skepticism on collaborative learning, Sugar and OLPC

It's natural for people to feel skeptical about projects that claim to be able to do miracles, which I suppose is what it might seem that many people think about the actual results that came from testing children that were learning using the OLPC XO laptops running sugar, and allowing for collaborative learning without much need for the interference of a teacher. The results of the studies showed that children who used the devices were at least 4-5 months more advanced in their learning during a 2 year period when the devices were used, compared to their counterparts who continued with the normal education. 2 years is little time in which to study the true potential that these learning devices really had, but clearly, it was not negative, but highly positive and didn't result in the need for more money to be thrown at the project as was initially expected (teachers were supposed to be trained to use the devices, but it was shown that the children and teachers using them, found them intuitive enough, that formal training was not necessary) In many ways, perhaps the project felt like it might threaten the livelihoods of the education industry in the countries where it was practiced, and of course, in impoverished regions, people already have it rough enough that they dont want to be loosing jobs too, which many thought might be the case, if the devices were so effective in eliminating the need for teachers as such,
However, that's not at all the case. The point is, the children in Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay using OLPC xo netbooks running the sugar operating system were able to eagerly learn it by themselves, but surely with the aid of teachers, the process may have been even more successful than it was, and its that kind of rhetoric, political discussion, and dare I say it, marketing that needs to happen to embrace the users, the technology, the teachers, and the whole project itself. Marketing has never been a strong suit of the people involved in this project, as they are not sales people, but mostly teachers, developers, hardware integrators, and people involved in the day to day management of the running of such a system. I imagine they understand the need for marketing and a good image, but it has never been at the top of their agenda, they're just not that type of people. This is not apple, or microsoft, trying to sell an idea that is just that, they are not selling anything but the results of trials conducted during a 2 year period which were successful. Attacking those results and especially the people who gave their time and energy to a project that frankly is far better for our planet's future than many other things, seems perverse.
For more information check the blog itself that explains what I've stated above in better detail:
edutechdebate.org/massive-open-online-courses/the-one-laptop-per-child-corollation-with-massive-open-online-courses/

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From server based websites to frontend app based distro systems

Hi there,
So, I thought I'd mention some other frameworks, plugin systems and the like that could really help habari get some of its modjo back. Some of you may find it slightly capricious of me to be mentioning other blogging software like tumblr and wordpress, but truth be told, due to their large user bases, they've really been looking at the wide picture and finding tools that would help make the process of content creation and'how its displayed far easier and more efficiently than it once was.
I'll start by talking about framworks that are html5 based software. To be honest, the emergence of true html 5 frameworks which include recipes that combine just the right amount of html, javascipt and css3 are the true heroes in this new style of coding often referred to as web 2.5 or web 3.0

For one, what makes this different from previous methods of programming is that the concentration is no longer on the backend as it once was (ie.. do everything with php, pearl, asp, coldfusion, or even more modern frameworks like django and ralls.) A point in favour of the latter, including sme advanced php frameworks like symphony and zen, are that they try to minimise the backend work where possible, plugging into frontends and synchronising with these wherever possible.

So today it makes sense to be using rails with integration to bootstrap, foundation, themble bones or other html 5 coding routines and frameworks. The same goes for modern frameworks that have similar injection mechanisms like django, symphony and zend, and even html5 only systems that fit into databases and web servers, especially the lighter ones like sqlite, and lighthppd and even webrick.

The past is based on heavy duty, performance driven and highly scalable backend systems that were truly necessary at a time when most people used computers tha just couldnt handle the requirements of a single system without backend support. Today, most people actuallly use their mobiles, tablets, and netbooks to browse the web. But regardless of their very different screen sizes and internal systems, certain things have happened in the market place which against all odds, most people would regard one to be crazy to predict.... a system that is pretty ubiquitous, that works on multiple devices, and that lives in a world where Microsoft is no longer the dominant player.

Throwing away a lot of his bloatware, has allowed frontend only systems that run on linux based android operatiing systems to run pretty flawlessly for the most part. he real important backend stuff has becomes totally appliance based, but not in the way it was once envisaged... no, today its about downloading data to you device, and using it on the frontent, with very little actually being run from the backend, rather it is a set of instructions that are running through common communications protoclöls that can handle milllions if not billions of concurrent directions and can do pretty much anything in terms of sharing based apps, something that has yet to develop, especially in the area of education.... but it will.

There is much more to talk about here, but I hope I made it obvious that things are a changing right now quite dramatically, because of a whole set of technologies, both hardwaŕe related and software related which will make it so much easier for the everyday person to transmit, share, and have their content distributed like never before, whether its to a person with a tablet, a computer, a notebook, or a mobile phone, and more and more prominently on Televsion sets themselves.

That will probably be the discussion of a future article that deserves its own thread, as computers, video, and film start to converge completely perhaps in a way some people expected but surelz in ways most people haven imagined yet.

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The future of software and hardware tech

The last year has seen a really large amount of innovation both in the software fields and hardware fields, and to be honest its one of the most exciting times to be witnessing, as technology that used to be very expensive is suddenly a tenth of the price compared to 2-3 years ago. This means a lot of research and development has gone mainstream and is now available in every day appliances and gadgets. 2013 is definetly the year of 2 different technologies, but which are integrally connected from a developer and economic standpoint. When technologies converge in this way, it leads to a large amount of innovation and even invention in some cases. We are talking about a standardization in software systems and prototypes along with various hardware advances and integration into pre-existing hardware systems.

On the one hand we have the almost ubiquitous use and understanding of client side appliances, which the majority of us call apps, and on the other hand we have the hardware that these apps are filling our screens with, whether they are tiny, small, large or gigantic. Indeed, its this convergence of apps with the hardware that they control which has allowed for a massive plethora of different kinds of advances.

This has all happened almost by accident as a synergy of good luck, cheap hardware and inquisitive development. By now I'm sure we've all heard comments like, its the year of the tablets, or its the year of cheap High resolution TV and computing, or even the year of DIY creations, be they 3D models programmed into a computer and printed out with 3D printers, or the creation of more traditional items from clothing to footware, low volume book prints sent straight to your doorstep, or the integration of environmentally friendly tech of one kind or another by made to order companies.

The truth is that technology has hit so many different market sectors at once, that is has left us with a vacuum of new hitherto uninvented, uninnovated and in many cases unimaginable products. So its kind of a waste to start concentrating o,n individual technologies, although there are certain to be advances there too, but if one looks laterally at the expanse of new innovations, especially in the form of gadgets or the components that run them, you just might feel that inner light bulb explode before you know it.

So where do you start? Well, why not pick a technology that you are familiar with and enjoy using, lets say touch based tablets for arguments sake, and choose a particular field that you've always felt strongly about, how about dieting. And then take those 2 ideas and combine them with yet more items, how about medical sensors for feeling blood pressure, measuring ph levels, sugar levels, and calories burnt.

I think one already sees what I'm getting at and all we've done is think about a number of different technologies, most if not all, already existing as products in their own right. Now all you have to do is start the process of combining all we've talked and thought about to make a gadget which will conveniently fit your personality and with a little luck become something people must have,.

I have, of course, simplified the whole process here so you can decide whether you'll be creating a tablet app that connects medical sensors that are monitored by your gadgets software keeping everything in chek, as well as wirelessly connecting to things like the refrigerator that monitor what foods the subject has really been eating, Even when he or she are our of the house, geolocation will store data like, how much walking, running and going to the toilet is taking place, and if that happens to be at the local organic deli you've been mentioning repeatedly. In fact there are so many choices to be made you are quickly turning your project into a small R and D laboratory, something impossible even 5 years ago, without considerable funds.

Today you can be working on various custom web sites based on modern html 5 and current CMS and blogging frameworks which would have taken months or even years just a couple of years ago. Today, websites that are considerably more potent than those created from the ground up without using frameworks, can take days to create. The same thing goes for mobile based applications, tablet apps, and the converging of Television, apps and the internet. Even gaming has become the realm of many smaller independent companies, where previously more money than hollywood movies were needed to create a game that might become a best seller. Even hardware creation has become something capable of innovating with just a couple of people involved.

In other words, an IT specialist is no longer focused on just one technology, but really needs to take in a whole host of different fields, from communications to marketing, from programming to design, and even physics, biology and chemistry, if you are looking into nanotech. The good news is, its become much easier to learn all of these respective fields, even without going to a ivy league university. indeed, if you know where to look, the information is out there in a very compact form that allows a smart user to really understand information hitherto limited to the elite of universities, schools, and the like. These increasing information flows are just an extension of our living and breathing internet, and its a shame to waste that.

So the message here is, why not go forth and create your own little R and D lab, the costs will be minimal, the possibilities massive, and the majority of your time probably spent on coming up with novel ideas, whether they are to make money, or make the world a better place, or even more optimistically, both. Its obvious there is a lot of ambition required to throw yourself head first into such endeavors, but if you don't you might just be working for a company that is doing just that, but where you are forced to stay in your cubicle, doing your very segregated work, without understanding the bigger picture, surely the most interesting part of all this.

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Habari and bootstrap, perhaps a miracle framework match?

I know the site has been sort of left to its own devices for a while, mostly due to personal matters concerning family and illness, but that's not what this news site is about so I'll try to keep that kind of news to a minimum. This is just a message letting people know that I have a whole set of articles that I've been writing that I'll be publishing over the next couple of weeks. Expect the site to change quite a bit as well as I play with some of habari's new api features and try to integrate twitter's bootstrap library which is a marvelous javascript+css library made for the masses. I've used it in some other sites that work with rails and django (python based framework) So far there are many examples on bootstrap's own site, showing all the possibilities and style examples. In many ways its the perfect piece of technology for user wanting to create a site from the ground up, without using a CMS or blogging software like wordpress or habari.

Wordpress, being the real mainstream blogging software has already attracted developers to incorporate bootstrap into its themes. But, the way wordpress has been developed means that they are quite limited in how they can incorporate new framework technology like this. Pure php, rails, python and low level blog and cms frameworks will be able to integrate this tech far better and allow users who want to build things like habari based blogs with a whole new litany of exciting tools which are extremely easy to integrate, and have excellent documentation which will allow them to see/test what they'd like to use, before going into the coding / designing aspects of web development. Truthfully, bootstrap has had a lot of help from twitter developers and its community, as they've taken it upon themselves to get into all aspects of new html 5 possibilities, from usability to ease of use for the developer, and obvious hard work in research and development and documentation.

A lot of what I've written might sound a little intimidating, but a real effort at simplifying both the commands available and how to use them, have made bootstrap a beautiful framework that I can bet devs won't know how they lived without it. I'm not sure at this point how much work has been done to integrate bootstrap and habari, but from the admittedly little browsing I've done, the answer is not much, and certainly not on a level involving multiple devs. Though I in no way feel I am an expert habari dev (I shamefully admit that the majority of my recent previous projects have been entirely wordpress based due to its absolute ease of use and speed to production.) But I am aware of the limitations wordpress has due to its underlying framework, which has become quite bloated and is difficult to get involved in. Habari has a simpler framework, and seems to follow the simplicity obvious in true html 5 frameworks like bootstrap, so I for one, would welcome creating a git repo and starting some kind of integration between habari and bootstrap. Keeping with the simplicity principles, I would recommend allowing access to bootstrap's functions on a much lower level than just the themes. In essence bootstrap could be the framework building tool, upon which themes could then be placed, using bootstrap functions in a miriad of ways.

Perhaps its difficult to describe this without getting interested folks together and working collaboratively on a visual architectural plan. I don't think ripping habari apart to make bootstrap fit in is the way to go, but surely there must be some small surgical engineering that can be done to make the most important parts of the framework to fit in with habari, then taking advantage that most of bootstrap would be used on a higher level at the themeing and styling parts of habari, a place where habari is sadly lacking but could leap ahead by several milestones by well managed bootstrap integration for the habari blog creator, and the habari developer.

Ok, so that's enough about that. Its worth taking a look at bootstrap here:
http://twitter.github.com/bootstrap/

Take a look at all the links on the top, the very site itself is built using only bootstrap itself, which is quite a feat considering its entirely frontend based with no unnecessary back and forth communication between server and client. The technology even gave me a much needed inspiration at using rails, which I'd always found lacking in many departments due to its overly strict rigidity in terms of its code formatting, but blending it together with bootstrap and the ease with which it was done due to the foresight (or maybe luck ;-) of the rails devs was revelationary and inspiring.

And seriously, if you are interested in or already integrating bootstrap with habari, send me a mail or leave a comment.

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