“Siyavula” is a Nguni word which means “we are opening”. Formerly seeded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, Siyavula supports and encourages communities of teachers to work together, openly share their teaching resources and benefit from the use of technology.
We believe in:
- openness in education:
When educators openly share their learning and teaching material such as lessons plans, notes, worksheets, presentations and exam questions with one another, everybody benefits from them.
- communities of educators working together:
When educators collaborate to create and adapt teaching material, share best practices and support one another, they can achieve great things.
When technology is used appropriately, it can amplify individual contributions, make teachers’ lives easier and provide a more engaging learning experience for learners.
The History Behind Siyavula
While still a post-graduate Physics student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Mark Horner manned one of the UCT Physics stands during the Sasol Scifest in Grahamstown. After explaining the physics behind wave motion to a group of visiting matric learners, they returned the next day with a brand new black notebook and pen. Their request was that he write down all that he had explained to them the previous day, because they knew that it would come up in their final exams. The school they attended did not have Physics textbooks and their educator was not familiar with the topic demonstrated.
Upon returning to campus, Mark Horner and a group of volunteer Physics students set out to write a set of Mathematics and Science texts which were free and open to all learners and educators. The Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project was launched in 2002 and has collaboratively produced a set of openly licensed Mathematics and Science textbooks. Subsequently the project has grown, and attracted a larger group of volunteers including students, lecturers and people in industry. The texts have been used by various educators and learners around the world, been copied, edited and distributed, and they continue to evolve.
The Shuttleworth Foundation sponsored a series of classroom trials for the books and subsequently recruited Mark Horner as the Shuttleworth Foundation fellow for Open and Collaborative Resources. With support from the Shuttleworth Foundation, the content in these texts was also uploaded onto an open, on-line platform called Connexions, to give learners access to and enable educators to search, download, copy and edit the chapters.
The Community Behind Siyavula
These textbooks remained relatively unchanged since their initial release, until relatively recently. During the teachers strike of September 2010, the Department of Basic Education at national government contacted Siyavula requesting permission to make these texts available to all Grade 10, 11 and 12 Mathematics and Science students. Prior to their release, the Department required a final proof and edit to ensure complete integrity. The FHSST team boldly embraced the challenge of editing the 1800 plus pages within 10 days, and thus called upon the community of volunteers.
Contributors met at the Siyavula office for ‘hackathon’ sessions to work on chapters, while others participated virtually from different parts of the world. We had PhD students and professors from Australia and the U.K., professors and students at American universities, as well as local engineers and students from the University of Cape Town (UCT), University of Stellenbosch and Rhodes University, all pushing to complete the edit in time. This exercise re-affirmed the amount of goodwill available locally and internationally for endeavors seeking to open up educational content. Siyavula has also facilitated volunteer contributions through weekly ‘hackathons’ at UCT, and virtual sessions with the aim of improving the books, related assessment items and media rich on-line versions of the books.