Warm Greetings To The FOSS Community,
The Meeting for the month of December 2008 was conducted successfully.
There were 20 people who attended the meeting. The meeting agenda was aimed at Teachers, but the turnout was less with just 5 teachers attending the meeting. But the mixed audience comprising of Volunteers and Students created a wonderful brainstorming session.
A detailed report on the meeting.
Time: 2:30pm – 6.00pm
Venue: Internet Club, IInd Floor, AMI Trust Building,
Broadway Enclave, Broadway, Ernakulam
Attendance : 20
The first session as usual was an Introduction to Free Software, GNU Movement, Open Source Software, Licenses and GNU/Linux.
This session extended a little more than the stipulated time because of a couple of questions and discussion on certain topics, Indeed it was very encouraging to see people getting involved in this preliminary session which usually becomes one sided. One person stressed the point on why licenses exist for software.
Agenda : Free Software in Education
The Agenda was aimed at discussing about the present state of Free Software Education in Schools highlighting the shortcomings and ways to improve the situation. The main topics for the agenda were :
- Free Software Ideals and concept not included in school curriculum.
- Teachers interaction with others in the Free Software community is very
- Free Software not really taught as a platform to bring out the creativity among students.
One Person pointed out the fact although the text books contain an introduction to Free Software the concept is in no way taught explicitly at schools and the syllabus does not lay any importance on it. One important point raised at the discussion was that the mere presence of teaching material is useless and teachers themselves must subscribe to the ideas first and then pass it on to the students. The teachers should themselves take up the task of learning the core concept of Free Software by referring the Web and discussing with others in the Free Software community.
One teacher pointed out that lack of time was an important aspect. The teacher also pointed out that awareness should be created among the teachers regarding the concept of Free Software and requested the others in Free Software Community to extend the awareness program mes to teachers and others involved in the IT Project in Schools.
The important aspect raised was that children should thoroughly understand the concept in order for them to learn Free Software effectively. The Misunderstanding that the term Free in “Free Software ” was “Free of cost” was still large among the teachers because of lack of proper training by government.
There was also the question that whether the teachers are genuinely interested in the concept of free software because many of them consider it as a forced implementation by the government which they have to subside to.
Be it the technology or the core ideals, unless teachers received extensive and core training it would become near to impossible to do justice to the students, because the amount of knowledge that trickles down to the students is very very small.
How can teachers be effectively introduced to this concept.
1. Make teachers feel they are part of the community (many do not know of the community).
2. Community should guide the teachers with necessary books and material on the Internet.
3. Teachers should change their mindset, that Free Software is not practical. Again the other community members must help them.
4. Teachers are not introduced to Command Line tools. This makes it very difficult for them to understand the core working and also makes them crippled to handle situations
where the problem requires more than a “few clicks”.
Teachers should be given training on troubleshooting common problems in a native manner, thereby giving them a picture of the underlying concept rather than application specific knowledge.
5. Reference material for the curriculum is needed. This can be prepared as open content(Malayalam) by the community, licensed under the GNU FDL.
6. The technology is taught first and then it is explained in the light of the GNU movement. This approach works the best for children and the teaching methodology must be shaped in this manner.
Teachers and the Free Software Community.
As the discussion was moving talking about the Free Software Community and teachers in a different context, one person pointed out that the teachers need to be made felt that they too are part of the community and hence the community would refer to including teachers. Some relevant points from the discussion that followed.
- Teachers should be more involved in community because through them the community can reach schools.
-Teachers should be educated on how to effectively work with other Free Software community members.
- Teachers should take initiative to bring the community to their school.
by creating free software groups in school. It would definitely be a really big challenge to bring together and actively engage the group, but it would bring about a great change in the way Free Software is taught in Schools.
- Children friendly books needed. Cartoons are one effective method of explaining the concept of Freedom to students.
- Syllabus should be updated with effective educational methodology.
- Teachers already have a big burden especially in Kerala, hence teaching itself should not be restricted to professional teachers. Every community member should himself/herself take up roles of teachers thereby creating an environment where teachers themselves can depend on the community for advice and help.
- User Groups which need to be formed in different schools should also include students and teachers,
Creativity in students with Free Software
One Teacher stressed the point that creativity is a relative term and cannot be tagged with a specific activity. Many people proposed that creativity could mean that students need to understand how any application works, thinking out of the books rather than simply using the application for their needs. This led the discussion with teachers proposing that students need to learn programming. Some also proposed that, students still had to go a long way in using several applications that would bring out their creativity like Blender and Gimp.
One person pointed out that Information Technology and Computer Science were two different streams, and two different areas and it was Computer science that needs focus on the curriculum and not Information Science. The group agreed on the fact that the present project implemented had done a great job, such that Free Software has very much helped students to think out the box and help them understand the underlying hardware.
A strong point that was students and teachers should not become consumers such that they lose their ability to think. But of course it was a different question and topic in its sense and the discussion did not move into it specifically.
The conclusion finally was arrived with the point that we need to learn how educational systems in other countries especially for IT is designed and try to use the best of both worlds and create an effective curriculum.
What Teachers expect from others in the community.
1. Technical training
2. Opportunities in free software
3. Interaction with various Free Software groups, like this meeting.
- A Teacher coordinating IT@School programmes proposed to bring the community members into the meeting and provide them space to talk about the Free Software Community concept thereby given some light to teachers. A program me confirmed before January 20 was in the pipeline.
- Teachers would earnestly take up the idea of starting User Groups in Schools. The teachers decided to work out a strategy and implement it before the next meeting.
The attendees moved on to have Tea and Plum Cake.
Technical Presentation : Content Management Systems for Schools Sreenadh and Binny
The session started with an introduction to Content Management Systems and how it could be useful for schools. eg: How it can be sued to publish content created by students. The session discussed at length the popular CMS WordPress. After explaining the prerequisites for installing WordPress the speaker gave step by step instructions on how to install and configure WordPress on Debian GNU/Linux. After the installation steps the speaker went on to explain how to create posts in WordPress. He also explained how to create static pages. A few points on Configuring and Customizing WordPress was also explained. The session was closed with a few troubleshooting tips for WordPress. The audience grasped the session pretty well, waiting to try it out at their respective schools and offices. It would be great to hear back from them in the next meeting on the various ways they have configured CMS for their respective requirements.
An Introduction to Blogging
A 15 minute micro session was handled by Binny on the prospects of Blogging, for a few among the audience.
The discussion on the Agenda, was concluded with the point that the Free Software Education in Kerala, had created wonders, but it was yet lacking several basic qualities and this needed to be rectified. A few members voted on an “Open Message to Teachers in the Free Software Community” , whereby the teachers will be
- Enlightened about the purpose of Free Software in Schools and
- Reminded of the fact that they are also part of the Free Software Community
- Given ideas on how to to create an environment by teaching Free Software where the students have freedoms for their ideas and thoughts.
Since ILUG Cochin website was planning to move the WordPress the audience were requested to involve themselves to contributing their time to the website.
Few members expressed their interest at seeing a Malayalam version of the website and to this one of the attendees immediately responded with his willingness to take up the task.
The meeting concluded at 6.00pm.
We thank the following teachers who spend their valuable time in sharing their experience with us :
- Geetha Bali
- Cilda Lawrence
- Bruce Mathew
- Sanal Kumar
Special Thanks to Sanal Kumar Sir for the initiative for conducting such a meeting.
Thanks to Sreenadh for the Technical presentation
Binny for the blogging session.
Shibin and Venkat for this meeting report
Prinson for the Photos
We thank all the attendees for coming and urge them to put their feedback on the mailing list so we can improve future meetings.
And hope the next meeting is bigger and better.
Photos and Details of the meeting will be available on the web site soon.
M Geetha Bali
Sanal Kumar M.R.
Sunil Kumar A U
G. Venkata Subrahmanian
Shibin K Reeny
Sameer Mohammed Thahir
Technical Presentation: Content Management System Download