GCompris, the best suite of free educational software for children

gcompris
GCompris is amazing, its fun and kids love it. Over the years I’ve distributed a lot of educational freedom respecting software and GCompris is popular. Lets look at some info from the GCompris Wikipedia article:

It is available for Linux, Mac OS X and other systems. Binaries compiled for Microsoft Windows version are distributed as crippleware with a restricted number of activities; it is possible to access all the activities in Windows for a fee.

GCompris has more than 100 activities related to:

* Computer discovery: keyboard, mouse, different mouse gestures
* Algebra: table memory, enumeration, double entry table, mirror images
* Science: the canal lock, the water cycle, the submarine, electric simulations
* Geography: place the country on the map
* Games: chess, memory, connect 4, oware, sudoku
* Reading: reading practice
* Other: learn to tell time, puzzle of famous paintings, vector drawing, cartoon making

The name GCompris is a French pun impossible to translate. It comes from the French “J’ai compris” [?e kompri], which is French for “I have understood”, and is pronounced the same way as the name of the program would be by a French speaker.

Another interesting thing is that it is translated in more than 40 languages, perhaps that should be added to the Wikipedia article.

Here’s a short video on youtube that gives us a brief look at it. “Online Tutorial: GCompris Educational Software“.

I have fond memories of using GCompris with adults and children so make sure you check it out.

“The most essential resource of any society is not a physical resource, it’s a psycho-social resource. It’s the spirit of good will; the spirit of helping your neighbour.” — Richard Stallman

Silence – L’autre endroit

Another great album from Silence on Jamendo. Download Silence – L’autre endroit.
Here’s another nice one. Silence – EncreMusic. I used track 6 for the Worlds best desktop video.

I haven’t felt this way about music in a long time but this is free art, free as in freedom. Tracks 6, 7 and 8 are probably my favourites so far. Track 8 – Larmes is my favourite emo song, I looked it up in english and it turns out Larmes is french for tears or weeping.

Elearning Failure opinion – part 1

Recently we’ve seen Wikieducator make a strong challenge to formal educational institutions using a model of open development with the works of authorship licensed under CC-BY-SA. Its still based around the usual model of “content” development, distribution and support services but in a free and open way, free to use for any purpose. Most educational institutions believe that they are protecting knowledge from being destroyed by restricting access to it. I guess this means protecting their precious malcontent from all the dirty little destructive thieves they would otherwise call users. To them the goal of elearning is to turn a student into a malcontent developer or malcontent “creator” so that someone can pray to them or pay them to give up all their rights to the malcontent they created so it can be locked away in their secret society made up of Learning Malcontent Systems designed to deprive knowledge workers from collaborating to modify and improve their environment.

Then they turn around a tell us thats just the way the world works because they can’t figure out how to put food on the table at least until the “creators” build another artificial learning environment more like an ecosystem. Their ecosystem is designed to make the weak and underprivileged suffer until they become extinct and for learners to take a passive attitude, like here “let me fill your brain up with more of our malcontent, don’t ask why just accept it”, “don’t try to preserve your values, thats not how our ecosystem works” . They should call their social club the failed knowledge society. I’m more productive on a sick day then they are in a year. They discovered our work so give the guy an award and start making up some pop culture pedagogy and give him another award.

One of the things I really like about free knowledge communities is that it encourages and enables civil society to take the initiative and augment the public education system to make a difference collectively, towards a sustainable world. In other words you don’t have to resign to this attitude that this is just the way the world works, you can actively improve yourself and your community and make a better world. This is something you can do right now so don’t under value how much of a difference you can make by sharing knowledge.
FKC Node

Withholding information that could help everyone advance is a form of combat. The caveman knowledge protectors have already lost this battle. So hopefully some of my local networks will free themselves of these horrible burdens and find ways to remain competitive by making their work available as libre knowledge.

Users of libre knowledge are free to

(0) use the work for any purpose

(1) study its mechanisms, to be able to modify and adapt it to their own needs

(2) make and distribute copies, in whole or in part

(3) enhance and/or extend the work and share the result similarly.

Freedoms 1 and 3 require Free file formats and free software as defined by the Free Software Foundation.

Mediawiki the proven best collaborative networked learning resource development platform in the world

Wikia

Mediawiki is free software, it is famous as the software platform used in the success of Wikimedia Foundation projects, the most widely known one is Wikipedia. The greatest success in the social construction of information in the world. The largest and most successful free knowledge projects in the world and all this free from proprietary contraints. Most educational institutions haven’t even comes close to this success in the advancement of human knowledge, in fact the opposite is true. Not only has it contributed to the success of Wikimedia projects but its also used in many educational projects, like Wikia, a mobile audio encyclopedia, the one laptop per child project, UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning’s Open Educational Resources Community, wikieducator, wikischolar and many, many, many others.

Mediawiki provides a simple, feature rich environment for editing and contributing. Its ease of use has no doubt been a contributing factor in the growth of human knowledge.

I use Mediawiki for my Wiki, there’s a collection, of hacks, extensions and tools for extending Mediawiki thats constantly improving every day. You can see the details of how I set up my Wiki here.

The Worlds Best Desktop Environment

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSw8Yfg0tpM[/youtube]

To enable your computer to play both video (Theora) and audio (Vorbis) files, please select a program from the listings here.

When it comes to designing digital learning environments we need a powerful interactive multimedia system that allows the user to control the experience and pace through self-selected hypermedia. Software Libre operating systems serve the personal needs of the user rather than focusing the user’s attention on the machine. The strengths of the Software Libre desktop for education, research, productivity, or entertainment are that it’s imaginative, making possible various tasks that can not be accomplished in other desktops.

We also need an environment that fosters a culture of cooperation, collaboration and social interaction. The Software Libre learning environment is optimized to provide access to information and communication technologies, express our imagination and creativity, process information which can be freely studied, applied, copied and/or modified, by anyone, for any purpose and distributed through self organising connective knowledge amplification networks for a more productive society and the benefit of humanity.

The video above is a good example of these principles in action, you can:

A big thanks to Noiesmo for his help.

Peaks and troughs

I’ve been lacking the motivation to write something with substance, I think the main factor is that my friends returned to work last week and I’m not really keen to work in the public service anymore, at times I really enjoyed working in secondary schools but things are actually getting worse, they’ve introduced the orange card and I’m not sure whats happening with the pedagogical drivers license, hopefully teachers fully reject it.

I don’t want to turn this into a rant so here’s some thinking music. I set it to autostart because apparently Interactive, collaborative, immersive environments powered by hypermedia engines and artificially intelligent agents like my blog are the future. I thought our children were the future. You might like to know that the Semantic web is a pipedream but only if you own this patent, that actually looks like a step backwards. I remember the first time I tried to write an academic paper.

Anyway I’ll try to get my perirhinal cortex and other medial temporal structures to function properly. Hopefully caffeine will do the trick.

[audio:http://moses.last.fm/download/61608200/Les+Yeux+Ferm%C3%A9s+-+Partie+II.mp3]

Download Ogg “Red Nebula : cent raisons – Les Yeux Fermés – partie II”
Check out the Album.

Edit: Autostart off

Links Jan 22

One of the things I should have mentioned in the WordPress post is using the Feed List plugin to display rss feeds on posts and pages, thats what I’m doing for this post, I use delicious or scuttle to tag some bookmarks with todays date and then just insert a single line of text, below you see the results.

Links for Jan 22 2007

Linus Torvalds at linux.conf.au in Sydney today

From Builder AU:

“One of the issues I have is that the most important thing is good technology. It’s not about being commercial or non-commercial, open source or closed source. To me, the reason I do open source is, it is fun.

That is the most basic thing. “I also happen to believe that it is the best way to, eventually, get the best end result. Part of that is the ‘eventually’. At any particular point in time, it may not always be the best thing right then,” he said.

He also talks about the GNU GPL and DRM. Read the whole article.

Wikipedia: [[Linus_Torvalds]] is best known for initiating the development of the Linux kernel.

Second Life viewer available under GNU GPL

On Top of the Virtual World

The Second Life Viewer source code has been released under the GNU General Public License, the most well known and widely used [[Free_software]] License. Read the press release. I haven’t had a really close look at the code, at a glance it looks like you would have to install some non-free software to build the client or disable the sound. Its tempting to build it but I think I’ll wait a while, someones likely to build an Ubuntu package though I’m not sure they’ll be able to distribute it. You can download Second Life binaries free of charge and play it online for Mac OSX and windows, the Linux client is still alpha. I’ve used 2 previous versions of the Linux client and they seemed fine so if the thought of compiling source code isnt your thing then download that version.

Wikipedia: [[Second_Life]]

Second Life (abbreviated SL) is an online virtual world provided by Linden Lab which came to international attention in late 2006 and early 2007. Through a client program, subscription-based users interact with other users through avatars, providing an advanced social network service.

While SL is referred to as a game, it, in general, does not have points, scores, winners or losers, levels, an end-strategy, or most of the other characteristics of games. Users, who are often called “Residents” amongst themselves, explore, meet other users, participate in individual and group activities or “events”, buy items, virtual property and services from one another. Long-term users learn new skills and mature socially, climbing a virtual hierarchy.

In Second Life, some people earn a living, some big companies have their own islands and hold global conferences, you can wander around and run into well known celebrities and Harvard Law School offers portions of its course in the virtual world. Read the [[Second_Life]] article on Wikipedia for more information and statistics.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the use of virtual environments in education some of them use dungeons and dragons escapist fantasy MMORPG’s, Second Life is better than that, rather then assembling your gang of undead necromancers and troll warriors to go slay the elf godess for her +50 charisma breastplate and hoard it from your guild members, you do cool stuff like create things and add value to the world.

For people that follow Planet TALO you will have seen that Jokay has been actively exploring the use of Second Life in education for quite some time now so make sure you visit her blog and check out her research. She’s developed some really interesting activities and built up an area for training.