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OER10: Siyavula

Cynthia Jimes from ISKME speaking about the research carried out on communities in the Siyavula OER...

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Patrick McAndrew
24 March 2010

Cynthia Jimes from ISKME speaking about the research carried out on communities in the Siyavula OER project. OER10 24 March 2010

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Cynthia is from ISKME – who developed the OERCommons and carry out a range of research activities linked to OER. The work Cynthis reported is the Siyavula initiative in South Africa, started by Mark Horner in 2003 with support from the Shuttleworth Foundation. Siyavula uses the Rice Connexions platform for its content – focussed on producing collection of Science material. ISKME’s roles was to evaluate the way in which the community acted to support the project. A methodology of establishing a baseline, then building up through observations to interviews with teachers and others involved.

The survey and observations revealed worries about the technology and a fair level of availability, but only 39% have Internet into their schools. However there is also that the culture of collaborative development of teaching material that was already in place through “swap and share” groups around paper based content.

OER fit into this as sources for finding content and implementing it in their teaching. Workgroups on Connexions were used to establish communities such as a “Literature Circle” to discuss the methods. One teacher gave a great description of the reasons to use OER – to release material that otherwise is hidden in a folder.

There remain barriers in Technology, Culture and Mindsets. There was a lower level of actually uploading in Connexions than hoped for though most would be prepared to do it.


  • Engage by starting from what they know
  • Inspire to form OER communities
  • Support a hybrid practice model
  • Integrate discussions of cultural barriers

Patrick McAndrew
09:25 on 24 March 2010

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Patrick McAndrew
9:25am 24 March 2010

Q: Challenge of connectivity – how can you deal with those?

A: Inspire work arounds. Connexions also working on mobile phone access to help Siyavula.

Q: Did teachers establish a measure themselves of quality?

A: There was an expert review rather than community based at the moment.

Q: What is the future for the project?

A: Shuttleworth will complete its funding soon – there may be some rebranding to allow other support to come in.

Giota Alevizou
9:29am 24 March 2010

Interestingly offline OER behaviours already exist. They tried to engage teachers by pointing to what they already know:

  • Teachers  form OER communities around personal teaching challenges and pedagogical approaches 
  • important to integrate discussions of cultural barriers into teacher professional development and support top down and bottom up engagement

Giota Alevizou
9:34am 24 March 2010

Using other web 2.0 technologies around/with Siyavula was partially explored. A participant from the audience working with NGOs mentioned that in Zambia the most popular technology to connect teachers is facebook.

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