Open Source Education and Loongson reduce the digital divide for migrant workers kids

After months of work from corporations, institutions, universities, Open Source communities and NGOs the first fully Open Source based lab is launched in Beijing. The purpose of organizing this Opening ceremony on November 12th is to raise concerns of Migrant Schools education from different organizations!

Everyday hundreds of thousands of children from migrant workers families who are building modern China fail to receive proper education and can’t get basic computer teaching, leaving them even more behind and increasing the digital divide. The complexity of addressing education needs for the part of the Chinese population requires a lot of problems to be solved and computer access is only one of the problems. However computers coupled with the possibilities of accessing the Internet will give them the chance to discover and access invaluable content which can secure their future and give them access to job they didn’t even know existed!

Delivering proper computer based education to poor schools issues range from electricity consumption from a full classroom (one normal PC can easily consume 60 to 200W, multiplied by 20 or 50…), teacher knowledge about IT and integration of the digital tool into their curriculum, content cost and licensing, and of course computers cost.

Today in Wende we have managed to address all the problems above thanks to technology, vision, and collaboration from various parties. The Chinese Academy of Sciences has built a general purpose low powered CPU that runs free software and which enables to consume as low as 15-17W per machine at a very competitive price, enabling manufacturers such as Lemote and Dexxon to build some of the cheapest netbooks on the market.

Thanks to Dexxon for its contributions and sponsorship of the classroom, WenDe today has a fully equipped 20 Gdiums Loongson based set up. Dexxon has sponsored Mandriva, a French Linux software company to bring the latest technology on the Loongson architecture and customized a Linux distribution for education.

Furthermore non-profit organizations such as Greenboard and LEAD have been building the education material together with teachers and released them under an Open Source license so any school can use them for free, modify and improve as they wish.

The last part has been completed by Greenboard and CSIP who are also graciously training the group of selected teachers by WenDe’s headmaster in order to get them ready to deliver the initial curriculum. LEAD is currently training some of their members to get ready to deliver the same kind of training to other migrants schools.

A special thank you goes to COPU for their support throughout the project and helping Greenboard and Dexxon to connect the dots.

So from now on the children of Wende school will be able to access the latest software and technology to become computer literate but also to improve their knowledge in general topics such as maths, English, geography, arts, problem solving, programming and much more.

The organizations involved will continue to build new curriculum, more exercise and will also get more teachers involved in the near future. One of the advantages of using a free software licensing model is that all the cost of such a solution only goes to the hardware and any school can just download, use and adapt the content to their needs. Hopefully we will soon see a strong teacher community improving this initial work and working together to create better free educational content for our children.

The inauguration was organized by Greenboard core members
As a core member of Greenboard, we hosted an inauguration on 12th November at Wende School
Celebrated our success with Chairman Lu and Kewei from Chinese OSS Promotion Union, Dr. Qiu from CSIP, Liwen and Garfield from LEAD, Laurette from the French Embassy, Professor Zhuang from Beijing Normal University, YunYun from Friends of New Citizens, Wende headmaster / teachers / students and many more
We had people from Dexxon, Greenboard, Chinese OSS Promotion Union, LEAD, CSIP French Embassy, Beijing Normal University, Friends of New Citizens, Beijing LUG, Lemote, Wende School and other Migrant Schools!
Professor Zhuang, at School of Educational Technology of Beijing Normal University will definitely join the Greenboard project helping to improve the teaching skills of Wende and other Migrant Schools teachers!
Zhuang Xiuli, Professor at School of Educational Technology of Beijing Normal University will definitely bring a lot to the Greenboard education project helping to improve the teaching skills of Wende and other Migrant Schools teachers!
Class demonstration given by Wende teacher, students were very concentrated to learn how to paint with computer
Class demonstration given by Wende teacher, students were very concentrated to learn how to paint with computer (even the room was full of visitors)
After 3 classes, students could paint something really amazing with Koularpaint, isn't it coo?
After 3 classes, primary students could paint something really amazing with Kolourpaint!

Wende School Project – Part 3

Teacher Training - Week 4
Teacher Training – Week 4

In Wende School Trial Part 1 and Part 2, I mainly introduced how we identified the school, our preparation work and part of the training. In this post, I will cover the demonstration class that teachers give us and how efficient our training has been so far.

With the target of having the children use the Gdiums by November, we have been raising our teacher on-site training session to twice a week. Another part of the training should be done by the teachers themselves and we insisted that they take the Gdiums at home in order to get familiar with the machine and the system when they have free time.

Migrant Schools always run on very low budgets, making them nearly impossible to attract qualified teachers, buying updated textbooks and avoiding high turn-over in both teachers and learning population.  Talking to the English is was a great example of this, and bringing her the few educational applications we had (dictionary, text-to-speech, vocabulary learning exercises, with native speaker voices, etc) definitely made a great upgrade to her existing teaching arsenal. She is now hoping to use the Gdium classroom daily or as much as possible based on other teacher schedule. She gave us a copy of the textbooks she uses so we can incorporate the vocabulary and the prerecorded words into the software we’re using (LLN (Linux Letters and Numbers). And we’re glad to see her joining the teacher training classes once the (children) mid term examination is over (in 2 weeks).

Class Demonstration from Wende teacher
Class Demonstration from Wende teacher

So 4 sessions into the teacher training it was now time to give them a little exam and see how they would be doing using the system with their students. We started off with 4 children, then 10 and then a full 20 children classroom. It was really exciting to see the classroom being used for its intended purpose: getting the children to learn maths, English and art without even noticing it! For most of them it was there first encounter with a computer, but this didn’t seem to slow them down at all. The teachers did really well as well and we should be starting teaching them content development to build upon and enhance the existing Open Educational Resources we have provided to start using the Gdiums in the classroom. In order to make the project more scalable, we are cooperating with organizations like LEAD and CSIP to have more trainers. If you are interested in this project, feel free to jump in!