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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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An article from me (FN), recently published in the Indian media… July 12, 2008

Posted by fredericknoronha in India, Open Source.
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LinuxChix-India aims at free software access for women
10 Jul, 2008, 1030 hrs IST, IANS

BANGALORE: With a name like LinuxChix-India, you might think its mission is trivial, but their goal is serious: creating equal access for women to enter the world of technology.

Archana Raghupathy of Chennai started LinuxChix-India in 2005. It is the Indian chapter of the global women techies’ network Linuxchix.org, and “tries to empower Indian women to use, develop and contribute to the world of free and open source software (FOSS).”

Globally, LinuxChix is a community for women who “like Linux and Free Software” and for women and men who want to support women in computing. Its members range from novices to experienced users and include professional and amateur programmers, system administrators and technical writers.

It also works to bring together women around India involved in various FOSS projects, foster participation and share knowledge in a geeky world where males usually dominate.

“Back when I started (being active) online, revealing one’s gender meant the usual picture requests or maybe personal questions after a few mails under the guise of volunteering. But I doubt if it will happen to a woman today,” Vidya Ayer, one of those involved in the LinuxChix-India project, said.

Using the online identity of VidAyer, she currently volunteers for a number of global free software projects.

These include the popular GNU/Linux groups like Ubuntu, Ubuntu-Women, Linuxchix, Debian-Women, KDE-Women and the open directory project DMOZ. Some projects like Debian-Women and KDE-Women acknowledge the low participation rates of women in FOSS initiatives and attempt to encourage more of them to join in.

LinuxChix-India takes up geeky topics like “Introduction to Linux Kernel: Basics”, showing that women can do anything in this often male-dominated field – if given the chance. Its members show their abilities and encourage one another. For instance, Aneesha Govil and Barkha Khatri are into “FOSS evangelism” – spreading the word about it.

Ani Peter works on localising software to Indian languages, Ankita Garg is into Linux kernel hacking, Archana is into scripting, Kadambari Devarajan is into theoretical computer science, Priti Patil works on education, and Runa Bhattarjee is into mentoring, apart from other things.

Ayer explained why women find it tough to enter computing, including free software.

“It’s the lack of infrastructure, while the lack of computer access also plays some role. Most men who don’t own computers would use a friend’s machine; women in India would not have the freedom to stay late at a friend’s place to hack away,” she explained.

Mentoring can help a lot, members of LinuxChix India feel. FOSS volunteers need to introduce and teach them packaging, translation, bug squashing (correcting errors in software code) and the like.

“At the entry level, volunteering is easy if you know what you want to do. Also most men I’ve met so far appreciate the extra efforts put to cross that GNU/Linux-learning-curve,” Ayer said. “However, today it’s a lot more difficult to be sexist and the existence of FOSS women’s groups makes it tough to get away with negative behaviour,” she added.

About herself, Ayer said: “It’s been a self-taught learning experience, thanks to all the online manuals, tutorials and (mailing) lists. I started off volunteering with dmoz.org and Wikipedia communities, then LinuxChix.”

Kadambari Devarajan, a Chennai student doing her masters in software engineering and who aims to enter a graduate school in the US and focus on theoretical computer science, feels women have it tough and equal access is still some time away.

“There are few women in technology and fewer still in FOSS. Women still have to straddle other responsibilities especially if they are employed. Women (at least in India) still haven’t broken free completely,” she said.

“Knowing a lot of women from rural India, I have had a number of discussions with them. Their parents and later in-laws are the ones who decide for them,” Devarajan added.

She feels other factors come in – a lack of awareness and the lack of suitable rewards.

“The reasons for fewer women in FOSS seems comparable to the reasons for fewer women in research. I personally can quote a number of problems faced.

“The problem is not with the guys using FOSS, it’s with the men outside of it. Bureaucracy and a condescending attitude are a few problems that come to mind,” Devarajan added.


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