Don Watkins

See the following -

5 Ways to Invigorate Education with Raspberry Pi

Recently I was invited to talk to a group of eighth grade students about the Raspberry Pi. Of the 15 students and three teachers there, only a few had heard of the Raspberry Pi. None had ever held one in their hand, nor did they know how to set one up or even where to look for information to do so. I spent 40 minutes talking to them and inviting them to explore the Raspberry Pi and the wealth of high-quality, open source software that comes with it. They were energized and eager to learn more...I think something needs to be done, so I am inviting fellow open source advocates to join me in making minor investments in their communities to move the ball forward.

7 Resources for Open Education Materials

Shrinking school budgets and growing interest in open content has created an increased demand for open educational resources. According to the FCC, "The U.S. spends more than $7 billion per year on K-12 textbooks, but too many students are still using books that are 7-10 years old, with outdated material." There is an alternative: openly licensed courseware. But where do you find this content and how can you share your own teaching and learning materials? This month I've rounded up a list of seven open educational resources for K-12 and higher education...

A New Android App for Teaching Kids How to Read

Have you been looking for software to help your child to read? Well, your quest may be over. Phoenicia is a new literacy application for Android developed by Michael Hall, an open source software developer, community manager, and technology evangelist currently working at Canonical, maker of Ubuntu. In this interview, he talks about the diagnosis of his oldest child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, his learning curve of Android development, and why user testing matters more than you think...

Building an Open Medical Records System for the Developing World

How do you introduce a woman whose very life is the epitome of humanitarian efficacy? Judy Gichoya is a Kenyan medical doctor specializing in radiology and an experienced programmer who's accelerating the growth of OpenMRS. According to its website, "OpenMRS is a software platform and a reference application which enables design of a customized medical records system with no programming knowledge." Judy first got interested in computers in high school, prior to entering medical school she learned to program at a technical college and through online resources on the internet...

Read More »

CoderDojo merges with the Raspberry Pi Foundation

In late May, CoderDojo Foundation, which runs a volunteer-led network of coding clubs for children around the world, announced that it was merging with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. This is a significant development that has tremendous potential to impact education, the maker movement, and the growth of coding around the world. By working together, Raspberry Pi and CoderDojo will create the world's largest effort to involve young people in computing. "This merger presents a huge amount of opportunity to learn from one another, share opportunities, and became a more robust and sustainable movement that is supporting safe spaces for children of all ages to get creative with technology," says CoderDojo executive director Giustina Mizzoni...

Developer Opportunities to Code for Good

As I was searching for open source projects that help learners with disabilities, such as blindness or dyslexia, I came across Bookshare. That led me to Bookshare's parent company, Benetech, a technology nonprofit based in Palo Alto, CA which focuses on empowering communities in need. Read more about Benetech in our interview with CEO Jim Fruchterman: Open source product development most effective when social. I reached out and spoke with Anh Bui, Vice President of Benetech Labs, Benetech's new product development arm that explores areas of social need by engaging with communities in the United States and beyond...

Education Management with Moodle: The Beginning, Middle, and Today

Moodle is the de facto standard in open source learning management systems. It is described as "a learning platform designed to provide educators, administrators and learners with a single robust, secure and integrated system to create personalised learning environments." Plus, Moodle is free software, licensed under the GPL. Martin Dougiamas, Moodle's founder and lead developer, generously took time from his busy schedule to have a good, long talk with me about why he created it, where it is today, and what's next in open education. First let me give you a little background. I was introduced to Moodle in 2005 while visiting a public school district in Portland, Oregon, which was using Moodle as part of their instructional delivery...

Hacking the Farm with Low-Cost, Open Source Tool Designs

After starting his own farm in Missouri, Marcin Jakubowski quickly discovered it's an expensive business. The tools he needed to start and maintain a sustainable farm didn't exist, so he set out to design them himself. Marcin published a collection of his open source designs, called the Global Village Construction Set, to the Open Source Ecology wiki. Soon, just as in open source software, others from around the world began to collaborate with him in designing these new machines. According to the wiki, "Global Village Construction Set is a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that enables fabrication of the 50 different industrial machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts...

How the University of Hawai'i Is Solving Today's Higher Ed Problems

Openness invites greater participation and it takes advantage of the shared energy of collaborators. The strength of openly created educational resources comes paradoxically from the vulnerability of the shared experience of that creation process. One of the leaders in Open Educational Resources (OER) is Billy Meinke, educational technologist at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. The University's open creation model uses Pressbooks, which Billy tells me more about in this interview...

How WikiFundi Is Helping People in Africa Contribute to Wikipedia

In developed countries, the ability to access and edit Wikipedia easily is taken for granted, but in many African countries, where access to reliable electricity and broadband are limited, that's not the case. I recently interviewed Florence Devouard, who is working on several open source projects to help close gaps caused by poor access to online information. She is co-leader of the WikiFundi project, as well as other projects related to Wikipedia and Africa, including Wiki Loves Women, a women's information initiative, and Wiki Loves Africa, a media contest that invites the public to contribute photographs, videos, and audio to Wikipedia. All projects are part of the WikiAfrica movement...

Kids on Computers Establishes Computer Labs in Five Countries

Linux and open source software are not just fueling charities, they are gifting the freedom of education and knowledge to the people the charities are helping because of the low cost, yes, but also the exceptional technology. This sentiment is proven when you look at the work the Linux Foundation does supporting a variety of community initiatives and organizations that are using Linux and open source software. While attending LinuxCon NA 2016 in Toronto I learned of Kids on Computers, one such organization...

Linux Whips Apple's macOS in the Race to the Automobile CarOS

I don't think much about it while I'm driving, but I sure do love that my car is equipped with a system that lets me use a few buttons and my voice to call my wife, mom, and children. That same system allows me to choose whether I listen to music streaming from the cloud, satellite radio, or the more traditional AM/FM radio. I also get weather updates and can direct my in-vehicle GPS to find the fastest route to my next destination. In-vehicle infotainment, or IVI as it's known in the industry, has become ubiquitous in today's newest automobiles...

Make Things 'Til You Make It at Colorado's "Blowing Things Up Lab"

Recently while reading a tweet from the Blowing Things Up Lab, I learned about Emily Daub, a maker and college student who designed a running shirt that helps runners be more visible to motorists—my daughter is a runner so this sounds like a great idea to me. The shirt is photosensitive which cause the light intensity of the fabric to change in ambient light. According to Emily Daub, "If you run at night, this is for you. This lights up as it gets darker outside on two independent photocells and no microcontroller!" In this interview, I ask Emily more about this fantastic invention...

Open Education Is About Improving Lives, Not Taking Tests

While recently reading The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent and Lead, by George Couros, I was struck by the parallels between the author's thinking and that of Jim Whitehurst in The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance. "Sometimes it scares me to think that we have taken the most human profession, teaching, and have reduced it to simply letters and numbers," Couros says early in the book. "We place such an emphasis on these scores, because of political mandates and the way teachers and schools are evaluated today, that it seems we've forgotten why our profession exists: to change—improve—lives." In other words education has lost it's "Why?"—and that is central to its mission...

Python-based Open Source Eye Tracking Tool

I have a deep interest in educational psychology, and so I was fascinated by what I read about PyGaze—an open source toolbox for eye tracking in Python. The website told me that it runs on Linux, but I wanted to learn more about eye tracking and the role it plays in psychological research. I also wanted to know more about the project and how it is contributing to research and its implications for open source. In this interview, the lead developer for the project, Edwin Dalmaijer, who works at the University of Oxford's Department of Experimental Psychology doing research and programming, provides a fascinating description of PyGaze and the significance of eye tracking in research...