Posted on February 19, 2010 · Posted in FullMarks

I’ve been doing quite a lot of work on the FullMarks front, much more than has been reported here. An alpha version of the site has been available for a while now and I’ve been using it to gather support for the FullMarks project launch. The official launch will take place after an uploading sprint.

The purpose of the sprint is to ensure that at the site isn’t empty at the launch event which would disappoint everyone and knock the project’s momentum. Participants in the sprint aren’t expecting a website full of content so there will be no disappointment there. They will know that they are leading the way in setting up a site that captures the attention of many other teachers, something they will benefit from as users of FullMarks, when it is launched.

Having an upload sprint means that the relatively mundane task of uploading thousands of questions into FullMarks becomes a shared burden in a very tangible way, it focuses the effort into a single day and makes the process a much more sociable exercise. In this way, not only are teachers sharing with each other in a structured, categorised and efficient way, and laying a platform to help many isolated and under-resourced teachers, they are also strengthening the teaching community.

I’ve approached a number of schools about an opportunity to present the project to a representative of the school and have so far visited (in order of first visit):

The reason I am approaching schools first rather than subject focus groups is that I want the maximum breadth of questions entered into FullMarks so that it is of interest to the widest possible spectrum of teachers. Sufficient schools participating will give the bank the depth it needs. I will definitely still be approaching the subject focus groups that I know of once I have confirmed the participation of a number of schools.

I have had the opportunity to return to Wynberg Girls’ High School and Pinelands North Primary School to demonstrate the scope of functionality of the alpha version of the site to interested members of staff. At both schools the principals have sanctioned the participation of their teachers in the sprint. However, I still have to convince teachers to participate. Pinelands North Primary is the first school to go the next step and to confirm that they have a set of teachers who will participate which I am very excited about.

I will be approaching more schools in the coming weeks and contacting the mathematics and physical science swap and share groups that I became aware of through the Siyavula project. My ambitious goal is 150 participants in the upload sprint and hopefully 10 000 questions. That would get the project off to a flying start!

Upfront Systems, the team that is developing FullMarks, also confirmed today that they will provide the technical support at the sprint event which is great because they know the site better than anyone. It will also help future development of the site because it will give teachers the opportunity to talk directly to the developers making sure everyone is on the same page. It is crucial that FullMarks be aligned with teachers needs as well as being as easy to use as possible so that it gains real traction and has a positive impact in South Africa.

Things are really starting to fall into place for FullMarks and the next 6 weeks will be very exciting for this project.

If you are reading this and you or your school are interested in a demo just leave a comment or send me an email and I’d be more than happy to show you the site and give you more details about the project.

About the Author

Mark Horner is the CEO of Siyavula Education, a social enterprise working in the school sector in South Africa. While working as the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow for Open and Collaborative Resources, Mark was able to transform the Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project, which he co-founded, into Siyavula Education. In this process, openly-licensed, collaboratively authored textbooks have been printed and distributed nationally in South Africa. Working at the intersection of community, openness and technology; Mark intends to leverage this success to make Siyavula an innovative, technology provider in education that works effectively as part of the education community to ensure better learning opportunities for all. A recent notable event being the delivery of Siyavula's textbooks over Mxit, the most popular mobile chat solution in South Africa. Mark has a PhD in physics from the University of Cape Town and conducted his research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California on the results from the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. His work is carried out in the belief that the liberation of information and support of education in South Africa will lead to a peaceful and prosperous future for all South Africans.