Kindles accounts need Device Country and Delivery Address specifying

I hope I’ve managed to configure the amazon account used by these Kindles so they will now allow the teachers to buy books. I have tested the process by ‘buying’ a free book: Pride and Prejudice for both of their Kindles.
Here are a couple of extra steps I had to remember to do when creating another Amazon account for a new school.

  1. set up a delivery address without adding a credit card number (the default process wants one). Here’s the link I have to check and configure a delivery address Manage Address Book
  2. configuring the country of the account to the UK Country Settings

I was then able to ‘buy’ the book for the first time (before the Amazon web site told me even the free books were not available).

Here is the link to configure the country on the UK site (this may change given the strange parameters on the URL)*Version*=1&*entries*=0#cor

And here is one of several good articles online about the issue and the way to fix it and the following answer was a useful reminder for me

Amazon publishes various device-specific guides to configure a Kindle and the account e.g. for the Kindle Keyboard 

(last updated 25 October 2013)

Understanding USB and Solar chargers

The following projects provide lots of information on portable battery chargers for USB, solar panels, and measuring the results of circuits to process raw power from the solar panel.

And this wikipedia article explains the concept of boost convertors that generate a higher output voltage than the input.

I’ve not yet had a go at creating any of these devices yet, at the moment it’s food-for-thought 🙂

September review for the schools in Oyugis

The schools have reopened on 2nd September 2013 after the truncated summer break (some schools extended their previous term into August to help the pupils catch up after the Teachers’ strike finished).

In Oyugis our schools liaison person will be visiting each of the 7 schools to meet face-to-face with the teachers  to discuss their progress to date and to agree on how to improve the ways the kindles are used to help the teachers and the pupils.

To prepare for these discussions we reviewed all the purchases made to date.

  • There were 74 items ordered, these include free books, the bible, occasional newspapers, text and reference books, and various novels including various crime novels
  • Roughly 14 books were directly related to Swahili and/or the Kenyan curriculum

Most of the items seem to be feasibly relevant to the schooling however we’re concerned about some of the seemingly irrelevant purchases, particularly once schools had become more familiar with using the devices.

We aim to help the teachers and the schools to limit the amount of irrelevant items in future. One of the safeguards is the relatively limited funds made available to each Amazon account. When the funds are spent they are spent and the school needs to account for their purchases. Schools who spend wisely are able to buy more relevant books and receive top-ups more easily than schools who’ve spent unwisely. The unwise schools are asked to commit to buying more relevant items before they receive a top-up to their account.

Good news from the Cognizant team in Bangalore

Here is some good news from the local Cognizant team in Bangalore:

“The work at the schools to repair the computers has started well. Within the next 2 weeks, 4 schools would have at least 8-10 computers working (current scenario is that 2 or 3 computers work). These necessitated visits from Cognizant’s network and support team. In most cases, the issue was missing RAM chips. So the team decided to add the RAM chips as well as provide a lock to the CPU cabinet.

We also recently attended a workshop conducted by “IT for Change”, who train teachers in using Edubuntu software. The teachers along with students conducted some activities such as ‘Mapping of school and neighborhood’ and updating the information onto “OpenMaps”. They were trained to use “Freemind” software to create mindmaps. The students with the guidance of the teachers created ‘Photo and Video essays’ during their field visits to the market place, police station, electricity substation etc., The other activities were to collect and tabulate family details (leading to overall Community information) AND ‘Vegetation survey and mapping’. We attended the 2nd day of the 2 day workshop and it was awesome to hear and see the work on the teachers and the students.”

Deepak Prabhu, Cognizant.


Working with Cognizant in India to help with our respective projects

During my visit to Bangalore in July 2013 I managed to visit Yediyur Government school, near Yediyur lake, Jayanagar, with two of Cognizant’s team who help with various schools in the Bangalore area. They’re part of a much larger programme across Cognizant who help support schools across India as part of their corporate social responsibility.

During our visit I was able to see first-hand how the schools used the computers they had and to talk to the teachers. This school had at least ten working computers running a mix of old versions of Microsoft Windows and the free Edubuntu software. Until recently the teachers had received training in how to use Edubuntu as part of their teaching. However, the visits had petered-out for various reasons and the teachers were less confident of using Edubuntu due to lack of practice or familiarity.

Like the other state school I’d visited there were plenty of broken computers and screens. They used to have a 3G connection to the Internet, but large unexplained bills had discouraged the school from using it and the 3G device was missing when we looked for it. As ever, the electricity supply was overstretched and prone to fail. However across Southern India there are news reports of chronic under-capacity of power generation so the school appeared no worse off than many other Electricity customers.

The pupils really enjoyed using the computers, particularly some of the programs provided with Edubuntu and typically sat two or three to a chair and worked collaboratively with the program they were using. The teachers were very supportive of the children and volunteered their time after school to help the children use the computers informally.

After our visit to the school I spent some time with the team from Cognizant and we were able to share experiences and ideas for ways to help the current set of schools and through helping those schools to help those schools help other schools with their computing. We agreed we needed to find scalable ways to help schools support themselves, each other, and ideally for those schools to help schools who weren’t directly supported by either Cognizant or the Fisherman Trust.

We decided there were several ways we could help immediately:

  • The local network and support team from Cognizant could investigate the problems and causes of faulty equipment. They would fix some of the problems and then help the schools to find ways to fix the other computers where practical.
  • Reinvigorate the training for the teachers in using Edubuntu. Cognizant volunteers would also help the schools learn how to install Edubuntu so the schools could be more self-reliant and resourceful.
  • Raj, of the Fisherman Trust would send a couple of copies of the Zoombinis software to the team at Cognizant so they can evaluate it with one or two of the schools they support. We could then consider ways to procure more copies if the software seems to be useful for those schools.

Conversely, the Cognizant team has lots of experience, particularly in installing and configuring Edubuntu that the small team in the Fishermen Trust can apply in the schools they help. We really appreciate their friendly and open advice and expertise.