Archive for March, 2005

FLOSS edu software for mobile devices

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

Last week I took part in the Doors of Perception conference in Delhi, India. There were quite a lot of (informal) talk about using mobile devices in education in the developing world. In India there is a strong believe that the information society in India will be based on mobile devices and networks, rather than on PC’s. Also in schools the technology to enhance learning will most likely be mobile devices.

There has been a lot of hype about the need of 100 dollar laptop for the developing world. Personally I agree with Douwe Osinga, who argues that 100 dollar is too much for a computer. His proposal is a cell phone for developing world, with a larger device and keyboard for email and web with optimized bandwidth use. I am note sure if the price of this cell phone/internet terminal could actually be much less than 100 dollars, but I like the idea, because it is emphasizing the connectivity as the main feature of ICT tool. Actually I could myself be much happier person with a simple, affordable phone/internet terminal than with laptop with huge amounts of totally unused computing power.

So, what is there for education? Potentially a lot. But if the phone/internet terminal will be the ICT tool of the masses we should soon start to develop FLOSS applications for them. We need FLOSS browser, email client, rss reader (at least) for Symbian. And then we must take care that the FLOSS online learning environments will scale for small screens.

When it comes to ICT I see a lot of potential in the developing world to come up with much more clever, sustainable and economical solutions than we were never able to. There are also a possibility for some great social and pedagogical innovations. Think about it: easy to carry, highly connected mobile learning device that is always on, and you can take it where ever you want. With this specification we should be able to come up with hundreds of different kind of scenarios of clever education use of the device.

Does major development of FLOSSE start from Brazil?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

NYT features an article titled Brazil: Free Software’s Biggest and Best Friend. I think it’s no surprise that the strongest development of FLOSS in education is about to come from Brazil or any other less developed country. Educational sector all around the world is struggling for resources.  There are major budget cuts even here in Finland.

Education is not the best sector to make money out of software. For example in Brazil, only 19 percent of public schools have computers. The core reason for an educational institution to exist is to make sure that teaching continues and learners have a place to study. If a budget cut is prepared, developing ICT is one of the first to suffer from the hit.

In the information age there is need for computers in schools but only the lowest possible level to get up and running: access to internet and basic desktops for creating documents and maybe playing around with some educational applications and research tools. This level of computing is the part that is heavily commoditizing. FLOSS is doing a great job to commoditize the basic software infrastructure (from servers to basic productivity software on the desktop to thin client environments to save up in hardware costs). Out of any other industry, education is the section that is trying to cut the costs of basic ICT to the minimum.

That’s where FLOSS enters the game.

In Brazil, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has instructed government ministries and state-run companies to gradually switch from proprietary Microsoft operating systems to free operating systems, like Linux. Government funded software projects need to release results as FLOSS.

It’s no surprise Microsoft is going to fight policies like this by offering their software at a loss. Every lost user in schools is out of their pocket in the future. Once the students get out of the school and join businesses, they will prefer to use the software they used at schools. If Linux gets a strong hold in the educational sector, Microsoft has lost the game in the long run.

Some other corporations operate like drug dealers by first offering software for free and then rising the prices once people are hooked and staff is trained:

"Proprietary software companies hand out free copies for the same
reason that cigarette companies give sample packs to college kids – to
encourage addiction." – R. Stallman

This is simple economics and a proven method to make money. The winner is not the user, it’s the corporation.

What FLOSS offers is a way out of these constraints. Although I’m not the biggest advocate of the Stallmanian philosophy of software freedom, here is where it matters the most.

OK, the kids might get addicted to FLOSS. So what? That’s at least a better drug than the one coming from the slippery salesman mr. M… You don’t know what has gone into that stuff.

FLOSSE – Digital future report

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

USC Annenberg School, Center for the digital future published their report about the future of Internet at the end of last year, September. The theme is “Ten years, ten trends”. The report highlights the Major Findings in Year Four of the Digital Future Project’s Study of the Impact of the Internet on Americans. The report scrutinizes the future in five subject areas and includes wide thematic topics where Center for the Digital Future identifies ten Major Trends Emerging in the Internet’s First Decade of Public Use.
The topics:

  • Internet users and non-users: Who is online? Who is not? What are users doing online?
  • Media use and trust
  • Consumer behaviour 
  • Communication patterns
  • Social effects

It’s interesting readings: not just the content but also the very different approach to the future. When Comenius 2.1 workshop used scenario building, this report is taking advantage of using surveys comprehensively and also divides the future building process into pieces of year-to-year data-processing. The amount of quantative results are of course impressive and interesting.
In comparison of these two future aspects (so com2.1 and digital future report) the most interesting detail I noticed is the common approach to affect the future decision-making… But, dependent by whom. icon wink FLOSSE   Digital future report . So, get familiar with the report and reflect the experiences what you’ve done in last days. I believe it’s worth of it.

The report can be found at:

More readable version of the future of FLOSSE results

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

Due to public demand, here is a more easily accessible version of the result slides of our workshop about the future of FLOSSE.

FLOSSE Posse is more than us four, right?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

I just noticed the new picture in the upper right corner of this site. I didn’t like the original picture of the girl working with an old PC, but can’t say that this would be much better. Well, ok – it is.

I am not sure if this is the will of the rest of the posse, but I would like to make out of this site the official site of the VOPE Ry – the Finnish Association of the Libre and Open Source in Education. There are similar kind of associations in other countries, too, like the Ofset in France.

To make the FLOSSE Posse site the web site of the association and to server its objectives it should contain some content in Finnish. Our aim is to promote and inform people about the benefits of using FLOSSE in education. Would it be possible to post things to the site in Finnish or would it be better to open another site for this purpose? What are our readers saying?

Anyway, if you all agree with me, the FLOSSE Posse blog could be, from now on, the site of the VOPE Ry. Could it be also so that the board of the association will give rights for people to become authors of the site.

We are also looking for a new president for the association and organizing the board meeting on the matter in a few coming weeks. Would it be possible to have the meeting online? With Skype?