I had this wonderful opportunity to join some FLOSS enthusiasts in their effort to train the teachers from the various Government schools across Bangalore at the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan. The idea was to equip the teachers with knowledge to teach the many students they work with. Here is a report I wrote about the same which shall hopefully be used once we have completed the next phase of the training.
“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
With this message a few geeks, people from academia, students, etc from various groups are advocating FLOSS in the government schools and offices. “Karnataka Government has decided to use free software for 8th 9th and 10th standards as a part of their ICT@Schools project(Information and Communication Technology). As of now It is vendor controlled project (Educom, EVeron, etc are implementing it) under BOOT (Build Operate Own & Transfer) scheme. For making it more accessible to teachers & students(IT enabled learning), we are initiating this training as a pilot project in bangalore. This is organised by DSERT and a Consortium of Free Software Organisations in Bangalore (FSUG Bangalore, Sampada, FSMK, ITfC, DeepRoot Linux & Moving Republic are the organisations associated.)”, explained Mr. Anivar Aravind, from Moving Republic.
Mr. Vikram Vincent from FSMK said, “The plan is to reach out to all schools in Karnatka. The training shall be conducted in 2 phases, 3 days of training each, covering 17 schools. The teachers from these schools as well as the faculty from the vendor shall be trained as a part of this program.”
A training was organized for Teachers and Faculty from the vendors at Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Building, Nrupatunga Road (oppo UVCE college) Bangalore. They were trained on basic usage of DebianEdu (An educational version of the popular Linux Distribution – Debigan). The training spread across three days from 16th July through 18th July and later from 23rd July through 31st July covered:
1. A session on FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source Software) philosophy.
2. Basic usage of the desktop explaining the various hardware components.
3. Use of Open Office.
4. Educational games on the distro.
5. Use of Internet.
The hall was packed with almost every system occupied with about 25 teachers. The teachers very pretty enthusiastic about the training and sat patiently for the long sessions absorbing as much as they could. One teacher in particular didn’t mind delayed lunch as they were in middle of something.
The first day was mostly basic stuff covering the different components like mouse (why it is so called?), CPU, etc. Many teachers were curious about typing and use of kannada. Ktouch, gtypist, gcompris, etc were suggested to the them. The afternoon session Naveen introduced the teachers to the concept of FLOSS. Naveen used the analogy of a bike. When someone buys a bike (s)he expects to use it the way (s)he wishes. If a neighbor is in need and comes ask for the bike for some work (s)he is free to lend the bike which may not be the cased with a product from Microsoft or Apple or such. If it has some problem one would like to have a look at the bike himself or herself first and only then goto a shop. Even if (s)he has to goto a shop the person is free to go to a local shop and doesn’t have to go to the same vendor who sold the bike. This ‘freedom’ is not there in closed source software. There was a mention of how Einstein was able to come up with concepts like theory of relativity as Newton, who said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.”, didn’t keep his knowledge to himself. The way to go ahead in technology is to share and exchange knowledge. Reminds one of the words from George Bernard Shaw –
“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”
– George Bernard Shaw
The second day was entirely spent on Open Office where equivalents of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. People who were familiar with the office suite asked how they could do certain things they did in the MS counterparts. The sessions were exhaustive and covered most of the things the teachers would need. The day ended in a presentation on a one of the schools made by the Teacher from that school. Looked pretty well done. The teachers were briefly introduced to the use of Kannada – the idea was to encourage them to use English. The detailed coverage on the same is planned in the subsequent sessions.
The third day was devoted to the Internet. The teachers were also requested to work in groups to infuse in them idea of sharing and helping each other which is the basis for most development in FLOSS. The idea behind the sessions was to equip the teachers to help themselves by looking for help on the net. They were introduced to checking emails, google, wikipedia, youtbue, etc. An email was created for each teacher and also a mailing list containing all of them for future queries and discussions. The teachers expressed their heart felt gratitude.
Mr. Guru Murthy from ITfC (IT For Change) said, “It is important that teachers get hands on. In kerala there were 56 computers in one particular school. Not a single school where teacher said – I don’t know computers. Teachers need to be experts and be able to answer questions. There is plan to have a projector for each school and use educational software to keep the children engaged.” He asked the teachers, “How many of you have TV at home?” Almost all the participants raised their hands. He continued, “How many of you have a computer?” Fewer hands went up. “How many have a cable connection at home?” Again most hands went up. “How many of you have an internet connection?” Only a few hands went up this time. He said, “It is a must that all of you invest in computers as it is good for your students and your own children. You should be able to help others out – be a Computer Resource Person. You have a choice in 2 years time to be either a computer literate or illiterate. This program completely depends on your interest. Also, get an internet connection and please note that there is a discount for Govt employees.”
“God created life, doctors help preserve it, engineers make it comfortable but teachers make it worth living.”
These teachers have been given a chance to prove this adage.
What did the teachers have to say about the program?
Mr. P Manjuroopa, from Governament composite high school, Kakolu said, “When I got the memo of training, I was upset because I am teaching maths to my students in school & I have not completed my portion of june and was busy. But after reaching here & attending frist day training I was totally impressed by this progremme. After attening this training I got the confidence on my self that I too can mail & chat. I loved the concept of free software fundation(FSMK). I felt happy learning GNU/Linux found it really wonderful!”
Ms Tejaswini K, Computer faculty at Govt. PU College for Boys, told that she was extremely grateful for the session as she learnt a good deal and would be able to help the students much better now.
“We have attended computer training held at SSA building for three days from July 16th tthrough 18th. Here some experts are worked as guide. They gave us lot of information about linux and free software. Before that information we didn’t know anything. First I had curiosity about training but last day I’m happy to have attended the training. Vinay, Naveen, Anupama, Raghavendra, Shiv prasad and other experts impressed us well their knowledge and attitude. I promise to use this knowledge effectively in our school” said Mr Ajjaiah G, AM Govt high school, Kakolu.
The second batch was organized much better with the learnings from the first batch. The sessions were more interactive and the exercises at the end of sessions kept the teachers engaged. Lesser theory and more work on computers made it further interesting. Faculty and students from RV college led by Mr. Reunkaprasad B took great interest in imparting the knowledge on FLOSS.
The follow up sessions shall be organized in the next month to see the progress and cover the advanced topics.
If this initiative interests you please get in touch with
Naveen: firstname.lastname@example.org / 998640 3928
Vikram: email@example.com / 94488 10822
Software _must_ be accessible to people who could use it to bring about a positive change in their lives. Such programs are only making this a reality by touching the needier sections.