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2008 July 25 [Friday]

Butterflies are free

The look of surprise on Goldie's face as she discovers Edward is blind (*) has remained etched in my memory since I saw the movie at 10. The the impact Edwards character had on me was so much larger that as soon as the movie ended I rushed to my shelf, tidied it up, rearranged my books, prompting my Mom to wonder why the sudden need for tidiness at midnight.

Closing my eyes I tried to find books/stuff with poor success. Training my reflexes took time and slowly with practice I could distinguish between sizes, shapes, textures, and lernt to listen to the sixth sense so to speak. I was amazed how the blind even lived their life - its hard for me to take a step with my eyes closed, without crashing into stuff. As a sighted person i could never gain the sixth sense the visually impaired have but it has helped me in many ways at the very least it has taught me to be observant. I have still not succeeded in counting steps, remembering distances between objects and if blind-folded would still struggle to make my way around the house without bumping into objects. That is not the point.

Moot point of writing this is to highlight how we ignore a part of society that is differently abled from us. They are mostly kept away from mainstream society. I dont remember seeing a single blind kid studying with me in school, forget the higher levels or even at the workplace. Its almost like they dont exist, but they do, and last year a friend had told me about rakum.org and i decided to check it out. It being the middle of an academic year, I waited for the next year and planned to teach computers, libre software precisely.

(*) Gross as the word "blind" is, people dont intend meanness or nastiness when they use the word 'blind'. Reality is few folks in that school (or even across India) would understand the term "visually impaired". I doubt if the kids themselves are taught the difference, probably because such subtlity and awareness has yet to reach the roots.

2008 June 7 [Saturday]

Libre software in Indian schools

Do you know if Karnataka state has any Libre software curriculum in its schools ? If yes, are any books published? Email me, if you know anything about the Karnataka school scenario.

I need this information since I had volunteered to teach computers at a local special needs school and it goes without saying that I was pushing for Libre software but now I am having second thoughts about teaching them skills which will not prove useful (read, in getting a job). I know Kerala and Delhi have gone the Libre software way but what about Karnataka schools ?

In the final analysis, my personal choice does not matter, especially if the Org i am volunteering with aims to make them self-reliant with skills to match and ultimately independent. I have to remember these are people with physical challenges and we all know how easy it is in India for such people. Heck, normal people have a tough time finding jobs so I dont view the world with rosy linux-tinted glasses. And then there is the Indian penchant for certificates, degrees and other assorted pieces of paper, to prove your skills so to speak.... bleh, do i need to rant about that.

The last few weeks i asked around, the situation was dismal... each school has its own idea of how to promote computer education in schools, each has its own text-books all teaching proprietary software :(

The worst part, ALL the schools are only interested in making money - parents are charged extra money per month as part of "computer education", lab fees, etc... When i heard that students in grade1, grade2 were being taught computers, out of sheer curiosity, I caught hold of those kids and lo and behold, their notebooks had nice colored pictures of a monitor, printer, laptop, with the teacher's red-ink-tick-mark with a "good" sign for the color not going out of the lines. How interesting!!

Next, a talk with the teacher's teaching the subject -- i wanted to know at what age or grade the kids actually touched the computer -- ahem, *cough* not before grade-8, i was told.

Apparently, this is the case with almost every school so i am not shocked, just disappointed that parents pay fees but dont really get the value for their buck. Sad state of affairs this.

2007 November 23 [Friday]

Reading

I had started reading a book on 'applied discrete structures' about a month ago and just managed to finish combinatorics and logic... shucks....or maybe i should try blogging my slow progress but then i am an irregular blogger ;-) and i still have not reached the best part : graph theory, trees, boolean algebra.

Logic is interesting but only 5 pages per day is an unrealistic target, but the problem is that its not a novel whose pages can be flipped and I miss cross-referencing which makes it easier to understand stuff.

The problem lies in the fact that there is much to do and learn - a Postgresql course by MichelleMurrain over the next few weeks ...bad timing for me..., but its spread over till Feb 08, so i will have tons to catchup and learn.

Right now, its 4 am...time for some shut-eye !!

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