Image | Obami
Social networks today seem to have conquered all aspects of our lives: We have social networks to connect with old friends, for business contacts, for dating, and much more. But of course, teachers and students also have their own social networks which have emerged to improve the exchange of information between teachers of different institutions as well as between students and teachers.
Traditional social networks like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest may also serve these purposes, but social networks specifically aimed at educational goals minimize the background noise and, above all, and are safe environments for children to expand their knowledge and to interact with teachers and fellow students.
A fantastic example of an educational social network is the Level Up Book Club, a platform for teachers and students where they share ideas and work together to gamify learning. Gamification allows teachers to introduce educational contents without the children noticing it.
Another interesting proposal is Edmodo which allows you to create a social network of your own for your classroom, school or district, helping teachers evaluate students’ progress, connect with other teachers, find resources and even customize applications to improve the educational success of your class.
Image | Obami
On the other hand we have Obami, a social education network which started in South Africa. It defines itself as a social learning system and in addition to giving access to students and teachers, it also integrates profiles for the parents, as well as other related institutions, organizations and businesses.
Apart from the typical characteristics of all social networks, Obami also comes with tools for sharing knowledge sources, student-teacher interaction and ways of measuring the progress of the students. But even more importantly, Obami provides tools to control the network community and keep it apt for minors and teachers; the latter are even enabled to monitor the network in order to avoid school bullying. In this manner, a pleasant environment is maintained for all involved parties.
Obami’s proposal emerges from an environment, South Africa, where the public education system is considered to be among the hardest worldwide. This is not surprising if we take into account the fact that there are schools without electricity or proper sanitary equipment. Obami is a proposal born out of the need to improve education, but it also makes use of the fact that it is based in a country where 2 of 3 inhabitants own a mobile phone. In any case, Obami does not remain a local phenomenon. The platform keeps growing and is already available in many African countries and also outside of the continent: Great Britain, France, Greece and the United States.
Without exact available data about the application’s impact on the education of its users, Obami has done surveys among teachers who assured that the application has helped them to improve alphabetization figures and arithmetic skills among their youngest students. They have also seen improvements in form of decreased truancy and increased participation among the older students.
Another interesting fact is that behind Obami, like behind many other great projects emerging from Africa, stands a woman. Its founder, Barbara Mallinson is one of the most prestigious business women of the African continent, a place where they, the working women, are founding businesses in order to maintain their families in countries where adverse circumstances are a part of everyday life.
Educational social networks offer solutions which end up being advantages in a world where the majority of children has already grown accustomed to using the internet in their spare time as well as for studying. They have no difficulty mixing both activities in these kinds of social networks and enjoy a learning experience that can actually be fun.
The mSchools programme is a multi-year, multi-faceted mEducation initiative by the Mobile World Capital Barcelona. The mSchools programme is designed to lower dropout rates, improve student attainment in schools across Catalonia and throughout Spain and, ultimately, to better prepare students as they pursue further education and employment in today’s digital world.
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