Posted on January 27, 2013 · Posted in Siyavula

It has been a very busy start to the year for everyone at Siyavula and on Friday last week (25th January) we met our criteria for our minimum viable product (MVP) which was really exciting. We’re very keen to focus a lot more of our energy this year into Everything Science and Everything Maths which we now consider a great package.

There are a few aspects to the MVP. Firstly, we completed the uploading of the new Grade 11 textbooks to the sites. Grade 11 learners are being taught according to CAPS this year and now we’re up to date. The books can be downloaded as PDF files from the table of contents pages for the books, or read online, on mobile phone or even on Mxit. The Department of Basic Education has also printed and distributed them to all government schools in the country which makes them, arguably, the most accessible educational resources in the country.

In addition, we rolled out version 1.1 of the Intelligent Practice service. A more detailed write-up on the Intelligent Practice developments can be found on Carl Scheffler’s blog. The two additions that I’d like to highlight:

  • A teachers’ dashboard that shows the engagement and performance of the learners in their classes. If you’re interested in how we use analytics to inform teachers where their students are succeeding or struggling, have a look at the teacher dashboard tour.
  • A probabilistic model of users’ mastery of questions, sections, chapters and subjects allows the practice service to automatically adjust the difficulty of questions being presented to the user, based on their level of mastery.
    (If you’re a Bayesian inference geek: The generative model is a hierarchical Gaussian prior over mastery scores with a binomial likelihood function and a logistic link function between the prior and likelihood. Inference is done with a fully factored variational approximation.)

We’re now geared up to help any motivated learner or educator engage with Grade 10-12 Physical Sciences and/or Mathematics much more effectively.

Very soon we’ll also have our Grade 10 Mathematical Literacy book on Everything Maths and we’re also embarking on developing curriculum-aligned books for Natural Sciences Grades 7-9 that can be used in 2014 when schools start using the CAPS curriculum those grades. Of course, we’re also working on aligning our Grade 12 Mathematics and Physical Sciences books with CAPS for next year. This year we’re 6 months ahead of where we were last year so they’ll be up well before the first day of school in 2014.

I’ll also try harder to blog more, but I’ve said that in every post I’ve written in the last year!

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.