Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
QUEST Alliance executive director Aakash Sethi — writing on behalf of the America India Foundation, Education Development Center, Intel Education and QUEST Alliance — via ET Symposium <firstname.lastname@example.org> informs about a Symposium on Education & Technology in Schools…Converging for Innovation & Creativity. It is being organised by QUEST Alliance along with America India Foundation, Education Development Center, and Intel Education.
Sethi says: “The symposium will be held from 20th to 22nd August, 2008 at the Atria Hotel, 1 Palace Road, Bangalore. It will bring together education and education technology practitioners, policy makers, scholars and experts, academicians and students for an exchange of ideas and to showcase innovations on educational technology in India. The symposium is designed to encourage in-depth dialogue and explore different perspectives on issues and challenges related to technology use in Indian classrooms.”
He says this symposium will highlight current work on how technology is improving education, around the world, and in India. Keynote speakers include Dr. Robert Kozma, Emeritus Director and Principal Scientist at the Center for Technology in Learning at Stanford Research Institute International in Menlo Park, California; Dr. Nancy Law, Professor and Director of the Centre for Information Technology in Education at the University of Hong Kong; Dr. Punya Mishra, Associate professor of Educational Technology at Michigan State University; Dr. Geetha Narayan, Founder and Director of Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology and Dr Daniel Light, a senior scientist at EDC’s Centre for Children and Technology.
The symposium, according to its organisers, is designed to include plenary sessions during the first two days followed by four half day workshops with the experts on various themes relevant to technology and education in India on the third day. This forum will offer a good opportunity to understand conceptual frameworks for integrating technology in education and think through practical issues and challenges for doing the same.
Further details at http://www.questalliance.net
Rut Pinto Viegas Jesus (yellow, right), demos a model of the OLPC at Miramar.
PANJIM, Jan 30: Goa, a small state with some early initiatives at
taking computing to students and school, scored another early attempt
when the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) computer was demoed here at a
The One Laptop per Child association (OLPC) is a non-profit
organization, created by faculty members of the MIT Media Lab, set up
to oversee The Children’s Machine project and the construction of the
XO-1 “$100 laptop”.
This tiny and unusual computer was demoed at the monthly meeting of
ILUG-Goa, the Free Software and Open Source user group that meets at
the Goa Science Centre in Miramar, last Saturday (Jan 26, 2008).
The XO-1, previously known as the $100 Laptop or Children’s Machine,
is an inexpensive laptop computer intended to be distributed to
children in “developing: countries around the world, to provide them
with access to knowledge, and opportunities to “explore, experiment and
express themselves” (constructionist learning).
The laptops can be sold to governments and issued to children by
schools on a basis of one laptop per child. Pricing is currently set to
start at US$188 and the goal is to reach the $100 mark in 2008.
But such computers are hard to come by here. This is more so as
India rejected the initiative, saying “it would be impossible to
justify an expenditure of this scale on a debatable scheme when public
funds continue to be in inadequate supply for well-established needs
listed in different policy documents.”
Ms. Rut Pinto Viegas Jesus, a Copenhagen-based PhD researcher of
Goan-Portuguese ancestry, managed to bring down one model of the
computer, while visiting Goa on holiday and a family visit to her
relations in Santa Cruz and Salcete.
OLPC, which has caused a lot of excitement worldwide, and promises
to take computing to children in the less-affluent world, espouses five
core principles — child ownership; low ages; saturation; connection;
and free and open source.
Incidentally, inspite of its small size and otherwise technological
low-rating, Goa has managed to undertake some initiatives in spreading
the use of computers, albeit with mixed results.
In the 1990s, expat Goans supported and launched the Goa Computers
in Schools Project (GCSP), which despite the odds and a number of
hurdles, shipped in a couple of containers of once-used computers, to
be refurbished and used in some local schools. Nearly 400+ computers
were distributed this way.
After the BJP government came to power in 2000, then chief minister
Manohar Parrikar launched the hi-visibility Cyberage scheme, which gave
almost-free computers to college students.
So far, the jury is out on the Cyberage scheme, with some questioning its priorities.
Critics focus on the shortcomings of a scheme which gave tens of
thousands of computers to students — sometimes more than one in a
family — without clear plans for using the same, even while school
computer labs and teachers sometimes lacked the facilities.
Meanwhile, the GCSP project was itself scaled down and wound up, due
to factors ranging from donor-fatigue and a lack of volunteers, to the
growing availability of computer hardware here, which was not as costly
as it once was.
Rut, visiting Goa this week, is doing her PhD in Copenhagen, on
issues related to the Wikipedia, the surprisingly-successful
volunteer-driven online encyclopedia that has built itself into one of
the top ten most-visited sites in the world.
Her to visit her grandmum and family in Santa Cruz and “to get some
sun”, she said: “I’m also keen to meet other Goans interested in the
stuff I am, and will bring my newly arrived XO-1 (OLPC) and that might
also be interesting.”
Earlier in January 2008, Free Software and Open Source campaigner
Venkatesh ‘Venky’ Hariharan shared his experiences in visiting an the
OLPC deployment in Khairat, which is around 55 kilometres outside
This deployment is supported by Reliance, one of the largest industrial groups in India, and is the first in India.
“The deployment is two months old and the parents, children and
teachers are very enthusiastic about this project,” reported Venky.
At the meet in Miramar, local techies, educationists and others
showed interest in the computer-for-kids, while Rut Jesus explained how
the project worked. Her friends have been involved in the project,
which she praised as “very self-motivated”.
Some voiced disappointment that India had turned down the project
without giving it a good try. Educators decried the policy of keeping
students away from playing around with technology and hard-ware.
Others pointed to tools like Gcompris, a free software suite for
children between 2 to 10 years of age, and their potential to make
learning computing a pleasurable activity.
Some queries focussed on its innovative screen, the ability to use
it “as a book”, the XO-1’s ability to ‘mesh network’ with other
computers of its kind, and how young techies could get access to the
code and specifications needed for them to contribute software back to
Warren Noronha (no relative!) is telling me right now on Gmail chat about his updates on the BytesForAll site (actually, a major overhaul and shift-over). Take a look, and get a sneak preview:
Of course, it’s not yet formal. Or even offically ribbon-cut
Here’s a quote I quite liked:
“The root of wealth or poverty lies in the ends we have inmind, not in the means to those ends. If the hand is ready then findingthe instrument of action should not be difficult” — Rabindranath Tagore
Bytes for All (B4All) is a networked space for citizens in SouthAsia. It experiments, highlights and organizes debate on the relevanceof ICT to development activities. South Asia – often considered as anICT powerhouse, is also the home of highest number of poor people inthe World. Poverty is not just about income or GDP, its also abouthuman development, access to better life, education, health,opportunities, empowerment and human rights. In human developmentindex, South Asia doesn’t stand brighter either. We do not create thehype that technology will solve all problem overnight. Rather weemphasize that causes to poverty are related to socio-political issuessuch as, un-equal distribution mode of a society, unfair trade regime,lack of good governance etc. Then what technology can do? We believe,technology can play an important role in facilitating the objectives ofthis socio-political solutions. Therefore when we talk about ICTsolutions to poverty, we are not devoid of context and reality. Werefer ICT as a process that can help achieving certain objectives moreeffectively, quickly and without the need of any gate keeper. To ourview, ICT doesn’t replace the need of good governance or people’srights to get equal opportunities, rather ICT can complement thisprocess. When you read Bytes for All, please understand this is ourspirit.
My first impresions: neat and tidy. A few pics and…
Thanks to everyone who shared this dream and made it possible. (Primarily Partha … and Warren… and many, many more volunteers. Reba “Ms Spider” Shahid. Archana Nagvenkar. Zunaira Durrani. Shahzad. Farrah in the NWFP. Jehan Ara. Subhrangshu Choudhary. Ridhi D’Cruz. Nalaka. Abhas @ DeepRoot.co.in, Monjur Mahmud. Lasanthi. Farhad. Prayas @ Crimsonfeet.org, Mahrukh. Sajan Venniyoor. BNNRC. Sangeeta Naik. Faoud Bajwa. Daryl Martyris. And I’m sure I probably missed out some names!
We would be simply pretending and making untrue claims if we didn’t acknowledge that this was taken forward by dozens if not hundreds who helped in every possible way… along the route.)
Blogged with Flock
What was interesting was the quotes it contained, some from people whom I don’t quite admire … or appreciate their role in changing the world in a certain direction. (Walt Disney, for instance). But whose words are inspiring in a way.
So let me share the same with you:
To talk well and eloquently is a very great art; but that an equally great one is to know the right moment to stop. — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).
Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today. — Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).
The important thing is not to stop questioning. — Albert Einstein (1879-1955).
Be great in act, as you have been in tought. — William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
Try to learn something about everything and everything about something. –Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895).
The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection. –George Orwell (1903-1950).
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. — Aristotle (384-322 BCE).
I can give you a six-word formula for success: ‘Think things through — then follow through.’ –Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832).
Everyone things of changing the world, but no one things of changing himself. –Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910).
I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best. –Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).
Kites rise highest against the wind — not with it. –Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965).
When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. — Walt Disney (1901-1966).
Says the calendar:
How do you feel? The way things are going in your life depends on how you choose to feel. Your feelings are your most sincere expectations. Some see a challenging situation and feel dismayed. Others see the same situation and know that they can choose to feel energized and inspired. How do you choose to feel about things? Whatever it is, that is the way your life will play out.
While passing through Bangalore yesterday, I came across Bangalore Tiger: How Indian Tech UPstart Wipro is Rewriting the Rules of Global Competition by Steve Hamm. This is a 2007-dated Indian edition released by Tata McGraw-Hill and priced a rupee or five (can’t recall) below the Rs 300 mark.
Am only at the beginning of the book. But Hamm seems to be trying hard to tell a tech story in an interesting with, with a human face. There are still a lot of details to contend with.
Some reviews and links (including Amazon.com) to the book are here.
On the back cover, the book promises:
“At one time, the West’s multinationals ruled supreme. Now, the shining stars of India’s Silicon Valley are shaking up the global business establishment. Bangalore Tiger exposes the key principles of Wipro’s transnational business model, offering valuable lessons in improving quality, cutting costs, motivating employees, and streamlining processes. From its mastery of global collaboration and its market expansion strategy to its constant-improvement approach and its market expansion strategy to its constant-improvement approach and ‘zero politcs’ policy, author Steve Hamm reveals the never-before-told story of how ‘The Wipro Way’ of doing business is changing the world.”
Wonder if the book will live up to its promise. If I can keep away from the comp sufficiently long to complete it, will let you know…
The name is confusing, which may explain why Free Software
isn’t as well known as Open Source. FREDERICK NORONHA makes an attempt to clear
Riza is nearly five. For her, the computer is a toy.
Instead of adding one more difficult ‘subject’ to her tiring school-day, she
occasionally plays educational games on the PC.
When her friends come over, they end up
learning without even being conscious of it. One girl her age, who’s never handled
computers before, drags on the mouse. As she moves it across the mouse-pad the
image of a furry bear gets jerkily unveiled on the monitor. Another kid dances
to the music of ‘Bump And Jump’—a piece of software written by a team of Swedish
The best part is that nobody paid for the
CD these kids are using. It’s not pirated either. You can run it off any computer
by just booting up from your CD-ROM drive. It comes in a ‘distro’ (distribution)
called FreEDUC. See http://www.ofset.org/projects/edusoft/edusoft.html for more details.
Free Software is creating whole new opportunities,
and the educational system is one of its major beneficiaries globally. You have
Free Software tools to help students at all levels—from those studying in the
kindergarten to those studying complex streams of engineering. But are we in
India sitting up and taking notice?
Let’s start at the beginning: Its name,
which might be a bit confusing. The ‘Free’ refers to ‘Freedom’ and not a zero-cost
price. Free Software and its more-recent offshoot, Open Source, give users a
number of ‘freedoms.’ Unlike in the world of proprietary (pay-per-computer)
software, the user has the right to run a Free Software program for any purpose,
study how it works, redistribute copies, and also improve the program and release
improvements to the public.
In real terms, this means that it is extremely
difficult for anyone to charge you huge amounts for that software you so badly
need to make your PC productive—something very relevant for a resource-poor,
talent-rich country like India.
Also, because knowledge is so freely shared,
Free Software allows for very low-entry barriers. Anyone can see the source
code of a program (without which you wouldn’t have a clue how it works) or contact
coders who have played a key role in writing the program itself.
Niranjan Rajani, a South Asian researcher
based in Finland, recently put together a study titled ‘Free as in Education:
Significance of the Free/Libre and Open Source Software for Developing Countries
(FLOSS)’ In the study Rajani highlights the benefits of FLOSS. (See http://www.maailma.kaapeli.fi/FLOSS_for_dev.html)
Explains Rajani, “Take the example
of education. In terms of computer education, FLOSS has no match. Nothing else
provides as much value to learners as FLOSS does. You’re free to tinker with
the code. Not only that, you can get in touch with the people who wrote the
code and ask why this or that was done in a particular piece of code.”
In addition, “FLOSS has a complementary and reciprocal relationship with
education. One needs an educated section of the population to realise the full
potential of FLOSS, but at the same time FLOSS helps, enhances, and complements
education by providing tools to promote learning.”
It’s not just computer education
Free Software has a bigger role to play,
and here are ten good reasons why.
- Not by bread alone. Because Free Software
evangelists are not motivated solely by money, chances are that they will
work in areas that have the highest social need, and not just those that pay
attention to the fancies of the rich. It’s no coincidence that education is
high on their agenda, both in India and abroad.
- Anyone can get involved. Entry barriers
in contributing to Free Software are very low. Educators can, and are, shaping
this movement and how responsive it is to the needs of education.
- Indian concerns, Indian developers. FLOSS
makes it easy for anyone with a bright idea—and the motivation—to contribute
to an exciting global network. In addition, the software world shows us that
people contribute their skills and work not for money but to help others and
share knowledge. They do it “just for fun” or because they find
it a challenging task. They do it to develop new skills, or even in anticipation
of indirect rewards (like improving their job opportunities).
- Affordability. Though the ‘Free’ of Free
Software is not about price, in cash-strapped countries like India the affordability
of this tool makes it particularly suitable for deployment in education.
- Worldwide support community. To scare
users from using Free Software, one rumour floating around is that a handful
of companies are behind this global campaign. Yet once a region builds up
its skills—and we’re getting there in India—these skills spread fast. Dozens
or hundreds of mailing-lists and newsgroups now exist that offer support from
a worldwide community of users and programmers.
- Indian-language solutions. If there are
a few volunteers, it is possible to make rapid strides in Indianising software
even in regional languages which proprietarial software companies might not
see as viable. We can’t restrict computing and technology to the English-language
speakers in this part of the globe. Networks like the Indic-computing-users
mailing list are doing interesting work on this front.(See http://indic-computing.sourceforge.net/)
- Adapt, rebuild, reuse. You don’t have
to re-invent the wheel. Anyone interested can adapt existing software to his
needs. In tiny Goa, the local chapter of India Linux Users Groups rebuilt
a distro that can be easily installed in schools by even unskilled people.
As West Bengal’s Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay—a
proponent of FLOSS who’s behind the FLOSSToday network that announces Free Software
developments in India—revealed recently, “My friends have successfully
implemented LTSP (a terminal-server that allows for the use of earlier generation
hardware) with graphics thanks to the wonderful Goa Schools CD.”
Adds Arun, who is a developer and proponent
of the GNU project from South India, “We have tested gcompris in Malayalam,
a language spoken by over 30 million people but still awaiting computing solutions
in many spheres. Some games like typing tutor need to be modified for Indian
languages.” gcompris (French for ‘I understand’) is an international educational
- The interest is there. In India itself
a number of groups are working to adapt Free Software to education. There’s
even one called LIFE. This list may be contacted at email@example.com
- If this won’t work, nothing will. In the
software world, the FLOSS movement has shown its ability to produce results.
Maybe even better results than the dominant model of software production.
Pointers to getting started
Using Free Software often means that you
need an additional operating system (OS) to run it. (Some software on CDs like
GNUWin or The Open CD run on the Windows platform. But this is rare.) You can
install a new OS alongside an existing OS like Windows, provided you have the
space for it.
You should also be able to access much
of your earlier work in GNU/Linux, unless it is created under proprietarial
file formats. GNU/Linux-based computing can achieve almost everything that a
computer run on proprietarial software can—and more.
Free Software CDs can be download from
the Net (a laborious process given the slow lines most of us use in India),
or copied quite legally from friends. They can even be purchased from outlets
in Bangalore or Mumbai, Belgaum or Pondicherry, at a price of Rs 25-50 per CD.
Many Indian cities have GNU/Linux user-groups called LUGs or GLUGs. Find a list
on http://www.linux-india.org or check gnu.org.in. Paid services are also available,
but if you are expecting friendly neighbourhood support, a little bit of politeness
could bring you the kind of support that money simply can’t buy.
Below are some of the tools available with the gcompris, drgenius and
(Also Debian junior games for the network, simulation games, text-based