Archive for January, 2007

Essentia Libre

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Are you interested in free/open source software and open content?

Are you interested in to practice your Spanish?

I am.

Essential Libre is a Colombian magazine about open technologies and open content. The issue #5 is now available. Essential Libre is made by volunteers and distributed for free both as PDF and on print. I think someone should sponsor the magazine or start to sell advertisement on it.

From the latest issue you will find, for instance, interview of Alvaro López, article about OLPC in Colombia and an interview of me talking about LeMill.

During the interview I was having oititis media (I just learned a new English word!), pretty high fever and bad jetlag. Considering the fact that there was also some language challenges, I am very happy about the end result.

Sometimes, the people interviewing you are able to formulate your points better than you yourself.

I need help: any Ajax programmers around?

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

I have this one small open source project that has been “frozen” already for two years. To finalize it I would need some help from an Ajax/javaScrip/XML/PHP programmer. If you know these technologies (or are interested in to study them) please contact me.

The project is called “Bisociation Tool”. It’s a simple web based tool for idea generation. It is based on Victor Papanek’s idea described in his book Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change (1971, 1984).

I have a semi-functional prototype with some documentation online. If you read the whole page and check the page source you will understand how it should work and what is still missing.

The final result – what you get out by pressing “summary file” or “send” (to email address) – is not specified in the page. The result should be a printable PDF with the description of the idea printed in it with a grey font, so that you can start to design the product on top of it with a pen. Before generating the summary file there could be a drop down menu where you could choose to work further only with ideas that can be implemented “now”, in “2-5 years” etc.

Please, contact me (teemu.leinonen at uiah.fi) if you can and are interested in this small project.

Wlan device for school children

Friday, January 19th, 2007

If my daughter would go to school next autumn I would purchase her some pencils, pens, eraser, ruler, pencil box and a Wlan internet tablet with touch screen.

Schools, public transportation (busses, metros, local trains), our home and offices at work are all covered with Wlan network. With Wlan we could be in touch with free Voip video calls for more than 90% of our daily life. From the presence information I would know where my daughter is and doing what, and she would know where am I, and what I am doing.

The Wlan Internet tablet would not be used only for communicating with parents. First at all it would be a learning tools, just like the pens and the rulers in the pencil box.

I would show her how to draw with the touch screen – actually she does this already. I would teach her how to use Wikipedia – actually she knows already what it is. I would add important RSS-feeds to the feed reader, so that she could follow news she is interested in. We would practice how to search and receive books that are available in a public library and how to check maps and bus timetables. We could also upload some e-books and audio books to the device.

The actually device could be the children’s machine ($100 Laptop/OLPC), which I start to like more and more every day. It is small, robust and designed for children. With the price of 450 USD I cold get one for my daughter and same time donate one for a child in a developing country.

Another option could be the Apple iPhone. It is very nice and I am sure the usability of it is just excellent. For some reason, it does not feel a right product for a 6 or 7 year old. It is a bit pricy (499 USD) and I am pretty sure it does not come with Voip.

 Wlan device for school children
Next autumn my choice would probably be the latest Nokia’s N880 or Nokia 770 Internet tablet. I am not sure if the children’s machine will be available, and there are several good reasons to claim that the iPhone is not that good idea anyway. With my daughter we already have played with the 770 and she is very fluent with the touch screen. The usability is “pretty good” Nokia quality. The N880 comes with a camera making the video Voip calls possible. The prices are for N880; 399 USD and for the 770; 359.99 USD. Very reasonable if compared to PCs.

If I would be the head of the Helsinki city department of education I would seriously consider to spend my PC/IT budget fully to these and put them to school libraries where children could borrow them. One Wlan device for each 5 children – at first.

Ozmozr – Power for Educators and Academics

Friday, January 19th, 2007

Have you seen the Ozmozr? It’s a bit difficult to explain what Ozmozr is, but we may call it social-knowledge-management or social-informal-learning site. It’s a meta social networking, meta aggregator and meta link sharing site. It is still alpha version and the user interface is very uneasy and noisy. But the idea is very good.

I feel that even more important than the idea, is the fact that Ozmozr is developed in the Center for Open and Sustainable Learning, Department of Instructional Technology at Utah State University, USA.

Why I think this is important?

I see that academic groups operating in the field of educational technology should be much more like the one in Utah. They should do research, design and release software (and hardware).

Focus on evaluation of educational technology that is brought to the field by companies or authorities is not enough. Writing texts is not enough. Academics must write code.

This means that in addition to research publications, also software (and hardware) should be recognized as academic results and outcomes. In the academic world this translates to money.

If you have a look of the Utah group’s list of publication and their list of software projects (what a list!) you’ll see that they do both. They publish research papers and release software. We may ask which one will have a greater impact to the world of education?

Still, there wouldn’t be one without the other. You must know your field to build meaningful software for the field. Who knows the best the field of education? Educators and researchers of teaching and learning or software entrepreneurs and educational authorities?

Maybe we should have educational technology conference dedicated for “academic” or other way experimental educational technology solutions. No papers, no power points. Only demos.

We need local, libre and mobile “Internet”

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

It’s been another month in Colombia. I think I have again learned some important new things in here. Many of these are related to Free/libre and open source software and technology in learning.

Like every vacation in here, this time as well, we spent several days in countryside and in small village called Tobia.

In the whole world there are millions of villages like Tobia. Characteristic for these places are: difficult geological location, not that good basic infrastructure, poorly connected, limited public transportation, shortage of skilled labor and little economical activity. If you include all the difficult neighborhoods in mega-cities of southern hemisphere, we may conclude that billions of people live in this kind of environments. This is reality for more than 50% of the world population.

Tobia is a lovely place – no doubt. People are nice and relaxed. Weather is good all around the year. Mountains and rivers around the village offer nice possibilities for out door activities. Tobia has a lot potential for tourism. What makes things difficult is the lack of information and communication channels.

Examples: In Tobia I was told a rumor – actually I heard it first time two or three years ago – that soon there will be a new highway that is planned to go very close to the village. When asking when it will be ready nobody was able to give even estimation of the year when it will be there. Another night when asking from the locals if there are restaurants to have a dinner, we were told that “no – no restaurants, as far as we know”. Ten minutes walk around gave us very different result: there are few restaurants here and there, if you just look closely enough inside the houses.

The new highway would naturally change many things in the village. It could boom the slowly rising tourism industry. Easily available information about the restaurants would also be good for the whole village – both for the locals and the visitor.

This kind of information is critical for all economic activity in this kind of villages. If I am planning to start a business, I really need to know how and about how many (10 or 1000?) people will find it. So, I need to know if there will be a highway and when it is ready (at least the year!)?. I also need to know how my customers will be fed (or not) after they have consumed my product or service. I need to know if there are restaurants.

In Tobia – and most of the villages and neighborhoods alike – there are no local newspaper or radio station. Basically nobody is reporting about the local issues, those which really are important for all the people living in there.

Starting a local newspaper or radio station would probably become too expensive. The Government of course could start these, but I am afraid that even for them there are too many villages and neighborhoods, to have one in each of them.

This makes me to conclude that we need:

  • Local information and communication services that are community or entrepreneur driven and economically sustainable.
  • These should be libre and free in a sense that anyone with very little investment should be able to present news, concerns and advertisements in the service.

So, how this could be done?

  • The business should be in advertisements and/or in small fees paid by the people using the service.
  • The actually service should run on cheapest possible server that can be used with: 1) WLAN devices, such as computers and mobile phones; (2) GSM/data, GPRS, 3G mobile phones; and (3) even with the simple GSM/SMS/audio mobile phones. A good candidate to be the “server” is a mobile phone running web server (Apache on S60/Symbian).
  • For mobile phones there should be a client making it possible to posts audio notes to the server under different categories. If you don’t have “smart phone” you should be able to do it with SMS and your voice (compare: voice mail). MobilED server could be useful in here.

Now when reading what I actually wrote here, I see that what I am proposing is a craigslist with the exceptions that the content should be primary audio, naturally in local languages and usable with mobile phones.