BuildmLearn GSoC Applications for 2014

As announced earlier, BuildmLearn is accepted to participate in this year’s Google Summer of Code (GSoC) Program. GSoC is a global program organised by Google, that offers students stipends to write code for open source projects. Every year, since past 10 years, during this program Google works with the open source community to identify and fund exciting projects for the upcoming summer.

The period for students to choose open source projects that interest them and apply to work for them has just ended yesterday. From the very day of being accepted into GSoC (i.e. Feb 24, 2004) we have received tremendous interests for students across the globe to participate in our projects. We have been busy answering the queries and discussing the project ideas with students on our Google group. We have collaborated with many students on our projects in the past so it wasn’t totally a new experience.

To talk about some numbers, we have reviewed about 150 draft proposals by students before they submitted their final proposals to Google. Basically, we have successfully provided reviews and feedback to every student who requested it. We received a total of 258 proposals on Google, with a large number of drafts reviewed we kind of expected a high number of proposal submissions.

Here’s a graphical timeline of how the student proposals were submitted to us.

Proposals

As expected most of the proposals came in the last 4 days before the deadline. What can be said about the quality of proposals we’ve received so far is that there is a clear differentiation between applications from students who requested a review and ones who did not. We also noticed couple of proposals with very thin details and these can be considered substandard quality. However, the quality of a large number of proposals is very good and refined, so we are happy about that.

Over the next weeks, our mentors would be reviewing these proposals, evaluating and ranking them internally based on quality. We hope to select the best students from the proposals we have received.

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BuildmLearn accepted to participate in Google Summer of Code 2014

We’re delighted to announce that BuildmLearn is accepted to participate in this year’s Google Summer of Code (GSoC) program. This is the first time we’ve applied to the program and we’re in!

For those who haven’t heard about the program here’s a gist,

Google Summer of Code is a global program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source software projects. We work with many open source, free software, and technology-related groups to identify and fund projects over a three month period. Since its inception in 2005, the program has brought together nearly 6,000 successful student participants and over 3000 mentors from over 100 countries worldwide, all for the love of code.

Through Google Summer of Code, accepted student applicants are paired with a mentor or mentors from the participating projects, thus gaining exposure to real-world software development scenarios and the opportunity for employment in areas related to their academic pursuits. In turn, the participating projects are able to more easily identify and bring in new developers. Best of all, more source code is created and released for the use and benefit of all.

We’re looking forward to work with students across the globe on our project ideas. We have put our project ideas on the Github Wiki here: https://github.com/BuildmLearn/BuildmLearn-Toolkit/wiki/Google-Summer-of-Code-2014-Ideas

In addition to this, we have setup a page for guidance and instructions students interested in BuildmLearn for GSoC. Here is the link to the page: https://github.com/BuildmLearn/BuildmLearn-Toolkit/wiki/Guidance-for-Students

The above page contains general guidelines on communication and how to write a proposal for BuildmLearn project ideas.

As always, we are available to answer any questions in our BuildmLearn Google group: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/buildmlearn

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BuildmLearn Toolkit (v2.0.0) now available!

We are working on some new templates for the BuildmLearn Toolkit and refining the existing templates; we thought it would be good to provide an intermediate update with the refined version of templates.

bml2

Today, we are pleased to announce the release of the BuildmLearn Toolkit 2.0.0. The new version of the toolkit contains refined mobile application templates – with better, consistent UI across templates and android versions. Our target is to support the toolkit for android 2.3+ versions. The templates have several enhancements (for e.g. improved animation for Flash cards) and several bug fixes. We have also now tested and optimized the mobile templates for use on larger screen devices (tablets, phablets).

You can download the latest version of the toolkit here. Please post your feedback and suggestions to our Google group.

Here is the link to the official Github release: https://github.com/BuildmLearn/BuildmLearn-Toolkit/releases/tag/2.0.0

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BuildmLearn Toolkit (v1.0.0) now available!

Finally, we have a new version of the BuildmLearn Toolkit releasing today. We intended to make this release before the end of this year and here it is. Thanks to all the contributors who made this possible!

The earlier version (0.9) of BuildmLearn Toolkit was made available to teachers for trial for about 9 months. Based on their feedback and the comments generated on our Google Group, we have several updates.

The major updates for version 1.0.0 are as follows,

  • Added options to save and load applications. Many teachers asked us to add options to save the application that they were building so that they can work on it over a period of time. We prioritized this request and now teachers can save their ‘work in progress’ apps and work on them at a later time. The app files are saved with an extension ‘.buildmlearn’.
  • New template for flashcards introduced. This template allows to create apps as a collection of flashcards. The simulator is also available to preview apps before generating the apps for this template. The idea for this template was contributed on our Google group by Ashmita Nigam (thanks!).
  • Added toolbar for easy access of important options. This was one of the tasks for our Season of BuildmLearn program and now it’s integrated into the released.
  • Bug fixes for the existing templates and overall improvement in the usability of the Toolkit.

You can download the latest version of the toolkit here. Please post your feedback and suggestions to our Google group.

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A successful end to Season of BuildmLearn 2013

Finally, we have come to the end of the 2013 edition of  Season of BuildmLearn. We had three students along with their mentors working on this program. Each week mentors would assign appropriate tasks mainly in the areas of coding and user research that the students were expected to carry out through the week. Of course, the students could also reach out to the mentors whenever they had any difficulties with their activities.

With the help of this program, we, the BuildmLearn community, were able to achieve the following:

  • On the software development front, we were able to complete many of the items the on the ‘Ideas page’, something that we had set up in the beginning of  the year to generate more ideas on the toolkit
  • We carried out user research activities with the help of interested participants. This got us more feedback on the existing state of the toolkit from teachers (especially on the subject of ‘which new templates should be added to the toolkit’).
  • The program prepared us more than ever, to welcome any new contributors to the community. Pointing them to our resources and where they can get help, documentations – code level and user guides, have gone through a thorough use. They have been added / modified as the situation demanded.
  • The community got  the exposure and experience of working with young undergrad students.  As an observation our mentors noted that once the students get it, they leave no stone unturned to finish their assignments.
  • We were able to generate interest about our app through some (unintential) word of mouth marketing from students. Now more educators know about the BuildmLearn toolkit.

Our experience with Season of BuildmLearn has certainly been productive and brought us a step closer to our aspirations for the toolkit.  We would like to thank the students and mentors who participated and gave their precious time to this open source program. Looking forward to next year’s edition!

Until next time!

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Season of BuildmLearn 2013 – selected participants

Thanks to all the students who applied to the Season of BuildmLearn 2013 (SoB’2013). We received 12 applicants from various universities and have decided on the ones we would like to work with.

We would be assigning mentors to each of the selected students. Mentors are experienced members from the community who would coach the students to get into speed with the project and help them start contributing code / research to the project. Since the number of mentors we can assign in this program is limited to 3, we would be selecting only 3 out of the 12 applications. Here are the three student applicants that we have selected: Nishita Tanwar, Harsh Ranjan and Joy Chakraborty.

The selected students have been notified by email and instructed on how we’ll be going about the 3 months of the program. As you may have read earlier, the SoB program runs for 3 months – 17 June to 17 September. We are looking forward to have some fruitful contributions from the selected students and their continued involvement in the project beyond this program.

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Announcing Season of BuildmLearn 2013

In our efforts to develop an open source community at BuildmLearn we are planning to give college students a chance to join us and work on BuildmLearn projects. Named as the Season of BuildmLearn 2013, selected students will work hands on with the BuildmLearn projects and be a part of our team during their summer vacations.

Our inbox  is open for participation in this program. Submitting your code to an open source project is valuable to have in your resume. To apply to the program, read the details below and then click here.

We are currently working on the BuildmLearn Toolkit – to know more and try the toolkit – click here.

What is Season of BuildmLearn?

Season of BuildmLearn (SoB) is a community outreach program hosted by the BuildmLearn community. It is meant for students of Computer Science or Information Technology (engineering or applications)  and who are interested in working on open source projects.

By participating in this program students have an opportunity to contribute to a potential open source project – BuildmLearn Toolkit. The program helps interested students to gain experience by working on BuildmLearn projects at an international level. It fosters values of innovation, collaboration, learning on the job and familiarizing oneself with the rhythms and processes of software development.

All selected students would be allowed to work on BuildmLearn projects (project ideas available here). They would be assigned mentors who would supervise their work and make sure they are productive.

Participation

Any student with an engineering background or interested in software development can apply to participate in this program. If you apply to participate to work on software development ideas, we expect you to be ‘really’ interested in programming. You must be familiar with either C++/Java languages. Previous experience in projects involving mobile application development or desktop application development is valued. Our project mainly requires work on Qt (C++) and mobile applications on different platforms.

Besides software development, we also have many project ideas which require a special skillset of user research and user experience (UX/UI) design. For these project ideas, we are looking for students with a background in Design, User research, Human-Computer Interaction or Psychology.

Other than this, we have some project tasks like testing (reporting bugs and enhancements) and documentation. For these tasks we are also looking for students interested in product QA / testing and content creation and copy writing.

Timelines

This program is typically for the duration of 3 months. The program begins on 17 June until 17 September.

Please fill the application form available here: http://goo.gl/2PgxZ

The application period starts on 8 June 2013 and the last date for submitting your applications is 15 June 2013. All students who have applied to the program would be intimated on 16 June 2013.

Please feel free to write back and communicate with us, we’ll be happy to help you get started and answer any questions you may have.

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BuildmLearn Toolkit (v0.9) now available!

And it’s here! Today we are very happy to release the first version of the BuildmLearn Toolkit (v0.9).

The BuildmLearn Toolkit allows educators to create mobile applications without any technical knowledge of mobile application development. The toolkit comprises of various templates which educators can use to customise their learning content.

In our first version of the toolkit we are presenting two templates – 1) The ‘Info Template’ and 2) The ‘Quiz / Test Template’. Based on our pilot research conducted earlier with the toolkit prototype, we found that these two templates are the most asked for.

The Info template allows users to create a basic application with a variety of learning content. It presents a list view for all the topics that the teacher may want to cover and a detailed view for each topic. The detailed view can contain a large amount of content, as much as the teacher wishes to cover.

The Quiz / Test template is more interesting since it involves a ramification aspect. The teacher can create a test out of the Quiz template for the topic desired. Multiple choices are provided and the student needs to select the correct answer. If the incorrect answer is selected the correct answer is shown. The student is allowed to take the test repeatedly so that he can practice when not in the classroom.

To use the template, the teacher has to start with any one of the above templates. He/ she will then be asked to add content for these templates. There is no limit as such to the amount of content a teacher can add to the application. Once the teacher has added content for the application, he can use the simulator to see a preview of the application. The simulator provides an interactive preview of the application i.e. the teacher can basically use the application on the simulator as it works on the phone. We tried to make the experience of the simulator as similar to the phone as we could. If necessary, the teacher can edit his content after the simulator preview.

Once ready, the teacher can press the ‘Generate application’ button and the application installation file would be generated. The teacher can then distribute the installation file to the students by various means (email, dropbox, memory stick etc.) and the students can install the apps on their phone. That’s it. No coding required.. No developer tools required to be installed.

We hope to get some teachers who use the toolkit actively and hope it is useful to them. The BuildmLearn toolkit can be downloaded from here.

The next steps for our developer community is to work towards creating various useful templates for the toolkit. If you are a teacher and you have ideas on how we can improve the toolkit and what features we should add, please let us know.

PS: If you are a developer and wish to work with us on this open source project, please join the BuildmLearn google group and let us know you’re interested!

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Mobile Learning Week 2013

602243976dUNESCO held the second UNESCO Mobile Learning Week (MLW) from 18 to 22 February 2013 at its Headquarters in Paris, France.

The event aimed to explore mobile learning as a unique and significant contribution to achieving the Education for All (EFA) goals of increasing education access, quality and equality. It focused on three particular EFA goals as they relate to mobile learning:

  • Improving levels of adult and youth literacy: how mobile technologies can support literacy development and increase reading opportunities
  • Improving the quality of education: how mobile technologies can support teachers and their professional development
  • Achieving gender parity and equality in education: how mobile technologies can support equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality for all, in particular for women and girls

We didn’t attend the event physically. However many of us in the community were tracking this event closely. Couple of us also attended the webinar series that was held during this event. During the webinar on UNESCO’s Work in Mobile Learning by Mark West – we got an opportunity to interact with Mark about our project i.e. BuildmLearn Toolkit. Pankaj was able to explain briefly about our toolkit and asked for comments from Mark as to what he / UNESCO felt about the toolkit. Mark commended us for the project idea and said that the toolkit would be very useful for educators since there are so many mobile platforms (Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, HTML5, etc.) and the educators can not learn development for mobile.

It is a great honour for us to receive such positive comments from UNESCO and it reaffirms that we have a good solution to a genuine problem.

Regarding the development status of the BuildmLearn Toolkit, we would have some announcements by the end of this month or early March. We plan to make the first version of the toolkit available for developers. We also plan to have some other announcements shortly, about other community engagement activities; more specifically on how we can involve new contributors and students who are interested to contribute to the development of the toolkit.

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Prototyping, User Research Pilots and Findings for the BuildmLearn Toolkit

As mentioned in my post in October, we have kicked off this project i.e. BuildmLearn Toolkit – A toolkit for educators to create mobile applications with their customised learning content. Teachers using the toolkit do not require any technical knowledge about mobile application development.

It has been two months since we started the development effort for BuildmLearn Toolkit and I am happy to say that we have a working prototype ready for people to use.

Last month, we carried out some user research activities to validate the concept and if the toolkit would actually be useful to educators. Our target user group was a total of 12 selected educators,including a mix of – teachers from primary school and high school as well as some professors from well known university. Amongst the participants, the teachers from primary and high school were used to teaching science, maths, social studies, art  and computer related subjects. We also had a few participants who used to practice teaching at a university, subjects include graphic design, maths and other engineering subjects.

The teachers were given access to our prototype which would create a basic learning application. The teachers could personalise the application with the learning content from their favourite chapters. We gave them about two weeks of time to explore the BuildmLearn Toolkit and come up with their own learning applications on the topics of their choice.

Some of the members of the our community got the opportunity to talk to these participants personally and interview them.

Here is the summary of our learnings from the conducted user research,

  1. There is a need for a toolkit like this amongst teachers.
  2. Teachers are familiar with the benefits of ‘learning on mobile’ and ‘informal learning’.
  3. Most of the teachers are not familiar with the mobile application development technologies. They however recognise the mobile application trends, app stores and app installation / uninstalling, since they do it for their own phones on a regular basis.
  4. Teachers acknowledged that their students have an easy access to smartphones – either parents lend their phones or there is a family phone or tablet they can use for playing games usually.
  5. Teachers are willing to learn how to use a tool that would create mobile applications for them, rather than coding / developing the application by themselves.
  6. Specific to the feedback on the prototype that was tested:
    • Teachers like the concept of the toolkit and the realise the usefulness for enabling mLearning
    • They really liked how the toolkit offered ready to use templates for customising their learning content
    • Suggestions on the preliminary templates that the toolkit should target were collected
    • Ability to add Multimedia content like images, videos and audio would be great to have

Overall, we sense a positive response from the community of educators (representation of which was our target group). We are very happy about the positive feedback which we received during this user research phase.

Thanks to everyone who contributed has contributed to this project so far right from the ideation, prototyping and user research. There are many tasks and technical challenges that we need to solve to make this toolkit available to educators. We will post further updates here.

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