‘Bubbles’ technology, a first for South Africa, utilises QR codes in textbooks to unlock richer learning. Dennis Lamberti, Development Director of Media Works, discusses this new approach and why it’s beneficial for learners in South Africa.

By Dennis Lamberti

Dennis Lamberti.

The way we communicate, search for information, bank and shop, has transformed dramatically through digital technology. However, its potential has not yet been effectively realised in classroom settings.

Today’s youth are born to mobile, constantly exposed to dynamic, multi-faceted media such as video, infographics and podcasts. It makes sense that learning modes need to adapt, using technology available. It needs to be effective and beneficial to both learner and teacher.

Bubbles technology is a new way to incorporate the best of digital, multimedia content into traditional learning modes. Through QR codes, interspersed throughout textbooks, learners and educators get access to short, interactive modules, which helps the learner get a deeper understanding of the material through rich audio and visual snippets that complement the curriculum.

Through simply scanning the codes via a smartphone using a free QR reader or clicking on the active links in the eBook versions, learners can unlock rich, 60 to 90-second interactive lessons as well as additional concept examples.

The technology creates what we call ‘talking textbooks’ as Bubbles are located throughout the learning materials, and are intended to be especially useful when revising or catching up on concepts. Through a deeper, multifaceted learning experience, learners will be able to comprehend and retain the information more successfully.

As an example, you can have a maths textbook that explains ‘3 to the power of 2’. The textbook can only do so much in trying to explain this concept. The associated Bubble would then open an interactive lesson that explains it in detail, using animation, audio and graphics.

Flipping the classroom for deeper learning

We believe that the future of education lies in what is called the ‘flipped classroom’.

The ‘flipped classroom’ is a concept where learners study the content at home using books and interactive technology, and then complete the practice exercises in the classroom, where learning happens through the application of the concepts and the ability to discuss with peers and teachers.

Bubbles can help galvanise this type of learning by ensuring that concepts are readily available online for the learners to engage with, and learn from, at home.

Learners, especially those who have not understood a concept in the classroom, can then access the learning material at their leisure, wherever they are, helping to bridging their knowledge gaps.

Media Works has been developing the Bubbles technology over the last five years and seeing it come to fruition is exciting; it is truly breaking new ground for high school learning in South Africa.

QR tech fits SA’s fast-growing mobile landscape

The humble QR code, which was first invented back in 1994, has become synonymous for being used for marketing purposes, downloading new apps and even claiming discounts from retailers. However, with the exploding use and adoption of mobile phone technology and smartphones in South Africa, the country is an ideal environment for using QR codes as a new, innovative e-learning tool.

According to research from global phone body the GSMA, South Africa currently has a mobile penetration rate of almost 70% with approximately 37.5 million unique mobile subscribers in the country.

The boom in mobile phone access has, in turn, spurred on internet growth in the country. South Africa currently has 21 million internet users — the majority of whom are accessing the web via mobile, according to research from World Wide Worx.

World Wide Worx research further shows that 40% of South Africa’s population will be connected to the internet this year. This means that with an estimated population size of 55.9 million people, 22.5 million are projected to have internet access by year-end.

Meanwhile, data from StatsSA points to how South Africa has a young population as 36.2% (just over 20 million people) fall into the 15-34 age bracket. This youth segment has helped propel the likes of Instagram and SnapChat into being the fastest growing social networks in the country.

South Africa is ripe for using mobile technology to deliver improved learning experiences. Instead of being a distraction, mobile phones can be leveraged to help create an improved education system where quality learning can happen anywhere, anytime. Bubbles, through QR codes, are paving the way for learners to make the most of mobile technology.

  • Media Works, a leader in Adult Education and Training (AET) in South Africa has been operating for 21 years. This year, they have branched into the high school space through developing Bubbles technology. This follows Media Works’ deal to acquire 40% of South African textbook company, Excom, a company which has been publishing quality IEB and CAPS-aligned textbooks since 2008.