How schools ignore Computer science as a subject

The most ignored of all subjects in the schools in Kerala is COMPUTER SCIENCE. Yes! Students, as well as teachers, ignore “computer” as a subject to study. We were happened to market a world-class computer curriculum Kerala wide. It is during this time, we got the clear picture of the existing computer training in the state of Kerala.

Pathetic. That’s the most appropriate word to be used. When asked, a vice principal was saying, “We have not a computer teacher actually, our Physics teacher handles the subject since she is very clever in computer.” We just contacted her, and she has not even the basic clues on computers. Many of the schools say the same story ditto. Even though it is a BIG subject, no school managements consider it of the proper importance it deserves. Most of the public schools in Kerala follows their medium of instruction as English and thus the faculty of English is the best department in each school. Parents also are bothered only in developing the communications skills of their kids, and thus basic science and subjects like computer are unfortunately sidelined.

Majority of the Public Schools in Kerala still use proprietary tools for training the students while lots of its open source alternatives are widely available. Using the proprietary tools, they spent much and gain less. Recently while Microsoft Windows® XP stopped its support, some schools opted for Ubuntu Operating system. While the State Syllabus of Kerala has adopted open source technology a decade before as part of the “IT@School” project, the Public Schools are far away from its quality.

Today, a computer is not a device for expert jobs. It’s essential for our day-to-day affairs, so it should be treated in that importance. The entire curriculum should be designed keeping this fact in mind.

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Maria and John play with KNOPPIX

It’s real fun spending time with my small kids before computer. But with too small kids, we can’t predict what they may do with the machine. When John – my sweet little boy – was a very small kid (still now he is) once he switched off the mains power directly while I just went out of the room. That’s why I used ~LIVE~ systems for giving my computer to kids to play their favourite game apps. Yes there is apps for very small kids. Just like TUXTYPE, GCOMPRIS, CHILDSPLAY etc.

Well, I use Knoppix for ~LIVE~ to give my computer to the kids for playing games. Knoppix gives all their favourite apps in one DVD. (Not only games, a lot of other serious applications also bundled with that.) All you can play live from that disc. And before I give it to kids, I just disconnect the data and power cables from my main hard drive. So the operating system will be loaded from the DVD itself. The advantage is, even if the system got an unsuccessful shutdown, it wont affect the hard drive.

John is an excited boy when seeing the computer. Yesterday when he demanded me to switch on the computer, I decided to copy his excitement with my handycam. So I placed the cam very carefully as if it were a spy cam 🙂

Story of his hard disc failed

“Hey!! Do you know anyone who can do a hard disc recovery?” My friend shouts at me on the other end of the line. “I need my data as much early as possible.” He was screaming. Tons of photographs and video files are stored in that cute hard disc. External 1TB USB powered one. It was very portable. Very sexy. Bought one year back for copying data for backup. He was so desperate. I consoled him, asking two questions. “Does your Hard disc making noise, just as triq triq trrriq…?” He said “Nope”. “Then carefully disconnect the cables and come to me.” He did. I connected his cute, sexy, 1TB USB powered portable HD into my old, Debian powered Desktop. It was detected. I showed him his files. Now he was dancing. He tried connecting many computers before that, but none of them even detected it. From his 800 GB of data, his priority was around 80 GB of photographs. I copied it into my computer. Copying all the files, he jumped out from my house and came back after half an hour with some bottles of beer and some snacks. Great! I took part in his happiness.

People buy external hard discs in terabytes today which may be changed to Petabytes and Exabytes tomorrow, which is quite unimaginable right now. The higher the volume, the deeper the loss will be. If one loss a TB of data in a Hard Drive is much higher than 4 GB of data in a DVD. The sad part of the story is that Hard Drive fails much frequently. Why?

Most home users buy huge volume (1TB or more) Hard discs as a back up device. They take a decent backup for the first time. Keep it safe and care it for a couple of weeks. One fine morning someone needed the device to backup some huge movie files from his office or a friend’s computer. Copied the movie files, and the device brought back to home. Some weeks later the same device was shared to someone’s friend to reinstall his Vindoz. Right now the Hard disc has hundreds of movie files. Two months later a new television was bought which has a USB port and now its possible to watch their favorite movies from a small Pen Drive. And you know, what they have been doing, well, its amazing, they started plug the poor backup hard disc directly to the TV USB and started watching all the movies which was resting inside! Wow, what a technology! Some interesting days passed by. One day (after the anniversary of the TB Hard disc, just passed) the disc did not initialized by TV. Cursing the TV, he unplugged it and plugged into his newly bought laptop. Hey! What’s wrong with it? Still the HDD cannot be found. And the pop-up balloon says that error reading device. Ok, then lets try it out to our old Desktop machine, on which we took the back ups many times. Oh! F**k, still it can’t be found. Something wrong with the HDD. Oh! God! There are plenty of photos and videos. How much valuable are they? Lamentation starts and going on.

This is the simple story many home users can say.

What should be the precautions?

Ok. Now that’s it. Keep your data safe and stop lamentation.

Some Unix / Linux / GNU cartoons

I have seen some interesting cartoons on based on Unix / Linux / GNU. Had lol’ed reading it. Shared to many. Now just want to collect them and trying to share it. There may be a lot of other interesting stuff, which I may missed.

Use appropriate words

People always say a computer generated document a “Word” file! For a spread sheet file, they say “Excel” file. For a presentation / slide show file most people say just “ppt”. Wonder why people say like this. Even if I prepare a text document with Libre Office Writer, they still call it “word” file. Whats more, even if it is a plain text file, they say “notepad” file.

Even if a file is generated with Microsoft Office, try to call the file as “Text Document” or “Spreadsheet file” or “Slideshow / presentation” file. Microsoft Office is just one among so many other office suits.

Imagination: A fine photoslideshow software

Since I got my first digital camera in 2002, I was hunting for a photo slideshow software in my Debian machine. I searched apt / google / lots of search engines / asked geeks. From nowhere I got a perfect solution. So I abandoned searching and continued using the old windows moviemaker (at my office) whenever I was in emergency. One week ago, a boy from neighbourhood asked me to make his photos to video and burn it in dvd format. I agreed to help him. I searched for “photo slideshow” in apt-cache search. And I got imagination.

Imagination is wonderful. It has all the transition effects according to the The SMIL 3.0 Transition Effects Module. The output can be saved as .vob or .ogg files. There is also another good slideshow software is bombono which is also very good.

Story of an elementary school teacher who accidentally found FOSS solution is good

Happened to read an article about an elementary school teacher set up a computer lab with FOSS software running on it. He was accidentally found that GNU/Linux operating system and applications are effective for education. Though he is not aware about the philosophical aspect of Free Software, it is a great attempt to make it real.
Mr. Robert Litt was a teacher at ASCEND, a small arts K-8 school in the Alameda County School in US. His school does not have a computer lab, nor it has sufficient fund to make one. But Mr. Robert made a computer lab with his limited knowledge in zero cost. He collected some old computers from his acquaintances and installed Ubuntu on it with the support of local LUG. The core content of the article is a wonderful story of an elementary school teacher who accidentally found FOSS solution is good for schools and it is also good to run on old/obsolete hardware.

How One Teacher Built a Computer Lab for Free

In a sunny Bay Area classroom, twenty sixth graders are working at computers. They are making websites—”MySpace” pages for figures from American History. One student is researching Frederick Douglass’s five greatest accomplishments. Another is showing a classmate how to search for pictures of Susan B. Anthony. They’re all learning how to use Google Sites, helping each other along the way. Earlier this week, this class learned how to add numbers in a spreadsheet. Last week, they learned how to make music on a simple synthesizer. People often assume that getting technology into classrooms is expensive, but this lab cost absolutely nothing.

The article goes on.
Read more.

Cost Vs. Freedom

Mr. Robert wants to spread his achievement as a zero cost solution, he does not focus about the freedom inside it. He does not aware about the “sharing” philosophy that GNU puts forward. He only wants to project its cost-effectiveness and workability. However this man made it real, a full-fledged computer lab with Free Software running on it. I wish all success to him on his way ahead. Let him learn more about GNU/Linux technically as well as philosophically. As he digested its cost-effectiveness and workability, let him know about the core value – FREEDOM. Mr. Robert Litt, be a great evangelist of Freedom and Free Software, our sincere wishes will always be with you.
The article has already gone viral. It is spreading through social media and emails. Even RMS commented on the original article.
PS: Kerala, a state in India, adopted GNU/Linux several years ago for its education system. The GNU/Linux distro made by Kerala Education Dept. is called IT@School.