I have read that the national department of education has revised its priorities and has moved Thutong beyound being predominantly a supplier of teaching resources.
The revised Thutong is another example of how the internet is increasingly offering both resources and support mechanisms to the education community. If ever there is a time when connecting your school to the internet makes good sense then the time has come.
Thutong will also offer communication tools and wants to encourage the creation of online collaborative spaces that support teachers.
The new portal will incorporate online “learning spaces” that contain blog facilities and forums. It offers a subscription service to relevant subject-focused newsletters. Should the portal attract a vibrant community, then this tool could become an important place where teachers share, discuss and support one another.
It is therefore disheartening when one hears that many schools still have no access. Some are either so remote they have yet to be connected by a landline or in many cases thieves have removed the cables, leaving the nation’s next generation isolated.
So what are the connectivity options available?
If you have a computer and a Telkom telephone line then you can have access to the internet.
The modest modem and dial-up connection is still the preferred way to access the internet for people or organisations that simply want to download their e-mail. ISP rates vary but are in the region of R150 per month plus the cost of your Telkom telephone calls.
ADSL services also mean that you pay a set fee and your internet is always “on”. There are a number of ADSL packages differentiated by speed (384 KBps – 4MBps) and also the size of the cap. The cap is the limit to the amount of data you can download and varies between one – 12 GB. ADSL is considered a broadband connection and costs considerably more than dial-up.
For an ADSL connection with a 3GB cap and a speed of 512kbps you are looking at R550 a month for the ISP subscription. Telkom will charge you R286 a month for its services making the total cost R836. As a school, you qualify for the Telkom e-rate, which halves Telkom component of these costs if you register with them.
If you don’t have access to a landline then considers these options:
One company, Molopo Telecoms, working from Lichtenburg in Mpumalanga, offers such a service for schools. It claims that its devices utilise the slower, but ubiquitous GPRS network to provide connectivity. Speeds of up to 110 KBps have been recorded.
Andrew Moore is a former teacher. He also has an MEd degree in computer-assisted education. He works for Neil Butcher and Associates, an education technology consulting company that offers services in database design and materials development