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Educating Mum

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http://popey.com – Continuing my Mumbuntu saga … Wed 17th Feb Today my Mum went to the local library to ask about computer training. I had a brief chat with her and she seemed to enjoy it. Apparently the woman in the library showed her Google for searching and Google Maps so she could see a picture of her own house. She’s been given some notes and has arranged to go back next Friday when apparently they will look at ‘email’. The librarian asked my Mum to bring in email addresses of friends and family and she’d set her up with an email address to send some mails out. As I’ve already setup an email account for Mum I’ll give her all the credentials and access details for the webmail system and they can use that, which will be a good starting point. It’s interesting to me that the first thing a user gets shown is nothing to do with the software on the local machine, but a browser and an online service. How things have changed since the days of “This is a DOS prompt, type ‘win’ to start Windows” I’ve been wondering how to get Mum up to speed outside of the training she gets from the library. One concern I have is that once they get past ‘playing’ with online services they’ll start looking at Microsoft specific desktop applications, rather than generic ‘Word Processor’ type tutorials. I think I’ll take a trip to the library at the weekend myself and take a look at their offerings to evaluate them. One thing that I can do as an alternative is of course teach Mum some fundamentals myself. Some of that could be done in person at her house – or indeed mine. I will have a copy of her machine in a VM and can therefore show her what things will look like on her own desktop but at my place. I’d need to schedule some time for that, and with a job and family of my own that will be a challenge. Especially given this is very new stuff for my Mum so I’ll likely need to show her stuff multiple times before it sinks in. So I have come up with two alternative strategies. The first is to look for training course that my Mum can attend to get her up to speed. Canonical have some training courses which are outsourced to training partners around the world. The Ubuntu Desktop Course looks the most appropriate for my Mum however the UK Ubuntu Training Schedule shows that it’s not running in the UK, and I don’t fancy paying the air fare for my Mum to go to Brazil for a 2 day desktop course! The course also runs as an e-learning event which can be ordered from the Online Training Store for less than £40 which seems like an absolute bargain to me. Once paid up and registered on the course my Mum can pace herself, taking her time over the sections she wants to, and repeating sections if she wants. The course content is based around Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) which was the last release before the last LTS (Long Term Support) release, and it’s no longer supported. So I don’t want to install 7.10 on her computer because I’ll only have to upgrade it at some point very soon, and I’ll get no patches/fixes whilst she’s on 7.10. I dropped a mail to the training department at Canonical asking some questions about the course and releases and got a nice prompt response. They tell me the content is pretty much generic so much of it applies to releases after 7.10, and I can see how that’s the case as much of Ubuntu has stayed the same for the last two years. I was told that Canonical are currently updating the Desktop Course for Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) which is due to coincide with the Ubuntu release at the end of April this year. So I could sign her up for the 10.04 version of the course when it’s ready. That gives me 2 months between now and the end of April to keep her entertained. Which brings me onto my second alternative strategy. Screencasts! I’d like to create a bunch of very short screencasts (2-5 mins maximum duration) which go through the basics of computer use. These could be kept as a library of short tutorials which Mum can tap into and watch as and when she’s ready. I could put them on her computer so she’s got them on day one. In the future she will no doubt ask me questions, and I can create more screencasts to cover those topics. Here’s the cunning bit. I can record them at home, using my Virtual Machine copy of her desktop and then save them into a shared Dropbox folder which syncs to her desktop PC. So all she has to do is turn on the computer and connect to the Internet and she’ll get the new tutorials automagically on her computer – once I make them I think a combination of the following may be right for her:- Initial hands on with librarian An introduction to her specific computer setup from me An online course from Canonical Screencasts Suggestions and comments welcome! (Distributions)