How open educational resources, open source programming, and Creative Commons media can empower education equality for all.

ASEAN Creates Virtual Classroom For People With Disabilities

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has created an ASEAN Community e-Classroom Project. The project is an initiative under the ASEAN ICT Master Plan 2015, and is aimed at harnessing the ICT skills of people with disabilities, whether they are blind, deaf, or mobility impaired.


The virtual classroom offers several ICT courses whose goal is to ensure that people with disabilities are equipped with the necessary ICT skills to be a part of a competitive ICT workforce. Users create accounts and choose one of eight track options: Smart ASEAN Citizen, Smart ASEAN for the Youth, Smart ASEAN for Women, Smart ASEAN aged citizen, Smart ASEAN with physical disabilities, Smart ASEAN blind, Smart ASEAN deaf, and Learning disabilities guardian.

ASEAN delegates recently gathered to discuss eLearning initiatives and ways to strengthen them. Professor Srisakdi Charmonman of Siam Technology College began the presentation on eLearning by stating, “Internet will change the way we learn. Internet will change the way we live. Internet will change everything.”

ASEAN aspires to attain a free labor movement by 2015. Through this program, it hopes to create a pool of trained professionals equipped with the skill sets necessary to help the Southeast Asian Nations become an Economic Community.

Creative Commons Love: AK Rockefeller on

6 Advanced Things to Teach in Computer Class

TracesA while back we published 10 Free Things to Teach in Computer Class Besides Typing. It covered some basic activities and topics for teachers to use in classes where computers are available but resources are otherwise scarce. The final activity, Scratch, gives students a basic introduction to programming and programming languages. By using this open source visual programming language, students begin to learn the basic concepts, sequencing, and ideas behind how programming languages work.

But what’s next? Once students are comfortable with their machines, a bit older, and capable of grappling with written (or typed, or spoken) English, there are many resources that will help them continue with their education and become genuine IT experts, for free!


Codecademy is a true innovation when it comes to self-learning by doing. After creating an account, you can choose from several coding languages and dive into interactive activities. You immediately begin performing small operations using the language in question and are consistently pushed to use the information you’ve learned to solve small coding problems such as coding a mini-program to multiply the number of words in your name by nine.

Languages available include Java, HTML & CSS, Python, Ruby, jQuery, as well how to create Apps. With a mixture of hands on and project based learning, Codecademy provides a highly engaging and effective way to get students started with coding.


More Online Coursework

A few new players have come into the game of online course work. Although the three we mentioned in the first article are still good bets (MIT Open CoursewareKahn Academy, & iTunes U), Coursera and Edx have also come on to the scene as great options for your higher-level learning needs.

Both of these new-comers (As well as MIT Open Courseware) unfortunately require that you sign up for courses and take them in specified time periods. Although there aren’t class times that have to be attended, it’s not possible to direct your students to start and stop them at any time, and thus require some planning to successfully integrate them into your semester/year.

Still, they’re a great way to give your students access to a very high level of instruction in IT and computing skills, for free!


If the Codecademy interactions are a bit too confusing for your students, or don’t quite get at what you’re looking for, the HTML Dog tutorials are also great tool for learning for HTML & CSS. Here, students also learn by doing, but the actual coding takes place outside of the browser and is a bit more direct (no tricky problems to work through).

There’s a bit more freedom to break up the lessons, and to allow students to experiment with variations in code. You can have them combine lessons into mini-projects, experiment with changing the code to different colors, or displaying different methods, and otherwise take advantage of the freedom of simply using a .txt file as your coding playground.

Youtube Tutorials (JREAM!)

In general, if there’s a program or skill you want your students to learn, Youtube is a great place to search. Generally a search for “ Tutorial” will turn up a wide variety of options for whatever you enter as the subject. “HTML Tutorial,” “Java Tutorial,” “Networking Tutorial,” and “Facebook app Tutorial” all turn up a ton of options.

If you can get to a location with fast internet, it is possible to save Youtube videos for later use without an internet connection, making this the most versatile of all the recommendations for those of us working in remote locations. You can save videos straight from your browser using (so, it will work in an internet cafe where you can’t install programs). To do it with a local program, check out this article on it from PC World, or these programs that do the trick: YTD Video DownloaderKeepVid.

Jream Tutorials are so good they bear mentioning all on their own. When your students are ready to learn a wide variety of high-end IT skills, this is a great place to start. As with any set of Youtube tutorials, students can work whenever they like, go as slow or fast as they like, learn only what interests them, and watch and rewatch the tutorials in any order that suits them.

no denial

I’ve personally used JREAM to learn Adobe Illustrator, but it has a staggeringly wide array of tutorials available, HTML, Facebook Apps, Java, MySQL, Python, PHP, Adobe Photoshop, Linux, Code Igniter, to name a few.

Graphic Design!

We talked about some free art programs and tools in the original post on what to teach in computer class, but eventually your students will want to go beyond making pictures to making graphics. Graphics doesn’t necessarily mean flashy computer animations. It generally refers to a more sophisticated form of computer art: Images that provide information, lead the viewer to a conclusion, or give a desired impression.

For general overviews on graphic layout and design, searches in Youtube will generally turn up great tutorials on specific elements of design or how to use certain programs. For more general introductory courses, you an give these a try:

Teach Yourself Graphic Design: A Self-Study Course Outline

Want to Know How to Design? Then Learn the Basics


A more specific project to have students work on that will put those graphics skills to use is making Infographics. Infographics take a lot of confusing information and lay it out in a way that is both pleasing and easy to understand. Here are some great articles that list free tools your class can use to make outstanding informative images: The 5 Best Free Tools for Making Slick Infographics, and 10 Awesome Free Tools to Make Infographics.

morse code


A final skill you can mix with Youtube tutorials, and some guides online, is teaching your students about computer hardware. Even simple tasks can teach them enough to keep your computer lab in tip-top shape, for free! If you’ve got spare parts, or even a spare computer, lying around, be sure to make use of them as demonstration tools. If you haven’t got a scrap of hardware to spare, it’s possible to use functioning computers as examples, albeit with more caution and supervision.

Simple tasks you can direct students to do involve uninstalling and reinstalling bits of hardware (harddrive, optical drive, fan, RAM, etc.) or switching those pieces between machines. Of course, there’s the tried-and-true young engineer’s activity of taking a computer entirely apart and putting it back together again, but that should be reserved for your advanced students or less valuable components.

Note as well that some pieces of hardware carry unexpected risks of damage, such as from static electricity. It’s usually considered a small risk by more experienced (and cavalier) IT nerds, but it’s something to be aware of for sure.

Creative Commons Love: splorp, mutednarayan, Solo, and jenny downing on

An Innovative Virtual Tribute to Laos’ Legacies of War

Hmong Village Girl

In this digital age, we no longer lack for information. Instead, we face an entirely new challenge: how do we organize and harness our information resources in the most meaningful and appropriate way?

One program is living up to that demand. Inspired by the National Legacies of War campaign, Legacies Multimedia Interactive Center (MIC), is a free touchscreen device that invites viewers to learn about the secret bombings that happened in Laos during the Vietnam War.

The program unfolds in a series of informational layers, combining the use of web-based maps, digital images, and high quality videos.  Here, visitors immerse themselves in a storyline filled with contextual details regarding the war-related operations that have since lead to thousands of Laotian deaths. Villagers give first-person accounts of the bombing events. Children describe the risks associated with playing around dormant explosives. Experts reveal their process for detecting and removing the dangerous devices.

Presenting Laos’ legacy in an engaging, non-linear fashion provides a more well-rounded perspective than that of the typical documentary or research paper. Not to mention, viewers can digest the information at their own pace.
Shy Boy, Laos

Legacies MIC was co-developed by California State University professor S. Steve Arounsack using a laptop and digital camera with video features. Arounsack steps away from traditional academic approaches, embracing a more authentic, exploratory learning experience through low-cost visual media.

“We try to use technology in an innovative way to understand students’ needs; many of them have limited resources,” states Arounsack. “It’s an evolving thought process but one that’s becoming more widely accepted.”

Creative Commons Love: HkmPUA and Lorna on

A New Online Source: Flipped Learning

Watching the Smartboard

Increasing Tech Use in the Classroom: Smartboards anyone?

Launched just this spring, the Flipped Learning Network is a website that was started to help teachers adopt a flipped learning system and ideology in their classrooms and beyond. What exactly is “flipped learning?” Flipped learning is a system where students watch lectures on the internet, thereby freeing up classroom time for more interactive activities between teachers and students.

Students watch lectures at home, and then they come into class prepped with questions and ready to do activities. A more economic use of everyone’s time, right? After all, the logic is that teachers and students don’t need to be in a classroom for lecture-type or passive learning.

Flipped learning is not a new idea (Chicago held its 5th annual Flipped Conference earlier this month). The idea for flipped learning actually came from two frustrated educators attempting to address the problem of students skipping class: their solution was to make Powerpoint slide shows supplemented with audio recordings, which they began presenting in 2007.

Michelle Rinehart, an American math teacher, has been flip learning for about a year now. She says, “It’s not about the videos — it’s about the powerful class time we regain for higher-order thinking activities… Students appreciate the increased assistance and collaboration they receive with this model.” Rinehart also recommends making your own videos.

A perfect way to reach the technology generation.

A 2011 survey by Computing Technology Industry Association found that 65% of American teachers believe that technology use in the classroom has made students more productive than they were in 2008.

Creative Commons Love: Kathy Cassidy on

Leave It to Beavers: Early Childhood Education in China

BeaverIn the US, many kids grow up to the teachings of a giant purple dinosaur or funny puppets. In China, since 2010, kids have been receiving their dosage of early childhood education from a group of cartoon beavers on whose many talents include singing and storytelling. has more than three million members, and its cartoons typically get about ten million views a month.

The appeal? According to Yang Wei, the CEO and co-founder of, “Children need a partner to understand society and obtain knowledge and skills. The beavers meet their emotional needs, and that’s why they’re so popular among children.” The beavers live in a village, and each beaver possesses different skills and traits. For example, one can speak with plants, one has a magical pendant, and one is an inventor. designs activities not only for kids to do on their own but also for parents and kids to do together. For instance, parents and kids can work together to earn virtual medals for healthy teeth-brushing habits.

Creative Commons Love: Lindsey Krause on

Open Textbook Catalog Provides Avenue for Reducing Student Costs


Higher education continues to get more expensive in the United States, but efforts like the Open Textbook Catalog at the University of Minnesota help organize and evaluate less expensive textbook options for professors to adopt. All books linked to the site are complete and openly licensed for free use, ready for use in English-language classrooms anywhere.

An estimate of the 2011-2012 school year determined that US students would spend an average of $1168 on course materials like textbooks, fueling an eight billion dollar industry. Especially with the frequency of revised editions that publishers release to prompt students to buy new textbooks instead of utilizing second-hand markets, it is more and more difficult to be thrifty. Institutional reform may be necessary, making efforts like the Open Textbook Catalog so exciting.

Of course, professors assigning books and syllabi have no reason to pick the most expensive options, but they have an active interest in picking the best materials to help their students learn. That makes the evaluation of open textbooks so valuable, and the University of Minnesota pays $500-$1000 stipends for faculty to review the textbooks, ultimately enabling other teachers to better understand what resources are available.

Most open textbooks are available in print for students who prefer a paper copy, typically for USD $40 in black and white or about USD $20-25 in PDF or EPUB formats. Online access to all materials is free.

Creative Commons Love: Alexis Fam Photography on

Discovering Children’s Rights “Through the Wild Web Woods”

“Through the Wild Web Woods” is a free online game developed by the Council of Europe through its 2005 program “Building a Europe for and with Children.” The game is designed to help children learn about basic internet safety rules such as identity protection, safe chat participation, recognition of harmful sites, protection against spam and viruses, etcetera. The game utilizes well-known fairy tales to guide children “through dangerous paths” to an awesome “electronic city.”
ABCLRC-Internet Safety
“Through the Wild Web Woods” is intended primarily for children between seven and ten years of age and is available in 24 languages. The game also contains a teacher’s guide that allows educators to assist in helping children use the internet safely and responsibly. The guide is comprised of eight lessons that provide explanations, tips, and practice exercises on topics such as basic children’s rights, online privacy, security, safe browsing, and more.

The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 with the goal of creating a common democratic and legal area throughout the whole Old World continent. It now has 47 member countries.

Access “Through the Wild Web Woods” by clicking here.

Creative Commons Love: ABC LRC on


Harvard and MIT Join Forces for the Open Course Movement!

Harvard SquareThe era of online higher education is upon us. Following efforts on other educational sites such as, Harvard entered into an agreement today with MIT to bring its courses to the open web. Both schools have pledged $30 million apiece to the newly announced edX platform, which will bring courses online for both enrolled, on-campus students and anyone with Internet access.

The $60 million total shall be composed of institutional support, grants, and philanthropy, which shall be managed by a not-for-profit organization based in Cambridge. MITnews reports that classes can be expected to start during Fall 2012, with the initial schedule of courses determined during the summer.

MIT and Harvard expect the online offerings to enhance their enrolled students’ education, not replace it. Online students have the option to get “Certificates of Mastery” for completing courses online, which will not act as degrees but speculatively might have value. As mentioned in an online promotional video, edX will have the same content as in-person classes and “should not be construed as MIT lite or Harvard lite.”

Beyond philanthropic motivations, MIT and Harvard hope to collect information that enables the  study of which teaching methods and tools are most successful. Although the data will likely be exclusive to the Cambridge universities, such research always has the potential to improve other efforts when published.

EdX will be release the jointly operated platform as open source software (OSS), permitting other universities and organizations may use in their own efforts and improve or add functionality. Experiments with online learning are indeed “potentially destructive” but always striving towards democratized education, so full steam ahead.

Infographic! Logic Is As Logic Does, Right?

Some brilliant minds on the internet have put together a free creative commons infographic on logical fallacies. Not only is it free to check out and share, but they’ve made posters that can be easily printed and posted in your office, classroom, or dining room. Their goal is make the world aware of the sneaky tactics that politicians, public speakers, and the media employ to win arguments when they probably shouldn’t.

So, arm yourself against deception starting with these samples below!

Coursera Draws Top Universities to Offer Free Courses

Coursera, is an online education company founded this year by two Stanford University computer-science professors. It’s been off to a strong start, and has drawn together at least four top-tier universities in an effort to provide high quality educational experiences to anyone in the world, for free. Princeton, Stanford, the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania have all signed up to offer what could be amazing educational opportunities for people in some of the most difficult places on earth.

Through Coursera you can take classes on subjects such as computer science, economics, mathematics, healthcare, biology, social sciences, and many more. Watch the video below to learn more.