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Linux Handhelds in African Schools

timothy posted more than 8 years ago | from the all-depends-on-execution dept.

Education 148

blastard writes "Seems some students will be getting to use their Linux handhelds in school without getting into trouble. BBCNews has a story on fifth-graders in Kenya who will be using "E-slates" from EduVision. The EduVision site is available in German, English and Swahili."

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HRMPH (-1, Troll)

u-238 (515248) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810918)

African children with handhelds? Has the world gone boinkers? What's next, Fiji Polynesians With Synthetic Aperture Radar Sensors?

Re:HRMPH (2, Interesting)

Grey Ninja (739021) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810931)

I actually see the benefit in this. The handhelds are designed to replace the textbooks that would normally be in use. I would imagine that buying the textbooks, shipping the textbooks, and keeping the textbooks up to date would be a lot more expensive in the long run than by simply buying inexpensive computers for the kids. The computers likely wouldn't be anything to write home about, but it would get the job done.

Re:HRMPH (2, Insightful)

-brazil- (111867) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810945)

I would imagine that buying the textbooks, shipping the textbooks, and keeping the textbooks up to date would be a lot more expensive in the long run than by simply buying inexpensive computers for the kids.

I imagine you imagine wrongly. No handheld is going to get that cheap anytime soon, and textbooks need "updates" far less frequently than hardware needs repairing or replacing.

Re:HRMPH (1)

RenatoRam (446720) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810985)

you forget that in many states public school has some (little) funding.

The pda-textbooks would obviously be owned by the school administration, and the school taxes will pay them.

Besides... where I live textbooks are updated EVERY year. It is true that in some cases is only a stupid marketing ploy to avoid used books (many students get the "outdated" edition anyway: they only shuffle some pages).
In other cases however the textbooks really change very much from year to year, and you cannot use an old edition.

Banking and commerce techniques, accounting, civil law (or whatever is it called in english), informatics, and so on.

(btw, I'm speaking from Italy)

Re:HRMPH (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811069)

You must have gone to school in a nice place, I think my elementary school in NYC used books that were a decade+ old and my middle school wasn't much better. I then went to a magnet HS but I doubt the regular High Schools have anywhere near new books.

Re:HRMPH (1)

RenatoRam (446720) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811114)

AFAIR in italy elementary school books are free (as in beer), since they are provided with tax money.

It might have changed in the years (I'm 27), but anyway, most local administrations pay for elementary books (new every year, afaik) if the state does not.

And if you can't afford books for the complusory school years, you can bet a way for you to obtain a copy max 1 or 2 years old will be found.

Re:HRMPH (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811123)

In NYC you basically borrow a book from the school for the year, and then return it at the end of the year. So the longer the school reuses them for, the less they pay per year. I think they get new ones once the old ones start falling apart and tape can't hold them togother anymore. These are hardcover books (heavy but decently durable) and while there should be a "class set" so that you don't have to lug the thing to school there usually isn't (guess where they get books from to replace lost/destroyed copies...).

Re:HRMPH (1)

pe1rxq (141710) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810999)

Textbooks might not need much updating, but imagine the vast library their are going to be able to offer.

Jeroen

Re:HRMPH (0, Redundant)

disntrstd (705189) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811063)

He's got a point. It should be +5 insightful troll.

Does it run Ubuntu...? (2, Funny)

Shturmovik (632314) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810922)

Ha. Ha. Ha. Sigh...I kill me...

Weird! (-1, Offtopic)

Shturmovik (632314) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810971)

My karma just dropped from 'positive' to 'neutral'! Perhaps tomorrow I may even become an electron! Woohoo! Spin baby, spin!

Handhelds and not... (-1, Flamebait)

Radiantal (302895) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810924)

Bongo drums? WTF?

but a question.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11810925)

Where that advanced NIG-RAY technology that I keep hearing about? There they are, the NIGGERS using handhelds and I don't see any NIG-RAYS. DO YOU?!

Re:racist humor = ignorance (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11810936)

The attempted racist humor is getting very old, IMHO. Without normal inhibitions when posting anonymously, I guess a much larger percentage of the population is RACIST that I previously thought.

Re:racist humor = ignorance (0, Redundant)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810966)

Without normal inhibitions when posting anonymously

Well, you're posting anonymous as well arn't you, or am I missing something?

Re:but a question.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811111)

Just... shut the fuck up, ok?
You and your racist jokes are an embarrassment to us all.

Re:but a question.. (1)

stormi (837687) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811938)

yah really dude. this is 2005..... i think we've all realized that the black community contributes as much as any other community by how, so let's all just grow up a bit, yah? racism just isn't 'cool' anymore like it was during.... oh...... slave times? even then it wasnt posh among more educated peoples.

Re:but a question.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11812112)

i think we've all realized that the black community contributes as much as any other community by how

Right on brother! They sure do... to the prison population. hahahaha Kill whitey!

Multilingual (5, Informative)

tagish (113544) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810927)

The EduVision site is available in German, English and Swahili.

No it isn't. Only the English link works. Quality fact checking as ever :)

Re:STOP BED WETTING (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11810950)

PLEASE!

WHAT!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811252)

They didn't even translate it into African!?

the nerve...

(it's a joke,laugh)

Wish we had these... (5, Interesting)

Tavor (845700) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810928)

When I was in Fifth grade, I would have loved having a computer issued to me. Would have greatly furthered my abilities as far as computers go. Of course, there are many problems with this. Textbooks don't run out of batteries, which can be a problem sometimes in rural, third world areas. Think about it, these old textbooks aren't updatable, but they have lasted much longer than these handhelds will likely will. Also, here in the United States we sometimes had more technology in the classroom than our teachers knew what to do with, and that canbe a problem as the students here likely have never seen such devices before. There will be no 'geek-students' to help the teacher, after the Company man leaves. Upgrading from books so soon, when we are still using books in America sounds like a double-edged sword to me.

Re:Wish we had these... (2, Interesting)

dhbiker (863466) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810943)

From what I read on the bbc web the devices are going to be recharged each day at school by docking them into cradles that will be powered off a solar panel on the roof.

Why shouldn't these handhelds last 10 years (or more)? I mean most people upgrade simply to have the latest greatest thing. These handhelds already do everything they need to, the only thing I could see being a necessity is changing the rechargable batteries once the original ones begin going flat too quickly

Re:Wish we had these... (3, Interesting)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811018)

They get dropped and stepped on once, and the screen breaks.

They fall out of a window, and the screen breaks.

A can of food falls on one, and the screen breaks.

They fall of a desk and hit a sharp object (like, for instance, a pencil poking out of a bookbag), and the screen breaks.

They either need to not use touch screens and use a very thick pane of plastic (this won't work with touch screens, and if you can't figure out why I'm not going to explain it), or they need to get the screens for cheap and be capable of swapping them out for cheap.

I don't think that cheap parts are beyond the realm of feasability, though. A lot of the price of current electronics is in the percieved price. There's not a great reason why a $500 electronic device is more expensive than a $100 device. It's all based on what the market can bear, and in this case, it can obviously bear very little.

Re:Wish we had these... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811275)

You go off to school,

A little Linux handheld waits.....

You're 5 minutes late for work,

A little Linux handheld waits.....

You can't decide what to have for lunch,

A little Linux handheld waits.....

You forget the point you're trying to make,

A little Linux handheld waits.....

Re:Wish we had these... (5, Insightful)

millwall (622730) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810958)

There will be no 'geek-students' to help the teacher, after the Company man leaves.

I dont think you should underestimate children in any part of the world.

Give computers to a group of school kids in Dallas, Tokyo, Africa or anywhere and one or two curious of them will understand the in and outs of them in notime.

Not so sure about that.... (3, Informative)

The Mutant (167716) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811122)

I'm EMEA (Europe, The Middle East and Africa) Manager for a multinational financial services institution. Either myself or someone from my team spend a lot of time on client site at banks in Africa, so we've got some insight.

We take a lot for granted in the developed world. Even at the better run banks in Africa things we could do in less than a day take two or more.

Part of the problem is infrastructure : for example, the power in Lagos goes out constantly. Even the banks with UPS' get caught out sometimes.

Part of it is education : the skills just aren't as widely available as compared to the developed countries. Lot's of times it's the blind helping the blind. Yep, they muddle through but it takes far longer.

The OP had more insight into this problem : after the Company Man leaves there definitely will be loads of these devices that are unusable. Efforts of the curious children asdie, we see it all the time in the banks - why would it be different in the remote villages?

Oh and I'm not knocking these folks; they're just doing the best they can and I actually enjoy going down there to help them, but things are a lot different in Africa.

In case you're curious I've got few pix from my last visit/a : [you-suck.com]

Re:Not so sure about that.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811159)

Yeh, MillWall has never been to Africa.
I spent two years down there in the Navy, and
it is one shitty place. If these devices are
let there the curious children will simply sell
them.

Re:Not so sure about that.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811198)

Keep in mind, though, that you're talking about adults, and he's talking about children. The adults you have experience with didn't have much exposure to computers in their childhood - and children learn MUCH FASTER than adults. The point is valid so far as one restricts it to the faculty, but . . .

CHILDREN? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811244)

I've never heard anything so stpid in my life!

Are you suggesting the children are more capable then the adults?

Children in Africa are more concerned with eating. This has to be the stupidest comment that I've ever
read on Slashdot.

Curious children who learn quicker than adults?

Sure.

Re:CHILDREN? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811853)

It is so hard to tell if this is troll or funny.

Re:Wish we had these... (3, Funny)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811251)

Give computers to a group of school kids in Dallas, Tokyo, Africa or anywhere and one or two curious of them will understand the in and outs of them in notime.

But give them a spell-checker and they'll still be wondering how to use it after 14 years.

Re:Wish we had these... (1)

mordors9 (665662) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811253)

That's for sure, look how well the Nigerians took to the internet ;-)

Re:Wish we had these... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811013)

This post was typed on a nearly indestructable IBM Model M keyboard. These are awesome...two weeks ago I discovered a big box full of these, never been used, still in their original packing. I shoved all of my $10 plastic-fantastic keyboards into a closet and am now in 'click-clack' heaven! :-)

Re:Wish we had these... (1)

ThJ (641955) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811169)

*steals one*

Re:Wish we had these... (1)

Chris Kamel (813292) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811043)

When I was in Fifth grade, I would have loved having a computer issued to me.
Actually this statement would hold at any point in time not just in fifth grade. Noone hates free computers.

Re:Wish we had these... (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811237)

, these old textbooks aren't updatable, but they have lasted much longer than these handhelds will likely will.

Isn't that the problem? They currently are stuck with really durable OUT OF DATE books. The textbooks are used well beyond when they should be thrown out.

Re:Wish we had these... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811328)

I better call my local university. Apparently, old textbooks are of no use, and must be thrown out. This could save them tons of library space. We have a 6 floor main library. I'd say 80% of the books are more than 20 years old. They should really just trash them all. Maybe they could even convert that into classrooms.

Re:Wish we had these... (3, Insightful)

staeiou (839695) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811519)

That's a pretty ignorant assumption you have about Africa. The African continent isn't one huge block of savage rural territory ruled by roving tribes. That would be like saying that everyone in Texas rides a horse to work; it might have been true two hundred years ago, but don't base your assumptions on what happened then. Lagos, Nigeria, has a population of over 8 million, which places it above New York City. There are countless other examples of cities that have not just running water and electricity, but just as many luxuries as some American cities. I'm not going to list population statistics (you can look it up yourself), but Africa isn't one huge rural area.

And what do you mean "there will be no geek-students?" Are you saying that most children in Africa are stupider than Americans? And don't say it has to do with the amount of technology you grew up with; fiddling with tech devices has to do with how intuitive and creative you are. Are you saying that African children don't have this?

Most people have this horrific view of Africa from what they see on TV commericals like "Save the Children" and whatnot. They try and paint a horrible, savage view of Africa so that people will donate money to their cause. Yes, there are bad things happening in Africa, but that doesn't mean the entire continent is savage.
I hate it when people think that Africa is a mass of uncivilization, and there is no infrastructure except what the west has so graciously given. Yes, Africa is generally poorer than most continents, but that doesn't mean that all Africans are: a) stupid, b) poor, c)needy of the West's help

Re:Wish we had these... (1)

marafa (745042) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811530)

these old textbooks aren't updatable, but they have lasted much longer than these handhelds will likely will
humph! here in egypt when we write something on stone, it lasts for thousands of years!

eSlate - not much for its size (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11810930)

Look at the size of it! I know the text may be small on screen but just try doodling on that slate... bah, give me an old chalk slate anyday!

Seems solid (3, Insightful)

Seculus (788503) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810951)

This seems like a thoroughly good idea. It would enable the schools to have up to date textbooks without the need to buy a new set of books every time the author decides to release an update. Enterprising students should also find something in there to peak their interest - I know I would have loved to have one of these babies when I was that age !

Re:Seems solid (1)

DavidNWelton (142216) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811146)

Solid enough to use like this?

http://wwwradig.informatik.tu-muenchen.de/~dress le r/jokes.html#Solutions%20for%20a%20small%20Planet

Re:Seems solid (3, Insightful)

oirtemed (849229) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811164)

That, or you could realize that texbooks rarely actually "go out of date", and any updates are usually drivel only intended to produce a new version to sell. I have a feeling this about a lot more thant having an alternative to books. They could easily be recycling out-of-use, landfill bound books from other countries if that were the case. It seems they are more interested in exposing kids to technology and its intrinsic benefits.

The whole idea is crazy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11810953)

I don't get it.

E-slate or iPaq? (2, Interesting)

crahan11 (530704) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810954)

The site mentions the E-slate and its slide out keyboard, yet all the pictures are of students using HP iPaqs. So what are they using?

Re:E-slate or iPaq? (1)

Digital Warfare (746982) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811004)

I suspect the pictures were taken when they used iPaqs, before they knew how shit they actually were. By the time the news team got the pictures back, they had already returned the iPaqs and got E-Slate's :P

Bad idea (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11810962)

Great. Now in addition to the Nigerian 419 scams, we'll get a generation of Kenyan scam artists to deal with...

This will be great (3, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810968)

for children in some countries who want to make contacts in the US to help them smuggle millions of dollars out of their war-torn country

"without getting into trouble"? (2, Interesting)

SLi (132609) | more than 8 years ago | (#11810991)

IANAAmerican, so pardon my ignorance, but do you actually get into trouble there for something like this?

Why on earth?!

Re:"without getting into trouble"? (1)

ggvaidya (747058) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811012)

MPAA, RIAA and all the other *AAs, maybe?

IANAA, either ... hey!

Re:"without getting into trouble"? (1)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811201)

Not that I know of, but it's been a long time since I was in school.

Re:"without getting into trouble"? (2, Informative)

anum (799950) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811718)

The main reason students have "handhelds" in American schools is to play games of one kind or another. Even if they are not loaded with any games they are often a distraction as the kids tend to fiddle with them instead of paying attention to the teacher.

And then there is the issue of cheating. You make crib sheets of the material that you are supposed to have memorized. During the test you just call up the info and write it down. I was doing this sort of thing with a graphing calculator in the early 90s in math class. Just think how useful my Zaurus would have been in History or Chemistry!

And wireless messaging must open up a whole new realm of collaboration when used in class. Pass notes? bah, you could pass whole books or complete test answers.

In order for the American school system to accept this kind of device they will need to either be highly restricted or change the school system entirely.

Re:"without getting into trouble"? (1)

calibanDNS (32250) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811752)

It's been a while since I was in school, but you'd be asked to put the device away if you were using it during class. Outside of class (e.g. during lunch time) would be fine though. Something like this could be seen as a distraction in the US schools if it is not specifically geared for educational use. So, if you brought in your PDA, most teachers would assume that you were playing games or goofing off in general and ask you to put it away. After repeat offenses, the teacher would probably confiscate the device and return it to you at the end of the day.

My two youngest brothers-in-law are 13 and 14, and a few years ago their private school mandated students to use the Palm V. Teachers would beam their homework assignments to them using the IR port so that parents could be aware of their child's assignments. Apparently, you could do anything this amazingy with paper and a pen. Eventually, the PDAs fell out of favor with the teachers (who had demanded them), probably because going around beaming an assignment to 20 or 30 Palms one at a time was tedious or they just couldn't find a legitimate use for them in the classroom. Today's PDAs, with 802.11 and BlueTooth, should be able to do things like this much more efficiently, but I think it'll be a long time before anything like this sees large scale deployment in the US. Mostly, I think the screen size of PDAs is too small for reading long bodies of text (my experience with my Axim X50).

Back on topic, yes you would get in trouble for using PDAs during class in the US school system. For some reason, we ban anything that isn't a pencil, paper, or textbook. Students aren't allowed to wear hats, have cell phones, chew gum, eat, or drink during class. Those are just the restrictions that I can remember off the top of my head. However, some teachers were much more lax and allowed students to get away with some of these things (my 12th grade English Lit teacher for example allowed us to make coffee, tea, or hot chocolate in her classroom before class started).

Re:"without getting into trouble"? (1)

stormi (837687) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811877)

i'm in high school in america.

no cell phones, no cd players or tape players, no PDA's or handheld anythings or little computers or anything that plays games.

no cards of any sort, even for studyhalls or lunch.

no food or drink, even drinks bought from the machines in the school, although gum is ok.

no hats or handkercheifs on the head. no shirts w/ skulls, no spaghetti strap shirts, no thong sandals.

those are just some of the various stupid rules i can think of right now. oh, and on the computers almost all game sites are blocked, and the net nanny is set so high even good educational sites get blocked as 'inappropriate' sometimes. and no access to email either, or chat rooms of any sort.

Looks great, but... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811026)

Those are awfully small screens.
i)Does EduVision also have a company selling myopia-correction glasses?
ii)I find it annoying enough when you have to keep flicking pages in a book, especially when studying. The pages of the eSlate will only allow a small amount of info to be visible at once. Perhaps they will use a hypertext format and have collapsible paragraphs (like text editor folds) to overcome some of the presentation difficulties.

Re:Looks great, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811375)

I'd be careful mentioning that if I were you! Look at what I got for it:

"eSlate - not much for its size (Score:-1, Flamebait)
by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 01, @04:41AM (#11810930)
Look at the size of it! I know the text may be small on screen but just try doodling on that slate... bah, give me an old chalk slate anyday!"

Flamebait my ass! When are we going to get decent sized, affordable large-screen PDA/eTablets?! And for God's sake make the damn buttons touchable on screen - make them part of the screen. That way they can change dynamically - WOW! (Yes, still have one for on/off control)

Re:Looks great, but... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811409)

Yes. That's exactly why I got my 19 inch flat panel screen. 1280x1024 doesn't sound that much larger than 1024x768, but in reality, it is. It's 1.66 times more viewable area. Everytime I go to do something on my handheld, I can't stop but think how bad of an idea it would be to put books on the thing. Either the text would have to be really small, or if sufficiently sized, you might be able to fit about 4 sentences on the screen. Many diagrams won't even fit on the screen. It would probably be better to give them the books on DVD, print them out, and give the paper copies to the kids. If the book breaks (rips, gets wet,catches fire) the maximum price to replace the book is probably about $10. Whereas a handheld would cost a lot more to replace.

Why this is not a good idea (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811029)

There'll still be fifth-graders when the aid agenceys leave, and as soon as these run out of batteries they'll be useless. This is always that case with foriegn aid, be it with hospitals or schools.

AFAIK, most of western Kenya is pretty poor in terms of how much money most people have. (Food in rural areas generally isn't such a large problem thanks to subsistence farming.) For much of it education would be a luxury. I think this would have been better spent on building more schools.

Hard to see it working well in practice (5, Insightful)

NerdConspiracy (858939) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811041)

Nice idea in theory but oh so many problems in practice.

The main one is the complexity of the system. I can't imagine primary schools in rural areas in Kenya (or for that matter here in US) having the expertise to fix the problems that will surely arise sooner or later.

If the main goal is to give students access to the textbooks, why not simply preload the relevant ones on the handhelds and give them out to the schools, and do away with the whole satellite -> base station -> wireless network -> handheld business.

At what intervals do the textbooks need to be updated/replaced anyway? Probably less that the average lifetime of the handheld computer in the hands of a 10 year old.

Re:Hard to see it working well in practice (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811131)

Why not just PRINT them?

Paper/similar materials has been working, oh, for a few THOSAND of year! I'm all for tech but this is stupid.

Re:Hard to see it working well in practice (1)

RyoSaeba (627522) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811155)

Seems to me it's easier to move around some thousand handhelds computers than 6 * same number of textbooks (assuming 6 textbooks to cover a nice range of subjects).
And you can (probably) use the handheld to annotate books and such.
Also it's easier for a child to carry a handheld to school than 6 textbooks, or store that in the school.

Disclaimer: this are some arguments i just thought of, maybe they are baseless :)

Re:Hard to see it working well in practice (4, Insightful)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811175)

Paper/similar materials has been working, oh, for a few THOSAND of year!

Also has a much better user interface, hence the, er, remarkable sucess of electronic book systems in the developed world. Also books are an environmental win, while any electronic system will be an environmental loss.

OTOH, paper has a shorter lifetime in the hands of a 10 year old than a ruggedised electronic gadget should, so it's not obvious this is a silly idea. It will depend on the costs.

These are clearly based on the old Zarus models, so the development and tooling costs to make them were presumably nil plus the ruggedisation. The networking infrastructure is now mass produced and probably relativly cheap.

So it will come down to the expected costs of supplying up to date text books in all subjects, year on year over the lifetime of the hardware.

It probably replaces some writing materials and testing/exam infrastructure too.

On the whole though I suspect they'd be better off using the money to pay the teachers more, and maybe paying the parents of older kids to allow them to stay longer in school when they could be working.

/me smacks forehead (5, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811067)

bah, waste of time and energy.

I made it through elementary with an apple ][ in the corner of the class. Hell, we weren't allowed to have calculators until trig [e.g. high school or for science classes]. We had to "use our minds" ....You know what "educates" students very well? Interesting and educated teachers.

I [and I'm sure everyone else] has had a teacher at a time that was totally ineffective of getting the lesson plan delivered. No amount of "e-technology" would "e-help" the students "e-absorb" information that they don't "e-want".

Sure having access to computers is good but giving each student their own personal "e-slate" is just stupid. Specially given that the economic state there doesn't support it.

Tom

Re:/me smacks forehead (1)

MrMickS (568778) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811100)

I don't think that the benefit is in providing these kids with the technology. The benefit is in using the technology to enable them to have access to materials that they would otherwise not have.

So rather than looking at it as a "ooh, shiney Linux handhelds to poor kids" type story instead look at it as a "using technology to fill a gap in resources" one. Text books can be expensive and pupils need more than one. The cost of the electronic system may be cheaper than the equivalent text books.

I do take the point about technology being no substitute for a good teacher though. However even the best teachers can benefit from having better materials.

Re:/me smacks forehead (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811149)

I still don't see the case. Let's see. A "handheld computer + electricity for 6 hrs a day of classes" or a "small paperback book" ...

I dunno where the idea came from that a textbook [specially for elementary] has to be big, made with pine covers, etc...A small 300g dover series style book was enough to teach people number theory, algebra and calculus... why can't it do them the same?

Also if you factor in *WHY* they don't have resources [e.g. childish waring factions] then maybe people will ... PAY ATTENTION!!!

I said this earlier this year about the Tsunami. Everyone was so quick to donate but prior to Dec 26th nobody cared what these people lived like. They did what the News told them [e.g. rebuild so the resorts can reopen]

Maybe if they had more resort beaches in Africa people would get upset at the "disruption" a little "war" can cause...

Tom

Re:/me smacks forehead (5, Insightful)

TrappedByMyself (861094) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811225)

So you propose solving all the big problems first? Solve world hunger before you teach little Jimmy to read?

You're sterotyping the region. Kenya is not Congo or the Sudan. All of Africa is not covered with warmongering natives eating each other's hearts. Do they have the infrastructure of the US? No. But you're argument is like saying that a school in rural Idaho cannot get computers because there are poor people in Mexico. Only fat kids in Western nations can use computers? Or are you just afraid of more outsourcing as yet another part of the world becomes tech savvy?

Re:/me smacks forehead (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811334)

About outsourcing... I'm a canadian working for an american....

So yeah, educating them is all good an all. But is it really going to be effective and cost effective? Or is this just yet another company marketing something to make money.

To put things in perspective I think the war in Iraq was a HUGE waste of money given how little americans spend on their own schooling. It's the same thing. If you want to better your society, yes educate them but also secure them. Is there enough food to go around? will there be in 5yrs? in 10yrs? Is there housing for all? In 5yrs? etc...

If paperback books were good enough for us Canadians it's certainly good enough for anyone else.

Tom

Re:/me smacks forehead (1)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811387)

Also if you factor in *WHY* they don't have resources [e.g. childish waring factions]

Like Democrats and Republicans you mean?

Maybe if they had more resort beaches in Africa people would get upset at the "disruption" a little "war" can cause...

Er which war would that be? So far as I can remember, kenya has been involved in fewer wars recently than, for instance, the USA.

Re:/me smacks forehead (1)

martysdomain (855616) | more than 8 years ago | (#11812025)

hell, im still not allowed a calculator and I'm in trig II, and yes i bought a TI-86 for the pure fact that i was told to buy one, and i only use it maybe for 5 mins every class.

Figure/ground reversal (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#11812034)

Now, your class with the Apple ][ may have been technology poor, but it was probably information rich. You probably had textbooks, a school library and librarian, television, audiovisiual materials, maps, kits for performing enrichment in areas like science. And if this was not enough, this was probably backed by a magnificient public library.

This doesn't even begin to count the private sources of information you had access to: newspapers, magazines, records, etc.

It probably costs thousands of dollars per student to provide this kind of depth of information access to a student. And in an ideal world we would provide it to every student in the world.

However, if we aren't going to be able to raise that kind of money, we must betake ourselves to technology. Technology might seem frivolous, because when you are making procurement decisions, you look at cost to marginal value. In an information rich classroom, the technology's marginal value is relatively small. But when you have practically no up to date information, and limited resources, the greatest marginal value may be achieved by investing in technology first, which is cheap.

I develop mobile software for a living. I am not a techno-phile. The glamor technology casts over people is lost on me. I always find it curious that people do things like start their projects by standardizing on the exact make and model of their PDA. It's positively the least important thing in any project.

It's like one of those painting where depending on how you look at it you see on picture or another -- a figure ground reversal. You have to learn to squint at the picture so the technology fades into the background, and you can see the really important thing: the information.

My mantra is all hardware is junk, or will be very shortly. Information is irreplaceable.

Re:/me smacks forehead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11812117)

I'm sure Hypatia's students did ok with whatever they had back then. However, what is wrong with trying to improve the tools of education? It has happened throughout history, why stop now? This attitude is very puzzling. "In my days, we managed without wheels, you kids have it too easy, blah-blah-blah" and "Back when I was a kid, we hadn't invented writing, and we did ok, and so should you." Do people think we're at the highest possible peak right now and that we should stay here at all cost, fighting against improvement and change?

Handhelds don't really cut it... (1)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811070)

There is really no way a wireless, battery powered handheld is cheaper than a desktop PC of the same capability (or even double the capability). This is really not a solution for the Third World.

Look at similar efforts going on in other parts of the world like IT@School in Kerala. They are expermenting with LTSP servers and thin clients - where small local firms [netfirms.com] have support contracts. (Hell !!.. they even sell GNU/Hurd cds). Also all the textbooks are available on PDF [kerala.gov.in] as well.

Pumping money into the third world will not solve its problems , neither will hitech handhelds. It's about awareness - a trickle down approach of feeding information. With the right political support (there's a government change soon for Kerala), it might actually work.

Re:Handhelds don't really cut it... alone (1)

Vspirit (200600) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811218)

True be that, handhelds alone does not cut it.

My impression of the eduvision site is however that the project is not technology centered, though a focus on such on slash. is no surprise.

Worth recognizing though is that any and consistent support however does. So this project is a positive contribution, and we need more of such.

Like any project in a development area, be it a student or a community, I hope the backers think long term strategic and haven't just assigned the necessary resources to launch it, to build a customer mass, but actually are prepared to see it through.

* hardware replacement/support for when the units are not working.
* energy resource to keep the unit working.
* relevant information resources for the units.
* an open system which can be evolved, not locked down, let them not be restrained.

Like the simputer project in India... I'ld like to hear how from the users how they evolve and use the technology. Do the units lay around little used, or will they become an integrated part of the users personal improvent cycles.

If they keep it simple, an alternative to expensive books that are lousy updated, then the project alone have the potential of becoming successful.. and thats a good start, then they can apply extensions for communicative purposes to enrich their collaborative work.

I can't see why the project is not to be encouraged. The worlds biggest untapped resources for further growth with the fruits on the lowest trees are to encourage development in the areas of the less wealthy/evolved. Africa is important.

--
For those who know nothing, knowledge is on the other side.

Re:Handhelds don't really cut it... (1)

TrappedByMyself (861094) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811258)

It's about awareness - a trickle down approach of feeding information.

Well where do you propose that people get this information from? The whole point of this exercise is to give students access to more information.

Also, some magic government isn't going to show up and try to fix everything (ummm unless the US invades them). That reform has to come from the people. That one kid in the class with the handhelds read everything he could. He grew up and went to the America for higher education, then returned to his country to promote change.

Re:Handhelds don't really cut it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811262)

Oh I would really like a desktop PC of the same capability as a handheld.

- The capability of being thrown into a bag in half a second.

- The capability of being used to read out in the sun in the summer, without needing extension cords out of the window.

- The capability of bringing it with me without needing to also bring a car.

Now, where do I get a desktop PC of similar capability?

15 million books!!!! (3, Insightful)

NerdConspiracy (858939) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811101)

Pardon me while I fall off my chair laughing. Project guttenberg and the like have been "computerizing" public domain books for years and they are up to what, 10,000 or so. Where is this great magical library of 15 million ebooks?

Re:15 million books!!!! (1)

RyoSaeba (627522) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811140)

I'd say they refer to the total number of books Google will digitise. Seems to be the total number of books in Harvard, for instance.

Re:15 million books!!!! (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#11812048)

Leaving aside that they aren't talking about Project Gutenberg, in a world without access to books, what would the value of access to Project Gutenberg be?

Kenya != whole of africa (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811104)

Why is it that everytime someone mentions something on slashdot which happens in an african country (Kenya in this case) the post has to mention "Africa" as if it is one country.

Kenya != whole of africa

I live in an "African" country and this seems rediculous to me.

Consider a couple of examples:

If the story is about Americans college students you don't have a title:
Students in North America...

Similarly for a story about something in China or Germany you don't title the story:
Scietists in Asia discover x
or
Scientists in Europe discover y

You you title it:
Scientists in China discover x
and
Scientist in Germany discover y.

The other thing that bugs me is that posters talk as if everyone from "Africa" is mentally handicapped or something.

Change the title to : LINUX handhelds in KENYAN schools!

Re:Kenya != whole of africa (2, Funny)

TrappedByMyself (861094) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811289)

The US hasn't fought a major war in Sub-Saharan Africa yet. We haven't killed the evil doers and brought liberty to the people. Of course they're still mentally handicapped. Duh!

Number of people, maybe? (1, Flamebait)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811377)

There are a lot more people in all the countries you named. Also, Germany is special. A lot of Engineering news comes out of Germany.

Besides Germany, which earns special fame due to it's accomplishments, the other countries you mentioned are much bigger than Kenya. I might also add that this is a US site, and therefore slightly slanted towards US news. If something came from the US, we'd like to know more specifically than even that - we'd like to know where in the US.

I have a feeling that if you had discoveries in Sri Lanka and Latvia you'd get "Scientists in Asia discover X," or "Scientists in Europe discover y."

Not to worry. If one African country does something for long enough, and they get a name for themselves that sets them apart from the rest of Africa. Nigeria [rica.net] has proven that.

Re:Kenya != whole of africa (1)

amnesiaWind (613053) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811924)

Funny, I've never gotten that impression nor even thought about some of the wild accusations that you make. I think they only person that is drawing these conclusions is YOU. I didn't see anything in the article that indicated that Africans are mentally handicapped or anything like that.

Furthermore there is nothing wrong with the title, because Kenya is IN AFRICA. Therefore it is entirely accurate to call Kenyan schools African schools. Nobody is saying that as part of some big anti-African conspiracy or anything. Get over yourself.

What about Wikipedia? (4, Insightful)

RyoSaeba (627522) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811116)

They mention Google digitized books, but they could also grab content from http://www.wikipedia.org/ [wikipedia.org] - after all, that's what GFDL is for!
Ok, some will argue quality / neutrality / completeness isn't guaranteed on all articles - i'll say it's better'an nothing [and biaises exist in every material / textbook]

Re:What about Wikipedia? (2, Interesting)

andyr (78903) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811162)

Indeed.

Shameless plug

Wizzy Digital Courier [wizzy.org.za] puts down an affordable internet connection, with a complete remote installation of wikipedia (1Gig database, 14Gig pictures) in schools in South Africa.

/Shameless plug

Re:What about Wikipedia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811209)

Good god, people are actually using Wikipedia in an educational setting? This is the end of civilization. [No, that's not funny.]

Re:What about Wikipedia? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811281)

I think they want the information to be accurate :P

Am I getting old... (4, Funny)

crypty (768045) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811167)

Its amazing how far things are getting at this stage... My hats off to the fine people who are out to make this sort of education possible for kids around the world. Its just a tad scarey that in my day we only had home made paint and a cave wall... although there was that posh kid with his abacus.

Re:Am I getting old... (1)

neglige (641101) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811410)

Don't forget that kid who wrote his homework on a shovel [thelincolnmuseum.org] , with a piece of coal. A shovel is handheld, too. Doesn't run Linux, though. Yet ;)

Really interesting... (1)

goowaka (852651) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811203)

Pretty cool stuff. Textbooks are very expensive in Africa. But my enthusiasm was tempered when reading...
"Furthermore, because our network and software is proprietary, demand for stolen eSlates will be minimal - they simply will not work for uses other than those for which they were designed."
They show they haven't really understood the GPL. But they're also saying is that people don't want proprietary software? :)

You must read between the lines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811236)


It's obviously designed that way to stop the little kenyans from
selling the computers.

Re:Really interesting... (2, Insightful)

Technician (215283) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811254)

demand for stolen eSlates will be minimal - they simply will not work for uses other than those for which they were designed."


Those who do not learn from their mistakes are condemmed to repeat them.

The X-Box will only play MS software. The I-Opener will only work with their subscription service, The Cue Cat will only work with the Digital Convergance online database....

Yea Right!

Computer for tribals (2, Interesting)

hamishmorgan (652803) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811219)

This reminds me of the time I was working with Karen tribals in Northen Thailand. I was contacted by a representative of Sun Micro who (as part of their charity program) wanted to give schools in the region computers so they could communicate children from other parts of the world. A noble idea but rather short sighted since these villages did not have electricity or so much as a phone line.

If they really wanted to help the children then how about buying their land from the Forestry Commission so they didn't get moved every time more lumber was needed. And how about giving financial incentives to farmers up stream so they didn't pollute the river with pesticides. Oh and how about razing some awareness of the troubles in Myanmar so that the villages didn't get shot when walking to near the border.

But hey, I'm sure board-room people of Sun got a nice warm fuzzy feeling when they though of the whole computers for tribals idea.

The nature of the bleeding-heart liberal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11811243)


The liberal's natural habitat is far, far away from those cute little dark-skinned people.

Ho hum. (2, Insightful)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811268)

These devices will be stolen as quickly as possible. After the thieves discover they won't work abywhere except on a proprietary network, they'll be discarded. Dumped in a river, something like that. Too much effort to actually return them.

I give the program about three months.

It's a nice idea, but I don't think it's sustainable.

Re:Ho hum. (1)

Brutulf (725176) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811662)

>> After the thieves discover they won't work abywhere except on a proprietary network, they'll be discarded. And then they wont steal them anymore...

Terminal Servers (2, Informative)

LibrePensador (668335) | more than 8 years ago | (#11811930)

A nice remotely-administered Linux Terminal Server would have been much more effective. Bigger screens to read from and a bigger platform of applications available. Put the /home/schoolbooks on its own HD caddy and ship an updated once to the schools once a year upon receipt of the old one.

Some links:

http://pxes.net
http://ltsp.org

Interesting (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#11812069)

I recently equipped a guy to go on a field resarch project in Kenya. He told me he would have to literally wear the entire kit (including a very bulky backpack satellite DGPS) 7x24 so it wouldn't be stolen. Maybe people have a different attitude towards communal property than property belonging to a rich foreigner.

hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11812081)

Do you think they will have a "Spears for PDAs" campaign?
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