Dinda's Foss Blog

Open Source Software and Learning

The future of stand alone apps?

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I’ve been struggling with the current approach of providing educational software as stand alone apps versus web-based apps.  In FOSS there is a dearth of stand alone apps as many publishers follow the standard proprietary software model and target only certain operating systems.  Same for many of the CD/DVD based materials that accompany textbooks provided by publishers.  On the other end of the spectrum is an entire wealth of web-based apps and sites that contain some incredible and often free content for learning.  But the places that most need this free and open content are some of the places without the bandwidth or technology to access them.  Thus my dilemma;  to advocate a strategy that tries to encourage more stand alone app development or to forgo stand alone content and focus on just getting learners to the web?  The middle ground maybe being a school server with preinstalled content.

If you work in a technology-rich field it’s sometimes difficult to remember what it’s like to not have ubiquitous access to the cloud.  Schools, most schools, have limited access and some schools even purposely limit that access.  In technology-rich schools it’s mostly a policy issue on how to handle web access.  For the rest of the world, the issue is still getting any technology into the classrooms.

OLPC helped lead the way toward delivering a quality technology experience for kids in most need of technology resources.  Ubuntu and Edubuntu are now being distributed to many of those same audiences but I’m struggling with what strategy I should advocate as the technologies grow.  FOSS will never be able to match the numbers of proprietary software and WINE can only get you so far and you still run into the same licensing issues if you want that software at home and school.  One of the reasons so many organisations have chosen Edubuntu over plain Ubuntu is the inclusion of the educational software, even if the list is not long.  It’s still better than nothing and that’s the other option.

So going forward I would like to see more stand alone application development but thinking long-term I question that approach.  I can see a hybrid approach with a school server with captured sites and preinstalled content that could then be distributed out to student and teacher machines.  Remember, no one NEEDS the entire Internet at once, they just NEED the relevant bits to learn the topic at hand.


Written by dindafoss

October 21, 2010 at 3:57 am

Posted in education

From consumers to contributors

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Last week I was honoured to give a presentation at the Ministry of Education for Malaysia’s Open Source Software Conference. The government is making great strides in moving toward open-source software but like all organisations there are still a few hurdles to overcome. Legacy systems and web interoperability sometimes make it difficult to migrate wholesale but every small step in the right direction helps others follow the path they forged.

Malaysia has a great opportunity ahead of it. The new policy for ICT in schools announced at the conference culminated in a great document outlining their latest five year plan to enhance technology in all their schools. They have already invested a great deal in infrastructure and now all teachers, 1 million, have laptops. The next steps are netbooks or laptops for all 3.5 million students. Wouldn’t it be great to see all those system running Ubuntu?

It’s not just a technology issue but an education issue. Open-source is the right learning methodology and when you talk to educators they understand that. Open-source can offer something no proprietary offering can; true, authentic learning opportunities where the technology is a part of the learning, not just a tool to do tasks.

Think about this scenario: What if the entire country’s schools from preschool to University level adopted Ubuntu? The current proprietary operating system being used by all students is in English, not in Bahasa Malaysia. It’s too small a market to offer a fully translated system but what if we could enable older students to become translators as part of their curriculum process? The tools and processes are already there. Talk about an authentic learning project! We, the Ubuntu project, teach them how to use these tools and processes so that they can have a better learning experience for all their students.

An entire generation of learners moving from consumers to contributors.

Let the disruption begin.


Written by dindafoss

October 19, 2010 at 4:02 am

Posted in canonical, education, ubuntu

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Malaysia’s Ministry of Education OSS Day, Oct. 12 – 13

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I found out 2 days ago that I will be traveling to Malaysia to attend this wonderful event! I will be giving a presentation on Ubuntu in Education on Wednesday morning. The community there is very FOSS and Ubuntu friendly so it’s a great opportunity to show just how important they are to us. I’m really looking forward to the trip and the opportunity to meet the LoCo team there. If you are near Kuala Lumpur maybe I’ll get to meet you too.

Written by dindafoss

October 8, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Growing list of schools using Ubuntu

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In case you ever doubt that your work is making a difference, just take a look at this growing list of schools using Ubuntu and its derivatives. And an entire project of kids building their own machines to take home and use after completing class – impressive!

Feel free to add other schools and learning projects you know about.

Written by dindafoss

September 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Posted in education, ubuntu

Schools using Ubuntu and derivatives list continues to grow!

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In case you ever doubt that your work is making a difference, just take a look at this growing list of schools using Ubuntu and its derivatives. And an entire project of kids building their own machines to take home and use after completing class – impressive!

Feel free to add other schools and learning projects you know about.

Written by dindafoss

September 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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Getting to the ‘aha’ moments for kids and computers

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I had the privilege last week of visiting  with Anthony Borrow, the Moodle Contrib coordinator.   Moodle is a great success story for open source in Education as its adoption continues to grow among not just in schools but many corporations and non-traditional learning organizations.  It turns out Anthony is located at a school not too far from my current hometown and as soon as I drove up to school I recognized the building as one I had visited many years ago during my own school days.  Long story, short version – I’m coming full circle with my life.

The discussion ranged from how Moodle has been so successful, to how this one guy is the primary QA and code reviewer for the whole project and then side journeys into pedagogy, learning theory and how open source fits the model that every school and educator says it wants to promote; authentic learning and enabling collaboration.  It seems so simple; open source lets students take apart the technology, work on real world tasks and solve real problems.  So why isn’t it deployed more in schools?  and why aren’t more educators using open source projects in learning?

The school also has a unique work program that allows each student to work a full day at a local business office.  The argument, which I’ve heard before sitting on various technology in schools committees, is that students need business computer skills and since most offices are using Windows, well kids should be taught the current tools.  Did I just hear a collective scream?  If you’re over 25, chances are the desktop OS version you were using in highschool is already obsolete.  Ten years is a long time in technology years so today’s 15 year olds being taught to use the ‘current’ software tools is fine but there needs to be more to that approach.

Driving away from the school, which btw, is in a pretty rough area of town and not too far from my where my Great-grandmother’s house used to be, I couldn’t help but thinking about that issue.  We’ve created a generation that is a great consumer of technology but we’re not enabling them with the right tools and skills to help them move from simple consumers to developers of that and even newer technology.

Do you remember that first moment when you realized you could make your computer do something different b/c a little bit of coding?  That ‘aha moment’ when you created or changed something?  That moment when you were suddenly enabled and encouraged to make changes or create something entirely new?  Isn’t that what we want all kids to have the chance to do?

If you are in Barcelona the week of November 2 – 5,  2010 you should check out these two back to back events that will help change the world of open learning:



Written by dindafoss

September 13, 2010 at 3:25 am

Posted in education, ubuntu

Ubuntu in Education

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Wow – I’ve already been amazed at learning about some of the great things happening with Ubuntu in Education.  At every level, Ubuntu in schools and learning just makes sense.  Yesterday I was pointed to this great map showing school deployments in Finland:  http://bit.ly/amFiOO .   Greece is right behind them and lots of schools in the US are reporting success using Ubuntu as well.  The work is being done by both volunteers and Solution Providers.

The Andalusia deployment of over 200,000 systems is well documented and Amtron deploying 28,000 in Assam in northern India and Oxford Archaeology and Johns Hopikins and Oakland University and the list continues to grow.  Next week I’m visiting a local school in my backyard of Houston, TX that has migrated to Ubuntu using Moodle and other open source SIS (Student Information Systems).  The project lead is also the volunteer coordinator of the Moodle Core Contrib team.   I had to travel out of town to meet him and learn about this great project.  I’m really glad I did!

Next up, the Edubuntu team is still being driven by the unstoppable Jonathan Carter (highvoltage) and everyone is welcome to stop into #edubuntu and join the weekly meetings on Tuesdays to add your voice.

Who am I?  I’m Dinda!   I came into the world of open source and Ubuntu some five years ago b/c of my interests in Education and all things learning.  You might have seen me around various projects but now I’ve taken on the temporary role of looking at everything related to “Ubuntu in Education” and creating some materials to help anyone who wants to use Ubuntu for learning.  Are you a student?  parent?  educator?  Sys Admin or IT staff at a school/University?  Voter?  Decision maker or Service/Solution Provider?  What do you need to make Ubuntu a success in your school?  Email me or add your comments here.

Written by dindafoss

September 2, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Posted in ubuntu