Report on the training in Menya 18,19 february 2005

Eglug volunteers who participated in the event:

  1. Manal
  2. Alaa

1st day:

we took the 7:15 train from Cairo and arrived in el Menya @ 10:20. we were staying at a 3awama called Dahabeya, we went directly to it and had a lovely breakfast on the Nile.

we arrived @ Salah el Din school (for boys) in Abu Qorqas @ 14:00, we met with the teachers, 2 new teachers have joint the group as promised. we made a small introduction then started our work directly.

we started by remembering what we discussed in the previous time, in their words the points covered were:

which was a bit of a simplification, this means many details slip through after two weeks (expected).

one point they raised is the need for an Arabic interface, this is always a tricky question, some people demand Arabic and some demand English, we had this debate but all agreed that the children should use Arabized interfaces since that is how they learn windows (ministry rules).

while discussing Arabic interface we explored the concept of software localization and played with the Mandrake GNU/Linux locale tools.

the new trainees engaged us in a comparison between windows and GNU/Linux desktop, the group concluded that:

we explained the differences by pointing out that desktop is a set of paradigms, each operating system has its own paradigms, the desktop paradigms are mostly shared. however something like the "My Computer" paradigm is very specific to windows (one teacher pointed out that Mac OS has no similar paradigm).

from that we explained how GNU/Linux completely separates user roles, tasks like inspecting hardware, partitions etc is for the administrator only.

while comparing the two platforms the Unix single tree file system paradigm was explained, unfortunately it is not easy to make sense out of this system except in advanced scenarios (or what the forced simplicity of windows made us think of as advanced and complex scenarios), we built three different scenarios trying to relate them to a school situation to explain.

finally we ended up with looking at the Mandrake Control Center in more details this time, time was short and we had to stop.

one positive thing is the trainees don't get tired, they take the full thing without their attention dropping or asking for breaks or any of the usual stuff, they're definitely hard workers.

they already formed student groups, right now their focus is on the Windows platform, mostly the stuff that is in the ministry school books, but they say they're trying to give the kids more space to play, and they make sure its a 2 children per pc course (normal classes apparently involve squeezing in 4 times the lab capacity).

if they're to train the children on anything beyond the ministry curriculum, they might need help on how to approach training (we discussed making the courses fun, putting extra stuff that might not directly teach marketable skills but expose the kids to new things, Sherif equated this with music and art activities for the sake of art itself or for the sake of having fun).

we finished @ 17:30 and went to have dinner on the Nile :-) @ Dahabeya.

Attendants of the 1st day:

2nd day:

the plan was to begin the day with a group of 10 students (all boys), just to observe how they react to the new system and how they cope with the differences between the GNU/Linux and the windows platform.

We switched the computers to Arabic locale, this lead to few configuration problems, when Manal and Ezabi installed the computers they did not anticipate the Arabic locale requirement.

obviously EGLUG volunteers need a bit of briefing on Arabization, we just assumed people use English interfaces (the teachers are more comfortable with the English interface, the students the opposite).

we also keep hitting silly hardware problems anything from dead mice to badly maintained harddisks, we think the schools need training on basic maintenance (stuff like how its important to minimize the amount of dust that goes in the computers).

the various problems forced us to put 2 students per pc (which is ok really, pairing is sometimes a good tool).

we began by explaining quickly that GNU/Linux is an alternative operating system, we did not cover FOSS at all this time.

the kids started playing immediately, we quickly realized that any attempt at putting them on a focused track would be in vain, so we used an ad-hoc approach, each student was asked to suggest a common operating system task and we left them to explore how it can be done on GNU/Linux, each couple in their own style and at their own pace.

we explained that each one should get a chance to choose a task, and so we must respect our colleagues and listen to them when they talk, thats about the only structure the day had, we were busy answering their various (and surprising) questions.

as we expected the differences between the two platforms did not confuse them at all, they discovered how to do most tasks on their own. what we worried about was differences in translation but it worked out fine, the kids discussed the words among themselves and it all made sense to them, we are not sure how they'll cope with more complex dialogs and messages though, they tend to be very badly translated on both platforms, fortunately the KDE desktop uses icons and colorful visual indicators all over the place.

the session was great fun to all, and we learned alot from the kids

we covered:

the kids accepted compatibility problems as a reality of life.

they obviously received no conceptual education at all, one used the opportunity of having what appeared like experts to ask questions about file extensions, how programs are written etc.

we think the FOSS platform is a good tool for education since its very design is open, one can show more details when asked questions like that, even the most simple things can make a difference, for instance when Annass asked about how and who made all these programs Manal showed him a credits screen from one of the programs, the credits screen is animated, looks alot like tv or movie credit screens and lists the hundreds of contributors, I think it drove home the fact that programmers are normal people and not masters of some secret magical lore more effectively than anything else and it also helps to show how large such a project is, "kol dol?!" was his comment.

we asked for a copy of all ministry books to be better prepared next time.

we had 3 teachers observing our work with the students, they did not participate at all in fact their input was highly negative always asking the kids to stop experimenting and just follow our orders, we had to ask the group of teachers to be quite many times when the level of noise got too high.

however after having a short discussion with the teachers we have a feeling that this is mostly classroom habits, a few of them where thrilled by our new approach and they agreed on the importance of letting the kids have more space and freedom, we explained how the high security of GNU/Linux allows us to give more freedom to the kids since they can't possibly make any permanent damage to the system.

one positive thing is how honest everyone is, even the mowageh, while inquiring about what the school curriculum covers and what they teach in the computer club, they mentioned HTML, we were obviously impressed but the mowageh was quick to explain how it only touched the surface and how the classroom situation is not conductive to learning. we think we have good partners in this community.

the kids (and their parents) are very enthusiastic about the project in general, we had to keep turning down more groups, a couple of girls where fighting with the teachers asking to either change the time of the computer club to late evening or to be allowed to leave math classes to attend the club sessions.

after the session with the students was over we had a short discussion on our goals and the next steps with the teachers and the local and regional mowagehin

each person was asked to identify a goal/outcome they care about

the goals where:

abstract information)

the teachers mentioned that they have their own personal goals in terms of what they want to learn and how they want to improve themselves, we promised to try and help with these as long as they're willing to share the knowledge with their students (realizing that maybe only a few students would be interested in the more advanced stuff).

they asked for someone to teach them graphics, we said we don't know any windows people but we might be able to find someone to show them graphics with FOSS tools, most of them are multiplatform tools that work on both windows and GNU/Linux anyway (''Arius, are u interested to participate in this project?'').

we concluded the discussion by arranging the next visit, we will visit Adeeb Wahba school this time and work with a group of students from there.

we will try to wrap up basic GNU/Linux training for the teachers next time.

finally we got back to training, we spent 3 hours exploring the various administration functions in the Mandrake Control Center, lack on Internet connection and even a local network greatly limits what can be covered, but we hope they'll explore on their own.

we covered:

we concluded the day by doing a quick evaluation, we asked them to identify negative points at the start and then positive points so we make sure to part with the positive things fresh in our minds.



we finished @ 17:30 and went to have dinner a quick dinner with Sherif before we take our 19:00 train back to Cairo.

Attendants of the 1st day: