful enabler for the country to embrace the digital economy.

She stated that it is imperative for Malaysia to have a strong political will to drive this agenda forward; ASM has elaborated extensively on the importance of a holistic and dynamic governance to create a robust STI ecosystem in its Science Outlook 2017 report.

In making this massive shift towards excellence in science, Prof Asma acknowledges that the growing pains will be inevitably experienced.

“Fundamental changes are sweeping the nation and new norms will make adjustments necessary.

Read more @

We should control our handphone use and not let it control us

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019
Smartphones connect us with friends and family, but nothing beats face-to-face communication. FILE PIC

YOU may read this article on your smartphone. If you’re not using your smartphone, it is most likely being charged, but within reach.

According to the Internet Users Survey conducted by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission last year, smartphones remain the most popular means for users to access the Internet, with nine of 10 Internet users going online using their handheld devices.

The use of smartphones increased by 3.7 per cent compared with 89.4 per cent in 2016, and these figures are projected to increase

Our smartphone is the first thing we look at when we wake up and the last thing before we go to sleep.

Many of us can’t go five minutes without checking our devices or feel anxious if we lose them or leave them at home. It has become common in casual conversation to refer to such behaviour as an addiction.

There is something you may not realise. Our overreliance on the global positioning system (GPS) may affect our navigational skills.

Before the use of GPS, we would try to remember routes and learn to read and understand maps when we wanted to go somewhere new. But now, without an Internet connection, we may get lost.

In Nature, a weekly science journal, Roger McKinlay refers to navigation as a “use-it-or-lose-it” skill. He says if we rely on machines to find our way, we might lose our natural sense of navigation.

Furthermore, many people fail to realise that addiction to smartphones can have a negative effect on a person’s thoughts, behaviours, tendencies, feelings and sense of wellbeing.

When we compare smartphone addiction to other types of addiction, such as alcohol, drug and gambling, they share similarities.

Feelings of anxiety and panic can be triggered when the addiction is not satisfied, and it contributes to poor attention and control.

A study by researchers from the University of Illinois, the United States, found that people who experience depression and anxiety often turn to their smartphones to cope or distract themselves from negative feelings.

In the long term, this could make these people more vulnerable to mental health issues.

In addition, excessive smartphone use may cause an impaired ability to remember, a lack of creative thinking and reduced attention span.

But how much smartphone use is too much? No one has an answer. More and more smartphones have a function that lets users check how much time they have spent on each application.

It helps users understand their habits and use of applications.

In addition, users can turn off notifications and set a reminder for the maximum time spent on applications.

To curb smartphone addiction, we should start using this function.

Other methods to reduce smartphone addiction would be for parents to set a daily or weekly session where no phones are allowed during family time.

It is undeniable that smartphones connect us with friends and family, but nothing beats face-to-face communication and connection between humans.


Read more @

Let’s teach our kids social media literacy

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019
Social media has enabled everyone to be media producers and disseminate their creative content across the world.

LIVE-streaming is a feature available on various social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, used for one to broadcast in real time. Unlike videos that can be uploaded on social media accounts which is pre-recorded and can be edited before being published, live-streaming showcases the raw footage of an event which is aired simultaneously as it is being recorded.

During my stint in corporate communications, the department often utilised live-streaming to broadcast press conferences, speeches and important events. I have seen a lot of social media influencers voicing their opinions via live-streaming. It provides a no-holds-barred platform for people to share anything from their mundane daily activities to concerts they attended, cooking experiments and exercise regime. Beauty product and make up aficionados, usually share the process of dolling up themselves. Popular image consultants discuss about communication skills and personal branding. Politicians use it as a platform to conduct live question and answer sessions with their followers.

There are also technology savvy lecturers who conduct their lecture via live-stream, when they are away for conferences or research field work. The nifty feature, creates an opportunity for people to easily communicate in real time with their thousands of followers. In addition, it is also a cost effective option for one to create visibility and awareness on an issue, a particular brand or champion a belief.

However, the recent live-streaming of the Christchurch shootings is an example of how technology can be easily misused and manipulated. In the words of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during that country’s parliament sitting last Tuesday, “There is no question that ideas and language of division and hate have existed for decades, but their form of distribution, the tools of organisation, they are new”.

The social media has enabled everyone to be media producers and disseminate their creative content across the world. A media producer, nowadays, is an everyday person, like you and me. They don’t necessarily have to be financially sound or have a crew of cameraman, soundman and editor. The mere act of updating your status on Facebook or sharing pictures on Instagram are examples of how almost everybody with a social media account are acting as media producers. Yes, there may be rules and regulations when uploading videos, text or pictures online, but when one streams live, it is quite difficult for lawmakers to monitor what is being aired

The killer’s decision to use social media to broadcast his attacks shows how crucial it is to inculcate good media habits in our society in order to produce responsible media producers. It is increasingly important to create awareness on how to be responsible social media users.

As a media scholar, I would like to see media literacy embedded into our education curriculum. This is simply because, being media literate does not merely mean that one becomes critical and discerning when engaged with the media. It also underlines how to be responsible media producers when sharing our thoughts, videos or other creative content.

Knowledge in media literacy also teaches what one can do when they come across contents which are dangerous, inappropriate, threatening or provocative. In a delphi (a forecasting process framework based on the results of several rounds of questionnaires sent to a panel of experts) study a few Malaysian researchers and I conducted, it was discovered that a local media literacy curriculum should touch on communicator’s rights and responsibility, in order to create a responsible media content.

By Dr Sabariah Mohamed Salleh.

Read more @

Resource for ready teaching and learning materials

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019
Teaching and learning content is ready for teachers to use in the classroom on Frog Boost.

Ready teaching and learning content and materials covering all core subjects for primary school up to secondary level will be made available in May through Frog Boost, a content repository on the Frog Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) platform which is accessible to schools across the country.

The operator of Frog VLE, FrogAsia Sdn Bhd, said this move will help ease the burden of teachers who are often hard-pressed for time to prepare teaching and learning content and material for the classroom as well provide ongoing assessment for students.

FrogAsia’s executive director Lou Yeoh said in May, content, and quizzes for subjects such as English, Bahasa Melayu, Math, Science and Sejarah will first be available for national type secondary school (Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan) to be followed by vernacular primary schools (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina and Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil).

“Since introduced in July last year, Frog Boost now has Mathematics, English and Science contents and quizzes available covering the syllabus from Primary Year 1 to Form 5 of secondary school. It offers more than 135 million items of teaching and learning content ready for teachers to use, instead of having to develop their teaching materials from scratch,” she said.

“At FrogAsia, we applaud the government’s aim in easing the burden of teachers as we believe in making a difference in the education landscape across Malaysia. FrogAsia believes that it is important for teachers and students to have access to a repository of high quality, credible content. That way, teachers can save time creating content, besides sharing their own content with other teachers across the country,” said Yeoh

Lou Yeoh.

She said Frog Boost is free of charge.

“However, users need to log in into Frog VLE website using their Yes ID, Yes ID without a domain, and their national registration Identification Card (NRIC) number. This feature is available for teachers, students, and parents.


Read more @

Life without Facebook? Social network outage triggers moans and soul searching

Thursday, March 14th, 2019
The California giant which has more than two billion users acknowledged the outage after users noted on Twitter they could not access Facebook or had limited functionality.-AFP

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook grappled Thursday with a widespread outage, forcing millions of people to taste life without the world’s largest social media platform.

It was probably the last thing Facebook needed as it stumbles from problem to problem, including outrage over its use of customers’ private data.

The outage began Wednesday afternoon and triggered a flood of gripes on, which tracks trouble accessing online pages, and on rival Twitter.

A Downdetector map late Wednesday showed Facebook service troubles persisting in parts of Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and North America.

As of early Thursday the problem remained in parts of Europe and Asia, although moaning from America and else where kept coming.

“You guys should look in the mirror at yourselves and hear how you sound,” a person with the handle Johanna wrote on Downdetector around 0745 GMT.

“You make it sound as if it’s the end of the world just because you can’t be on Facebook. Lmfao. Get a real life instead of a digital one!?!?!?”

Another whose handle is Palmina D’Allesandro mused that time without Mark Zuckerberg’s baby might have been good for making the real, human kind.

“Up and running here…..for now…..But I predict a baby boom in 9 months, Remember that day FB went down and people were forced to notice each other?”, this person wrote.

Some media outlets branded the outage as the biggest in Facebook’s history.

The outage, of unknown origin, also affected Facebook-owned Instagram, as well as Messenger, although Instagram later said it was back up.

In some cases the apps could be accessed but would not load posts or handle missives.

The California firm which has more than two billion users acknowledged the outage after users noted on Twitter they could not access Facebook or had limited functionality.

“We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps. We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” a Facebook statement said on Twitter.

A short time later, Facebook indicated the outage was not related to an attack aimed at overwhelming the network.

“We’re focused on working to resolve the issue as soon as possible, but can confirm that the issue is not related to a DDoS attack,” Facebook said.

Distributed denial of service cyber strikes involve hackers overwhelming websites with tidal waves of simultaneous requests, typically using armies of computers infected with malicious code.

The social network said there was no update of the situation as evening arrived in California.

Last November, a Facebook outage was attributed to a server problem, and a September disruption was said to be the result of “networking issues.”

While the outage continued, The New York Times reported that US prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into the social network’s practice of sharing users’ data with companies without letting them know.

A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed information from at least two major smartphone makers about such arrangements with Facebook, according to the Times.

Regulators, investigators and elected officials in the US and elsewhere in the world have already been digging into the data sharing practices of Facebook.

The social network’s handling of user data has been a flashpoint for controversy since it admitted last year that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy which did work for Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, used an app that may have hijacked the private details of 87 million users.

“It has already been reported that there are ongoing federal investigations, including by the Department of Justice,” a Facebook spokesman said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“As we’ve said before, we are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously. We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we will continue to do so.”

Facebook has shared limited amounts of user data with smartphone makers and other outside partners to enable its services to work well on devices or with applications.

Regulators, and now prosecutors, appear intent on determining whether this was done in ways that let users know what was happening and protected privacy.


Read more @

Schools in Penampang, Kota Belud to run their own radio, project sponsored by UNICEF

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Jenifer Lasimbang

PENAMPANG: Primary schools here and in Kota Belud will be involved in a pilot project that would enable schools to run their own radio programme.

Assistant Education and Innovation Minister, Jenifer Lasimbang explained that such projects are already carried out in countries like Australia and the United States, and that using the radio as a form of teaching and learning had been proven effective.

She said that 24 schools in Penampang had been selected for the pilot project.

At the present time of writing, she was not able to provide the number of primary schools that would be involved in the project in Kota Belud.

The cost for the pilot project is also unavailable as they are still working on arriving at the estimation, she said.

by Jenne Lajiun.

Read more @

Boosting transparency, accountability through information technology

Monday, February 11th, 2019
(Stock image for illustration purposes) The adoption of information technology (IT) by the public sector is one of the means to improve services.

OF late there have been several accountability studies involving private and public delivery services

For the government, public services delivery is the ultimate concern. The adoption of information technology (IT) by the public sector is one of the means to improve services.

IT promotes public services provided and disseminates information on websites to improve the government’s transparency and accountability.

Accountability is closely related to openness and transparency. To achieve this, disclosures are necessary for all materials regarding the organisation, financial situation, performance, ownership and in particular, governance of the organisation.

The desire for openness, transparency and accountability has prompted the government to use open data to improve public delivery services.

The Public Sector Open Data Portal launched by the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu) in September 2015 is one of the initiatives to enhance transparency and create innovation in digital technology, which will improve accountability.

In 2016, Mampu, in a long-term collaboration with the World Bank, implemented the Open Data Readiness Assessment (Odra) to advance the initiative for Open Government Data.

This also means Malaysia became the first Asean country to implement Odra to assess the readiness to adopt open data.

The Public Service Department is implementing practical approaches to enhance the distribution of information to the masses.

The government has also launched several online portals for the local government, for example, the Public Service Portal (myGovernment), the e-Local Government (e-PBT) system and the OSC Online under Smart Local Government Governance Agenda.

All these portals are aimed at improving public service delivery by increasing the speed and quality of online services.

More needs to be done to improve the accountability of local governments.

By Associate Prof Dr Saunah Zainon.

Read more @