PROJECT: Global Learning XPRIZE
VALUE: $15 Million Prize
DURATION: May 2015 – November 2016
For the past ten years, working in ten languages, Class Act has been bringing reading and maths programmes to teachers and children all over South Africa. About five years ago, we began an ongoing collaboration with Media Etc to develop some video and web based solutions. But we always wanted to move further into digitized learning, and started to turn that dream into a reality this year, funding the development of our own learner-driven maths programme. At the same time, some interesting new people came into our lives. Firstly, Kaitlin Alsofrom, a passionate and expert teacher of early grade reading, writing and maths joined our team. Shortly after, Amitie Lee and Kevin Remy both contacted us as potential interns, bringing a wealth of fresh ideas, design skills and good energy. And finally, at the same time as we learnt of X Prize, we met Judd Simantov, a brilliant game developer and artist. This fortuitous meeting of like-minded people, all with a real commitment to the ideal of 'education for all' gave us the shove we needed, and our X Prize team was born! We believe that our team has extraordinary creative, professional and technical skills, as well as the vision and drive required to make our solution a reality.
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MEET THE TEAM
Penny Groome taught language, arts and social sciences for 15 years, mainly at primary school level. In 1997, shortly after the birth of South Africa’s democracy, she moved into the field of education development, designing materials and training teachers. At the same time, together with her husband, she founded a web and software development company, which sparked her interest in technology-driven education. Since 2006 she has been an Executive Director of Class Act, an NGO specialising in the development and implementation of language and literacy programmes for marginalised South African schools. She is passionate about the development of technological learner-driven literacy and mathematics solutions, as she sees this as the best way to overcome the inadequate access to quality schooling experienced by so many poor communities. Penny’s current mantra is about making change happen now. ‘Sometimes in life there is that moment when it’s possible to make a change for the better. This is one of those moments.’ Elizabeth Glaser.
DR LORRAINE MARNEWECK
Dr Lorraine Marneweck has taught literacy and numeracy in several primary schools in Johannesburg, Cape Town and London, where she gained invaluable experience in curriculum development issues. She has also been a part-time lecturer and researcher at both the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand. She has extensive experience as a programme manager both for Sacred Heart Research and Development (1994 to2005) and for Class Act Educational Services (2005 to date). In this role she is responsible for: the conceptualization of programmatic contents and solutions for a range of projects; liaison with donors; development of accredited courses; and the implementation of the national South African curriculum in schools. The project that Lorraine learnt the most from was the Gauteng Primary Language and Maths Strategy (GPLMS), where she was involved in developing literacy and numeracy solutions for primary schools. Lorraine is ready to take the paper-based student solutions that were developed to the next logical and technological level. Her PhD thesis (2005), The Challenges of Curriculum Change Facing Rural Primary School Educators in the Limpopo Province, was the culmination of experiences gained from 15 years of classroom practice to project managing large educational development projects.
Jo-Anne Miles-Levet currently works as a non-executive director for Class Act. Her role involves utilizing her practical flair and experience in project management to administer projects and people. She deals with logistical, organizational, and planning issues, and has proven to be a creative problem solver. She is an practised multi-tasker, currently managing multiple projects. ‘At times it’s hard to reconcile the fast paced, deadline driven nature of some of the education projects I’m involved in, with the crawling speed at which change takes place in a rural community development project that I manage’. Jo-Anne is currently completing a certificate course in Teaching Gifted Children at UNISA, and has a particular interest in special needs education. A quote by Herb Kelleher rings true for her, ‘We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things’.
Kaitlin Alsofrom has a Masters of Education from the Dominican University in Chicago with a focus on Early Childhood Education. Her primary focus is curriculum development, critical literacy and working with diverse and low-income students. She also has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with Concentration in Global Development Studies. She has worked for the World Food Program in Brazzaville, Congo as an Education Policy Consultant, and for the American International School in Brazzaville as an Early Childhood Educator. She has taught in under-performing, low-income schools across the USA whilst with Teach for America, and also spent time tutoring low-income primary school students in Maths, Reading and Writing for the Chicago Public Library. Kaitlin has spent time as a volunteer teacher in New Delhi, India and was awarded a Teaching Fellowship by Grinnell Corps to teach at a school in rural Lesotho.
Judd Simantov is an independent contractor and consultant in the video games industry. Prior to going independent, Judd was the Art Technical Lead at Naughty Dog for 7 years. He was responsible for the creation of the rigs and pipeline, which were used on the Uncharted series. He moved onto developing the rigs and pipeline for The Last of Us. Now as an independent contractor he consults and develops for clients such as Riot Games, Naughty Dog, Blizzard Entertainment, Valve Software, Epic Games, Bioware, Insomniac, Crytek and several other companies. Judd has given several talks on his experience all over the world, in major cities such as San Francisco, Tokyo, Paris and Cape Town. As a regular speaker at the Game Developers Conference, he has shared many of the innovative techniques and workflows he’s developed over the years. Judd is also a regular guest lecturer at Wits University in Johannesburg. Separate from his work in video games, Judd is also an artist and sculptor and is currently working on a figurine collection with Zapiro, based on the Zapiro caricatures.
Wayne Levet has held various positions in IT and DTP and has a wide skills base. He graduated with a certificate in Business Computing from UNITEC in New Zealand, and went on to become involved in magazine production and digital pre-press. He received extensive DTP artwork and IT Management experience whilst working in the U.K. After relocating to South Africa, Wayne was appointed as the IT manager for a large digital print company, and managed over 120 people in a very demanding environment. After making a lifestyle decision, Wayne has since downsized and shifted his focus to graphic design and expanding his software development knowledge. He now freelances with an emphasis on projects involving digital illustration, web development and e-commerce.
Tseliso Mosiuoa graduated from Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, USA in 1993 with a Bachelor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Degree. He went on to work as the Head of Applications Development and then as Senior Systems Support Officer for the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority. His experience as a Senior Software Engineer at Xcel Information Technologies led to a position as Senior Developer and Technical Team Leader at MWeb Business Solutions. He is currently employed as a Solution Architect at Multichoice where he gets to research and trial new technologies. Tseliso has extensive technology and software knowledge and experience.
Jack, 21, is a student at the University of Johannesburg. He is studying for a diploma in Business Information Technology. Jack has always been a passionate gamer and has been ranked internationally. He plans to follow a career path in the gaming industry as he is both a talented artist and has a solid background in computer studies. His love for all aspects of game design reflect the diversity of his ability and his technical skills. Jack overcame a learning disability at school to go on and graduate with a good qualification. He has always expressed a belief that education as it is now caters only for certain types of learners. He has a theory that visual technologies will enhance and change the way education is disseminated. Jack brings a personal understanding of the potential digital media can bring to learners. Alongside his formally acknowledged leadership qualities and rational approach this perspective is invaluable in his contribution to the level design of any project.
James Leventhorpe, 24, is in his second year of study at The Animation School in JHB South Africa. He passed his first year with distinction and is considered one of the top students at this internationally acclaimed school. He has also studied architecture at Wits University at which he excelled. His interest in art and film, and his lifelong passion for gaming has led to a career path in animation. He is a talented natural medium artist and achieved distinction in both art and science/math areas all through high school. It is this combination of skills and talents that makes James exceptionally talented as an animator. His technical skills and creative ability equip him to drive original work in a particularly successful way. He believes that the future of animation is rich with possibility for all kinds of applications and will become more and more accessible to low budget implementation across all fields of communication.
In 2000, Dave Groome started a small media company that aimed to promote the use of the Internet and websites in South Africa. Soon after this, he saw a gap in the market for website and software development, and branched out into this field. Under his leadership, Media Etc has since built hundreds of websites, and has developed web based software for the financial, logistical and education sectors. More recently, Media Etc has partnered with Class Act educational Services to develop educational apps. Dave is skilled at understanding a clients’ needs, and then finding the right development team and solution for that client. Dave strongly believes that technology has to meet the needs of people. In the words of John Naisbitt, ‘The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology, but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’