Mission: Hacking Class Pondicherry

Departing for India to teach and learn

Departing January 11th I will be staying at Nirvana School located near Pondicherry just south of Chennai (Madras), South India in a village named Kottakuppam for almost 3 months along with my friend Jakob who gave me the initial inspiration to go. He will be teaching English and I will be doing a course on rudimentary programming and web development and we hope to be able to combine forces doing a course together on general web skills and creative use of technology among other things improving their sufficiency in searching, sharing and finding knowledge.
I am also considering bringing an arduino board hoping we might be able to play with some physical computing. However no matter what we end up teaching technically I suspect that the most valuable thing we will be bringing is an approach to learning that is more about creativity, collaboration and hands on experience.
My aspiration is to spur awareness of the possibilities they have with even old outdated technology. I would be very glad if I could inspire a bit of hacker mentality and leave if not many just a few children figuring stuff out for themselves. Note I use hacker to describe someone using technology creatively, thinking outside the box and stretching the capabilities of a system. See the Hacker Jargon File and Bruce Schneier fur further definitions.

Nirvana School reportedly has about 24 8 year old computers, internet connection and even a backup battery for the frequent power outages. So all in all they seem to be well equipped, but I still expect I will be spending some time hacking on their infrastructure to get started.

The Danish organization Volunteer Aid have been handling our arrangements with the School through the Dutch organization Amaidi. They don't offer the full packaged save-the-world-experience but rather they offer only the most necessary guidance for a minor administration fee and does a great job, I hope, at pairing qualified independent volunteers with the right projects.

Update March 30, 2011: After having been to India I no longer regard Volunteer Aids fee as a minor administration fee, rather i think they charge a large amount of money, that could go far if invested directly in India, for a superfluous service. My advice: Get in touch with organizations and projects directly, don't pay any sending organizations but find out who they work with abroad. Don't be afraid of going away with little knowledge, just go and work things out along the way! Information may be scarce from home, but possibilities are abundant when you get out there!

Any support would be greatly appreciated. Be it in the form of money, hardware, ideas, contacts in South India I should pursue or links to great educational resources for beginners. You can also flattr the project, support Nirvana School directly or get in touch if you have any other ideas for helping out.

Namaste