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Campaign for IT literacy through FOSS and Spoken Tutorials

Kannan M. Moudgalya
Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Education Technology, and System and Control Groups, IIT Bombay, India

Abstract

This article explains an approach to promote Information Technology (IT) literacy in India, which has evolved into a pyramid structure. We begin this article by explaining the design decisions, such as the use of FOSS and being a friendly interface between beginners and experts, in undertaking this activity.

A Spoken Tutorial is a ten minute audio video tutorial on open source software, created to provide training on important IT topics. Spoken Tutorials are made suitable for self learning, through a novice check of the underlying script. The spoken part of these tutorials is dubbed in all Indian languages, to help children who are weak in English, while retaining employment potential. The effectiveness of conducting workshops using spoken tutorials is explained. A total of 400,000 students have been trained in the past three years through one or more Spoken Tutorial based Education and Learning through Free FOSS study (SELF) workshops.

Students who undergo SELF workshops can create textbook companions, which contain code for the solved problems of given textbooks using a particular software. A Python Textbook Companion is a collection of Python code for a given textbook. These companions and the associated textbook, together, form a low cost document for Python in general, and the textbook, in particular. We have completed approximately 80 Python Textbook Companions and another 80 are in progress. From textbook companions, the students can progress to lab migration activity, the objective of which is to migrate labs based on proprietary software to FOSS. Interested students are trained to use FOSS systems in their projects and to contribute to the development of new FOSS systems. Using this approach and Python as a glue language, we have developed the following new FOSS systems: 1. Oscad, an electronic design automation tool, and a FOSS alternative to commercial software, such as ORCAD. 2. Sandhi, a block diagram based data acquisition for real time control, and a FOSS alternative to commercial software, such as LabVIEW.

The pyramid structure explained in this work helps the beginners to become IT literate. Our design solutions are especially suitable to poor and marginalised sections of the society, which is at the bottom of the social pyramid. Our efforts to create and promote the world’s lowest cost computing system Aakash is briefly addressed in this work.

Keywords

Python, spoken tutorials, FOSSEE

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