In January 2013, Sameer Verma from SFSU, during a trip to India, visited Goa – a detour that happened mostly because of Harriet Vidyasagar’s efforts to keep all the working OLPC projects in India visible to the outside world, while simultaneously ensuring that we got the best minds to get a firsthand look at the projects here and to provide us inputs that would enable us to run these projects better. The previous such visit was by Walter Bender himself; this time it was Sameer from San Francisco. I’d been in touch with him over the email requesting very specific help about the School Server setup and administration, and that’s exactly what he and I focused on while he was here in Goa. Of course we had to make time between his various other engagements, but that wasn’t such a problem – it only meant that Sameer’s day didn’t end comfortably after dinner.
In the Goa OLPC program at the Merces school, we’d had an aborted attempt at implementing the OLPC School Server once in the past – it was the earlier version of XS and things hadn’t worked out too well; before you could say ‘XS’, the school server work had been abandoned. But with the new XS Server 0.7, things are a lot easier, and even if Sameer with his vast experience makes the installation look like child’s play, I have to admit that the installation and administration is indeed a whole lot easier, and can actually be done without scratching your head even once. But that’s not all. The new server is administered though a Moodle client, and that opens up a lot of other possibilities. Besides managing journal backups and hosting Sugar activities and other relevant content, which is what we had wanted to do with the server to begin with, the ability to add your own Moodle courses to the School Server is a big asset. In the future, we could consider adding courses in Moodle that are specially designed for children that would supplement the learning that they engage in with their Sugar activities. Where necessary, teachers could organise the content (videos, storybooks etc.) that they would like the children to see, in the form of a ‘course’ that would be uploaded on the server, which the kids could access from their XOs. This needs a lot of thought and design work of course.
So, sitting with Sameer to learn all about the XS was the main agenda for me, and I must say these sessions were very fruitful. Later, all of us – Harriet, Gayathri and the kids included – went along with Sameer to Mumbai and visited the Khairat project nearby, which is being managed by the Home Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE). Rafikh from HBCSE took us to Khairat; we set up the School Server there as well, and backed up all the XOs there. Sameer, as part of his research, has been analysing data coming out of the XOs at various OLPC projects, and we shared our data from the Merces project at Goa and the one at Khairat with him.