23 000 Linux Desktops for Filipino schools

Education, Free Software 1 Comment »

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13 000 Fedora Core desktops and 10 000 Ubuntu desktops will be rolled out in Filipino schools. The 10 000 Ubuntu machines will run a mixture of Edubuntu and Kubuntu, and will form part of the next phase of the roll-out.

For more on this story, read the Computerworld article, which contains some very weird quotes.

I’m quite interested in how they will use these computers to deliver education, what kind of content will be shipped to all the schools and what kind of connectivity they will have. I just hope they make an effort to learn from other deployments like these, and that they contribute their lessons back to the rest of the free software / free education community.

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Becta advises against Windows Vista in Britain schools

Education, Free Software 3 Comments »

Becta (the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency), which governs technology use in schools, has advised schools not to upgrade to Windows Vista or Microsoft Office 2007. The reasons for this suggestion revolves around new licensing restrictions and higher costs, as well as compatibility issues in Microsoft’s new products. Furthermore, they also advise schools to investigate Linux-based products and OpenOffice.org.

Personally, I find it strange that Microsoft is continuing to alienate the people that should matter to them most- their customers. Every few weeks, it seems that there is an entire new industry that is angry and frustrated with Microsoft. Even Bill Gates seems embarrassed about Windows Vista. I truly feel sorry for him (empathetically), he spent such a large amount of energy and passion building up Microsoft, and then his underlings make such a mess of it. I guess that’s the price you have to pay for being greedy.

I personally believe that Free Software is the only logical choice for mass-deployment in education environments, and also that pretty much everyone is going about it the wrong way currently, but that’s another post…

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Kusasa Analytical Education

Education, Free Software, Gadgets 1 Comment »

Previously, I mentioned the Shuttleworth Foundation’s Classroom Coders project. It seems that it may soon be a reality under the Kusasa Analytical Education project. Kusasa is real innovation, it fundamentally changes some of the few 100 years old teaching methods we still use in classrooms.

Kusasa screenshot

It makes use of Mathland, Squeak and Python to achieve this. From the Kusasa site:

The idea is not that learners gain tools they use for the rest of their lives. That’s not realistic. We don’t use any specific theorems or other mathematics constructs from school today. Learners should use tools at school which help them develop a general ability to learn new tools. This general ability is the skill of analysis. It is the ability to break a complex problem into pieces, identify familiar patterns in the pieces, solve them using existing tools, and synthesize the results into a view or answer. We want to ensure that learners graduate with this ability, making them effective, successful, productive and fulfilled members of society.

Kusasa is a Zulu word that means “tomorrow”. Take a peak at the Kusasa website for more information. I think it could potentially be a good educational program to run with OLPC/Classmate type PC’s, and even more importantly, have a major influence on the way the future generations learn.

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Ubuntu stuff!

Free Software No Comments »


Saturday I went to Ubucon here in Sevilla, and saw Fabian talk about Canonical support, and Jono giving a community talk, “Herding Cats”. Both were quite good, I got them on video, and will upload them as soon as possible (most probably in a week from now).

Jono Bacon's talk

Edubuntu on Classmate PC!

Oliver got a basic form of Edubuntu running on the Classmate PC. According to the Intel representatives, you will be able to buy them in South Africa soon. I’m quite eager to get my own one for a bit of hacking. And since I’m joining the bandwagon and planning on getting a Dell Ubuntu laptop as soon as it’s released.

Ogra with classmate

Ubuntu Tour

Last night, Canonical organised a tour at Alcazar Castle for the attendees of the Ubuntu Developer Summit. It was the highest concentration of Ubuntu members I’ve ever seen in my life. I love the sense of humor that many of the Ubuntu developers have, we had a good time. There was a LOT of camera flashing going around!

Cool people

Guadalinex tour

Guadalinex gave the Ubuntu Education (website coming soon) team a tour of their support center this morning. Their operation is very impressive. They have 1100 schools across Andalusia, and 40 staff members taking calls from the schools. They never miss ONE call. They also have a small testing center there where support staff can experiment before giving advice on tricky issues.

Call center tour

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Ubuntu Education Summit Wrap-up

Education, Free Software 2 Comments »

Ubuntu Education Summit

The Ubuntu Education Summit went without much of a hitch, and things went quite well. It was interesting hearing problems form educators teaching in more affluent areas, and the problems and challenges that they too have to face. Ideas and problems were summarised and will be discussed in forum and workshop sessions during the Developers Summit, that is taking place over the next 7 days.

Artwork / Documentation

Intel had representatives as well, and it’s likely that we may see some form of Ubuntu on the Intel classmate PC.

LTSP developer SAVES A LIFE!

During the education summit, we walked around a square near a restaurant, and found a tiny bird in a bush that let us come real close to take some photos. I thought it was odd that the bird was hanging upside down from the bush, but they drive on the wrong side of the road here, so anything is possible :)

see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrUJNA-VFbE

On closer inspection, Scott noticed that the bird was stuck, and freed the bird: Youtube Video

Scott, you rock!

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OLPC and Windows (and Microsoft and the education system)

Education, Free Software, Gadgets 11 Comments »

Warning: This post ended up longer than planned, if you are bored easily, only read the first two paragraphs ;)

I’m a bit surprised that there haven’t been noise about this on the planets, but it’s probably due to the long weekend and people generally spending less time with their computers.

Via Slashdot, the OLPC XO Laptop will (be able to run) run Windows when it is sold in the US. The writer of the article considers it to be a heavy blow to the open source world, I think that “heavy blow” might be an overstatement.

I can understand why a lot of people, especially in education, would want to run Windows on the machine. The vast majority of educational software out there is written for Windows, and often in such a way that they can’t be ported to a free operating system in an easy way, or at a low enough cost to make it worth while. The problem is very much similar to running games on GNU/Linux. In some cases, the design of the game makes it incredibly easy to port over. In some cases, especially where very specific technologies such as DirectX are used, it can quickly become very complicated.

In South Africa, we’ve seen some shifts, even though slight shifts, to make educational software more web based. In the tuXlab project, the number 1 request from the schools are for more educational content. The Shuttleworth Foundation and Inkululeko Technologies have sourced some real good educational suites for these schools, and it got the attention of some of the other software vendors who didn’t get a slice of the pie. The shift that we observed was that more of the local educational software companies were using more and more web-based software tools, and also making more use of Flash (hopefully that will shift again to svg/javascript or even something better), specifically so that schools running free software could run their software. Now and again, we had a school asking us whether they may install Windows on their machines, so that they could run the same educational software in their tuXlab than in their Windows lab, and we would just explain to them that it would kind of defeat the purpose of their tuXlab, and since the lab run as an LTSP network, that it would be difficult to do it from a technical perspective too. As time progressed, and the availability of pre-packaged software grew for the lab, teachers started to prefer using GNU/Linux. A few schools even said no when they were free Microsoft labs to replace their tuXlabs. In my opinion, that is very big, considering that the one particular school ran their tuXlab on second hand computers, and that they were offered brand new Windows machines as replacements.

Sorry, back to the XO. I think that the interface truly innovative, and the system has the potential to provide a high quality and stable environment to develop and deliver software and content. If you look at DirectX again, for example, the latest version requires you to run Windows Vista, and some of the technologies, which is widely used in educational software (such as DirectDraw), is being deprecated. For schools that use Microsoft labs and use Windows based software, this causes a huge admin overhead, which is an overhead that most schools can’t afford to have. For the developers of the software, it causes even more problems. Firstly, they have to spend money to port their software to the new Microsoft technologies. Secondly, they have to get their clients to upgrade to a new version of Windows before they can get a return on updating their software.

If you consider a GNU/Linux system though, the application interfaces are quite stable, and even when new technologies are introduced, you are still able to access the older technologies to support your application. I think that, over time, software development houses will discover the benefits of using cross-platform technologies to develop their software, and gradually move away from technologies that limit them and their clients.

One specific educational revolution that might take place would be an ideal application for the XO Laptop, and that’s the Classroom Coders project (that’s just a working name), here’s Mark Shuttleworth’s blog entry about a two day workshop on it that was held last year. Hopefully we can teach kids to think for themselves again, instead of teaching them how to shut up and listen. All that the current schooling system is good for, it seems, is to teach kids how to look busy when they are working in an office one day, and I personally think that it is ridiculous. People are discouraged to think for themselves and just to blend in with the masses, I hope that if I have kids one day, that they wouldn’t have to go through a pathetic system as I did.

Apologies again for the long rant…

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