education

A great Blender tutorial: back to school with Blender

One of my projects this fall is to take advantage of online "Open Courseware" classes, for personal and professional development. In setting up my own curriculum, I came across a very nice find: a class on 3D modelling based on the (free software) Blender 3D modelling application. This class, offered by Tufts University in Boston (USA) is one of the most professionally delivered collections of tutorials I have yet seen, and I think it may well be the easiest way to approach Blender if you have no prior 3D modelling experience.

KWordQuiz: An amazingly useful flash card tool

Since I was home schooled, I never had homework (homework and classwork were one and the same). And since I never had homework, I... never really had to learn how to study until high school. But when I did learn how to study, I found flash cards to be extremely effective. So I fell in love with KWordQuiz, a KDE Education project for flash card lovers just like me.

A £99 GNU/Linux laptop: is it just too cheap?

On 28 February 2008, Elonex launched the Elonex ONE--the first sub-£100 laptop in the UK. Clearly competing against the much in-demand Asus EeePC [2], Elonex say they are aiming at the school-student market. The thing is, I just can't stop asking: isn't £99 too cheap for a laptop?

Free as in free milk

A first draft of this article has been sitting for months in my hard disk. I decided to finish it after reading that Microsoft will offer its operating system and office suite for $3 per machine to developing countries. That made me think of the way the giant software company “helps” these countries by giving licenses of its proprietary software almost for free, and that in turn made me think of free milk. Let me tell you about it.

The Nestlé boycott

Education, education, education

I heard a phrase today that reminded me of my childhood: “...learning and sharing together”. I’m not sure if I ever heard this exact phrase, but it was definitely a theme that was central to my early education; it’s now a central theme of my life again, this time through free software. This link between free software and education was first made by Richard Stallman in his essay Why Schools Should Use Exclusively Free Software, and this link is now being reinforced by the work that’s going on with the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

Is better education the key to finding better software?

I read David Jonathon's article Anybody Up To Writing Good Directory Software? the other day, which got me thinking about software directories in general. As David mentioned, many of the software directories one finds when doing a quick google search are free as in beer, not as in freedom. But what interests me is the software directories that already exist, providing a combination of both free as in beer software, and open source software. Sites such as Freeware Downloads and Shareware Download don't advertise themselves as providing free as in liberty software, but each of them have a good selection of open source software available... if you know where to look.

Linux software: the kid's plan for an icy day

Hi, it's B and G, the little kids in this house. We've had a lot of ice lately. The TV says we may even lose the electricity. Dad said he needed to write his blog early this weekend. But right now, he is walking around the living room and griping about writer's block. He looks kinda funny.

So we sneaked in here to say what we don't like and do like about the computer. The adults have said what they liked, now it is the kid's turn.

Reclaiming ICT education - Why free software is a necessity in schools

My formal education in computing ended at the age of 14, about six weeks into a GCSE (The UK equivalent of the US's High School Diploma) course in ICT. I've had a lifelong passion for computers, but despite this, I opted instead to study Design and Technology and never looked back.

Have we raised a generation of technology drones?

I received an interesting note today from the school my children attend. In order to save precious dollars, last school year, I suggested that they begin using OpenOffice and only install Microsoft Office where there are licenses. The note I received today listed computer needs, and one of the needs listed as "Because Open Office is a lesser program compared to the Microsoft office programs, it wouldbe helpful to have either tutorials or at least manuals for these programs." Now, I agree that I should have provided books or pointed them to online manuals.

Didn’t God say “...and the geeks shall inherit the earth”?

Okay kids, gather ’round, I’m going to reminisce. When I was about six, I had what is classed as well developed literacy skills—I could write some words, I could read books about Jenny and Jack on the swing, that sort of thing. My parents bought a mac and we thought we were the height of sophistication. (That was in 1986, BTW.) But to me, it was like a magic box that was used on special occasions, and it was a grownup thing. I mean, I only used the phone on special occasions!

Event review: Sakai day Europe

Hello world, Sakai a well-known learning management system and framework for tool building has had its first European Congress in the beautiful town of Lübeck in Germany. A relatively small campus town Leubeck is well known for its churches and marzipan and related confectionary. I personally enjoyed looking at the two main churches back lit from outside in the dark with good beer and solid traditionally German food inside my nicely warmed stomach.

Technology: a curse on the civilised world!

There are lots of things that worry tabloids, current affairs programs, and talkback radio shock jocks. Some of these things are immigration, neighbours from hell, love-rat rip-off merchants, termites, crash diets, dole-bludging playstation addicts, the utter degeneration of civilisation as we know it BEFORE OUR VERY EYES... the list goes on. But one of the perpetual flavours of the month for these harbingers of doom and global devastation is the future of our children.

Passing notes in class

My children recently started school. I wanted a way for them to be ableto chat with their friends, get help with homework, and generally have funon the Internet without exposing them to the world at large. So, I did whatany extremely geeky dad would do: I built a secured instant messaging (IM)server for their school.

I could have set my children up with any number of accounts on thenormal, commercial services. However, I decided to create my own forseveral reasons.

Towards a universal online library of learning material

How much material has been lost through the years? Now the question is of course what do I mean by material. For example, do I mean the trivial stuff such as typed office memorandums or the less trivial—the missing live broadcasts of the early Dr Who. No, let me focus on what I consider to be the most important material of all, that which may have a positive effect on the next generation— the historical and educational material that helps our children form sophisticated models of the Universe around us.

User interfaces should teach, not hide

Today, I finally decided that my gVim editor needed a smaller font, and the process of getting it to work right has made me notice a fundamental flaw in the way we think about user interfaces. It’s not an innovation that you’ll get on the proprietary side of the line, because it’s an innovation required for the digital middle class of ‘user-developers’ that I mentioned last week.

Essentially it’s just this: GUIs should teach, not obfuscate or hide the underlying mechanism.

I’ve been browsing: Sakai 2.2 released and new distros to try

Released Thursday was Sakai 2.2. With a growing community of Educational establishments using this product as their online presence or a significant part thereof; it is only a matter of time before Sakai breaks into the mainstream conscious. If you have a spare five minutes and a reasonably fast connection then I would say it is a fun product to try. The quick demo gives you an idea of the products potential. And it’s just a simple matter of unpacking and running a startup script.

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