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Educational software … from azimpremjifoundation.org July 28, 2008

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content, India, Open Source.


Sukumar Anikar <anikar@azimpremjifoundation.org>  [1] and Prasad <prasad@azimpremjifoundation.org> managed to get across to me a copy of a DVD … and what a DVD at that! It contained a whole lot of fascinating educational software for school children.

A couple of nights ago, I ended up ‘playing’ some educational games with Aren, 5, and told him that my friends had sent the same across free. “Did you say ‘thank you’?” he asked me in turn. In fact, he kept ‘playing’ on these games, though it was almost midnight, and even though he’s too small to obviously understand many of the concepts being taught here (decimal fractions, and what not … but big enough to be interested in the wild animals of the jungle and to try and comprehend how fruits and a balanced diet gives us the energy we need to do work). The ‘games’ sent across in this DVD work excellently and without flaw (so far) on my Ubuntu laptop. They have been adjusted to work with the GNU/Linux operating system.

It drew my interest enough to dash across another email to Sukumar and Prasad, requesting more programmes.Given the medium of instructions being used (and subjects taught) in Goa, I am particularly interested in software dealing with:

  • English language
  • Hindi language
  • Maths
  • Environmental Science
  • General Science
  • Social Science
  • Co-curricular subjects

Check out the long list of what’s available. http://www.azimpremjifoundation.org/html/E_Learn_Mat_table1.htm

The Azim Premji Foundation is actually keen to work with educational institutions (rather than with individuals, if I understood right) for obvious reasons.

Said the APF in a mail to me: “We always support the state governments by providing them the Digital Learning Resource (DLR) for deployment in Government schools. Generally, the support is by providing the right to replicate our content to the state, without any costs.  Our Digital Learning Resource is not provided if the intended use is for commercial purposes. We also share content with NGOs and other institutions who manage schools where there is no barrier on admissions and where no fee is being charged.”

And Mr Anikar added, “Almost all our titles or Digital Learning Resource are trilingual i.e. in English, Hindi and in any one of the regional languages. While we have just 10 titles in Marathi the same is not available for immediate release as they have to be validated by a state government. However, we will share other titles that are in English and Hindi. Further, we are also in the process of making our content compatible with [GNU]Linux platform and hence for the present we will be sharing only such titles which are compatible with both windows and Linux and those that have been tested.  The remaining titles would be shared on a future date and on completion of testing. We will be clustering our titles in a couple of DVD’s and send it across to you in the next week…. We also wish to state that there is a process that needs to be followed in implementing the Digital Learning Resource in schools which we will share the same with you once you confirm the receipt of Digital Learning Resource.”

And: “A note of caution — our Digital Learning Resource are not meant to help in computer literacy. The target group is children in the age group of 6-14 years and the Digital Learning Resource primarily presents concepts related to Maths, Science and Language related to the curriculum for classes Standard I to Standard VIII.”

By way of background, from their website: “Azim Premji Foundation has commenced the digital content creation effort in the year 2002. So far, Foundation has created over 100+ master CD titles for the classes 1 to 8 and the same have been translated into various regional languages in India including few tribal languages. The content is created with the pedagogical focus to enable the children to directly use and learn where the teacher will act as facilitator. The attributes of the content are; curriculum oriented, child-centered, self paced, interactive and multimedia based content.”

You probably know that Azim Premji is the Chairman and CEO of one of India’s largest software companies, Wipro. Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azim_Premji] says he was rated the richest man in India between 1999 to 2005 (and is probably among the top five now).  This impressed me: “Premji is known for his modesty and frugality in spite of his wealth. He drives a Toyota Corolla and flies economy class, prefers to stay in company guest houses rather than luxury hotels and even served food on paper plates at a lunch honouring his son’s wedding.”

Check it out. Really useful stuff. The educational content on the DVDs, I mean!

[1] Head – Technology for Education, Azim Premji Foundation, #134, Doddakannelli, Next to Wipro Corporate Office, Sarjapur Road, Bangalore – 560 035 Tel: 91-80-66144900/901/902 (Board)   91-80-66144922 (Direct) Fax: 91-80-66144903 Mobile: 09449820054 www.azimpremjifoundation.org

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CC-India … a welcome from BytesForAll December 6, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content.
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Here’s a note posted to the CC-India mailing list:

Congrats to the proposed CC-India, on behalf of BytesForAll

Our goals run parallel, and you can be assured of all support to your
proposed network. Will share your contact via that network.

At the personal level, I’m also working to create e-books (second one
almost ready) that records local history within Goa. Naturally, as you
would have guessed, these are being put out under the CreativeCommons
2.5 Attribution or parallel licenses.

PS: You can see the first book here:Behind the News: Voices from Goa’s Press by Various – Project … Download the free eBook: Behind the News: Voices from Goa’s Press by Various. www.gutenberg.org/etext/11523

This was in response to a post from Ramakrishnan Diraviyam who commented:

“We are an upcomming network of the community by name The ICT Gateway. we wish to know mare about Creative Commons. –T D Krishna.”

From the Wikipedia page on the Creative Commons:

The Creative Commons enables copyright holders to grant some of their rights to the public while retaining others through a variety of licensing and contract schemes including dedication to the public domain or open content licensing terms. The intention is to avoid the problems current copyright laws create for the sharing of information.

The project provides several free licenses that copyright owners can use when releasing their works on the Web. They also provide RDF/XML metadata that describes the license and the work, making it easier to automatically process and locate licensed works. Creative Commons also provide a “Founders’ Copyright” [1] contract, intended to re-create the effects of the original U.S. Copyright created by the founders of the U.S. Constitution.

All these efforts, and more, are done to counter the effects of what Creative Commons considers to be a dominant and increasingly restrictive permission culture. In the words of Lawrence Lessig, Chairman of the Board, it is “a culture in which creators get to create only with the permission of the powerful, or of creators from the past”.[2] Lessig maintains that modern culture is dominated by traditional content distributors in order to maintain and strengthen their monopolies on cultural products such as popular music and popular cinema, and that Creative Commons can provide alternatives to these restrictions.

Youth, AIDS… and making a game about it November 2, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content.
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Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, has announced the launch of a computer game targeted at young people, and aimed at helping them make better choices to combat diseases like AIDS. This game is currently available in English and Swahili
versions at unicef.org/voy/explore/aids/explore_1360.html.

Announced this week, Unicef called it the “first interactive feature in Swahili today, an online game that empowers young people to make good life choices about and prevent HIV.”

In its Swahili version, the game is called Ungefanyaje (‘What would you do?’) It takes the player through a series of relationship-based scenarios that emphasize the importance of HIV-prevention and testing.

“Translating the game into Swahili makes it accessible to East African adolescents and young people,” Voices of Youth coordinator Amber Oliver was quoted saying.

Voices of Youth, or VOY is a decade-old initiative focused on exploring the educational and community building potential of the internet.

Through web boards, interactive quizzes, youth leadership profiles, live chats and more, Voices of Youth says it “provides thousands of young people from over 180 countries with an opportunity to self-inform, engage in lively debate, and partner — with their peers and decision makers — to create a world fit for children.”

Prevention is considered essential to half the spread of HIV/AIDS. But an alarming 80 per cent of all young people still don’t know how to protect themselves from the virus.

It is estimated that of the 2.3 million children under 15 living with HIV, two million are in sub-Saharan Africa. Hence reaching out to youth is seen as crucial.

Unicef, some 60 years old, has been working in 156 countries and territories “to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.” It is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

Some early responses to the game however commented on the need to use a form of Swahili comprehendible across the region, and the need to make the game work on mobile phones.

Computer games have also been called ‘edutainment’ because of their mix of education and entertainment.

The term “serious game” came into wide use with the Serious Games Initiative in 2002, games were being developed for non-entertainment purposes.

This initiative was launched to encourage the development of games that address policy and management issues. In 2004, another initiative called Games for Change focussed on social issues and social change, while Games for Health addresses health care applications.

Games like 3rd World Farmer give the player a feel of the hardships facing farmers in the poor world. The Adventures of Josie True is an online educational game for girls, targeting fifth grade science and math curricular areas.

Darfur is Dying is an online game that simulates life in a Darfur refugee camp. Food Force is humanitarian video game. The UN‘s World Food Programme designed this virtual world of food airdrops over crisis zones and trucks struggling up difficult roads under rebel threat with emergency food supplies.

For a fascinating entry, see the Wikipedia, loads of useful links [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serious_game]

Who calls the shots? October 26, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content.
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Who really controls the internet? Lot of hints, lots of diversity of views… but plenty of smoke screens too.

Here’s a lecture, taking place today and titled Who’s really out to control the internet? UN and USA Governance,

Of the speaker, we’re told:

Dr. Peng Hwa Ang is Dean of the School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He was one of the 40 persons appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Working Group on Internet Governance in 2004. He is on his way to the Internet Governance Forum, which meets in Athens, Greece, for first time during the week of October 30.

If you tune into the Guardian, the story you get is “US loosens grip on running of internet”.

And here’s another version of the truth, coming from The Mercury News which says, Internet governance dispute will last years, official warns. A dispute, is it? As this report argues,

An international dispute over U.S. control of the Internet appears unlikely to be resolved even as state envoys, regulators and technology experts convene next week to discuss the network’s future. “Such negotiations are difficult … this will take time. There are many countries which all have their own interests and opinions,” Greek Transport Minister Michalis Liapis said Thursday. “We are starting a dialogue which I think will take many years.”

Diverse voices.. heard before the IGF October 26, 2006

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Amnesty International is calling for internet freedom particularly for bloggers in countries “such as China, Iran, and Tunisia” just prior to the Internet Governance Forum meet in Athens. It has also made a statement demanding the freeing of Vietnamese internet dissidents.

Nitin Desai’s statement on the “Balkanisation” of the internet also attracted quite some media. This article in the Digital Journal begins by asking: “Would you like a Chinese Internet? An Indian Internet? Or an American Internet?” This point of view (or how it was interpreted) raises a scenario which throws up a “gloomy picture where various nations try to wrest control of the Web away from global organizations.” So, do we fear diversity then? And, do we have “global organizations” calling the shots now?

Another view, from the other extreme, it would seem, comes from The New York Sun, which says, Keep the United Nations’s Hands Off the Internet!

IGF in figures… October 26, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content.
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PressZoom which describes itself as the “global news service and press release distribution” network, has these figures about the Internet Governance Forum, which begins in Athens, Greece from October 30.

Participants: 1200. Main sessions: eight (focussing on the Internet’s openness, security, diversity and access). Workshops: 30 (held in parallel to the main sessions, focusing on specific issues relevant to Internet governance).

This UN press release adds:

“The Forum can be seen as the beginning of a dialogue between two different cultures: on the one hand, the private sector, civil society and the academic and technical communities and their institutions, who are running theInternet and have their tradition of informal bottom-up decision-making and networked communication; and on the other hand, the more formal and more structured world of Governments and intergovernmental organizations.”

Diplomatically put!

An internet magazine… SPIDER September 14, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content, India, Pakistan, Uncategorized.
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SPIDERHere’s a small link that I put up to the SPIDER internet magazine from Pakistan. Any volunteers to update and flesh it out? That’s the Wikipedia and anyone can simply go an edit it… for the better.
And BTW, this issue of SPIDER has an interesting article on Open Source (I’d prefer to call it “Free Software”, rather than the dominant-media defined term). Fouad Bajwa has written it…. and it has interesting links and details.
PS: What would it take for India to get its own internet magazine? We’re clearly behind here….

BOOK REVIEW: Building clouds… in cyberspace August 7, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content.
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Tag clouds
Building Tag Clouds in Perl and PHP
Jim Bumgardner
Ebook in PDF format
ISBN: 0596527942
Pp 48
$9.99 US, $12.99 CAN

Tag clouds? What are those?

O’Reilly’s new e-book ‘Building Tag Clouds in Perl and PHP’ by Jim Bumgardner explains a concept every serious user of cyberspace would have at least heard of.

Says Bumbardner: “Tag clouds are everywhere on the Web these days. First popularized by the web sites Flickr, Technorati, and del.icio.us, these amorphous clumps of words now appear on a slwe of web sites as visual evidence of their membership in the elite corps of ‘Web 2.0’.”

Wikipedia says: “A tag cloud (more traditionally known as a weighted list in the field of visual design) is a visual depiction of content tags used on a website. Often, more frequently used tags are depicted in a larger font or otherwise emphasized, while the displayed order is generally alphabetical. Thus both finding a tag by alphabet and by popularity is possible. Selecting a
single tag within a tag cloud will generally lead to a collection of items that are associated with that tag.”

If you’re a content person like this reviewer, why bother at all about all this stuff? As long as I get my neatly-laid out keywords that give me a clue of what’s where, why worry?

But then, someone has to do the job of getting the tag clouds to work. And that’s where this book is born out of a need.

It may be a fad. But one which has “real merits” when used popularly, as Bumgardner explains. This e-book analyses what is and isn’t a tag cloud. It offers design tips for using them effectively, and also shows how to collect tags and display them in the tag cloud format.

Interesting background on issues like craiglist’s weighted cities list, and statistically improbable phrases (SIPs) or capitalized phrases (CAPs) lists provided by Amazon.com. SIP has word order corelating to the improbability of the phrase.

In the CAP list, the word order relates to the frequency with which the phrase appears in the book.

After some interesting history about tag clouds — which takes us to Flickr (who doesn’t know this photography-sharing web site?), tag roots in the blogging community, and Jim Flanagan’s Zeitgeist idea — things start to get technical.

There’s code, graphs and how-tos.Time for me to leave it to techies, who prefer raw coding to merely writing book reviews!

Concern: Asia’s waste mountain July 21, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content.
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My colleague from the Association for Progressive Communications, Alan Alegre from the Philippines, recently posted this interesting link to the APC-Asia mailing list. It says: Time to tackle Asia’s electrical waste mountain:

As the market for electrical and electronic products grows rapidly, the lifespan of products is dropping. Some developed world governments are promoting recycling and starting to require that manufacturers safely dispose products at the end of their working life. However, China and India have yet to address the explosion in ‘e-waste’ — electronic scrap — much of it imported from countries with stricter regulations.

A film festival with a difference; tiny, and viewable alone July 11, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content.
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From clunky technology to produce film, to digital solutions. Now, there’s even an international portable film festival, and its Australian promoters are keen to see a wider participation from India.

The International Portable Film Festival (IPFF) calls itself the world’s first completely portable film festival, existing exclusively for portable video devices including iPods, 3G phones, PlayStation Portables and other devices.

It is delivered through a videocast so there are “no cinemas, no queues, no closed doors, no e-scalpers and no barriers to audiences seeing the films they want, when they want”.

This festival is “absolutely free and completely portable”.

Some 122 film entries have been received so far for IPFF 2006. The countries represented are: Australia, Netherlands, USA, Romania, Canada, Austria, Hungary, England, India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.

Festival managing director Simon Goodrich (25) told this blogger: “India is more than ready for the International Portable Film Festival. With over one million downloads per day to mobile phones, with the largest English-speaking audience in the world and the biggest film market, India is absolutely central to a festival like this.”

“If any country is ready in this world, India is it,” said Goodrich, who also co-founded the event. Do you think this logic holds?

He added that they have met with groups such as MAUJ and Hugama Mobile in Sydney Australia earlier this month.

Mauj is an India centric mobile games developer and wireless content provider. Headed by Arun Gupta, the Tardeo (Mumbai)-based firm deals in mobile content and application (games, wallpapers, ringtones, news, matrimonial), mobile software and services (middleware, roaming applications, SMS gatesways) and mobile media solutions (advertising and branding).

Mahalaxmi (Mumbai)-based Hungama Mobile calls itself “a leading provider of mobile marketing applications with intrinsic expertise attached with mobile technology, communication and interactivity”.

He added: “We were very impressed with the way that content for portable devices is being developed and taken up by Indian audiences. We would love to collaborate with local filmmakers there and we would love to move the IPFF to Mumbai or Delhi in the coming years.”

Ayesha Madganvkar, a student of Goan origin currently in Australia, an intern at the IPFF says: “We’re trying to contact filmmakers, press, universities, magazines and others in India and tell them about the festival.”

IPFF focuses on, pun intended, “precious little films” and “films that look good small”. Its promoters are also interested in “films that give you glimpses into life from the oddest angles and the farthest corners of the globe.”

Andrew Apostola and Simon Goodrich, the creators of the festival, are both known for their work with independent media in Australia and for establishing SYN FM, the world’s largest youth-run radio station.

They are big on promoting digital literacy and digital learning in schools, this led to a push for an ‘under-18’ category for young filmmakers.

“It (telling stories through the portable medium is) really is a different way of viewing and the scope for exploration, experimentation and innovation is enormous,” say the event’s organisers when asked what sets them apart from the 1200+ estimated film festivals being organised around the globe.

“Portable” film has been criticised for its “solitary practice” — for the most part, it is viewed alone, as an individual. But the organisers say people who own portable devices often “form part of a community and are united through the process of owning and using that device”.

For instance, an iPod can be plugged into a TV.

The audience is potentially huge. Even those without portable devices can participate. The IPFF site portablefilmfestival.com will allow downloading of films directly to your computer or by subscribing to a RSS feed that will continually update your film collection.

Films can be viewed in your preferred movie player (Winamp, Quicktime, Windows Media Player or other free software tools) much in the same way as content can be watched through portable video devices.

There are an estimated 220 million people subscribed to broadband globally. For instance, ifilm.com attracts 10 million viewers per month, downloading 30 million short films.