Training sessions on ICT, organised twice a year in Croatia with a strong focus on using open source programming and open source applications, are intended to increase options and practical knowledge for primary school students. Škola informatike (School of Informatics), online evening courses are given by members of SOK, an association based in the city of Split, to promote the use of open source software.
Last week Tuesday, SOK members kicked off with a lecture on GNU/Linux. On the second evening, they spoke about computer networking and on last week Thursday, they introduced their online guests to LaTeX, used for preparing documents. This week, On Tuesday they covered programming tool Lazarus and yesterday they presented video editing tool Avidemux. This evening they will end this year's second course with a talk on the programming language Pascal.
"Our 'School of Informatics' deals with the basics of modern informatics", says Ivo Ugrina, a teacher and research assistant at the Faculty of Science, Mathematics Department, University of Zagreb. Topics usually include architectures, networks and programming languages Python, Lazarus and Pascal. Popular are also their introduction to audio and video editing.
The workshops are usually held in youth center 'Dom mladih' in Split or at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture at the University of Split. SOK's evening courses usually attract 6 to 10 participants. "Though, we'll admit that we've had evenings with just a single listener."
Sessions in the previous two years were a huge success, Ugrina says, with on average eight students attending each of the workshops. "Most of these students are now active members of the free software community. Once they experience GNU/Linux, they decide that they must have it on their PC. It makes our introduction to GNU/Linux and our talk on to Computer Networks the two most popular lectures."
SOK tailors its courses to two distinct target groups. In April, its courses are intended to be suitable for school students under 18. Sometimes, like this week, the courses are open to everyone, by also providing the workshop online. The 'Škola informatike' courses are given by professional teachers, Ugrina emphasises. "The courses are well-prepared, and often based on classes taught at university or in schools." The topics and approach are determined also on the basis of other lectures organised by the SOK association.
At least once a week, the group organises a more informal online lecture on free and open source software. This programme is called 'Razmjena vjesština' (Skill Exchange). "These exchanges allow us to collect information on what topics are most interesting to children and to adults. We use this to adjust the programme for 'Škola informatike'. We also exchange ideas with the wider free software community in Croatia, Serbia and FYR of Macedonia."
SOK's trainings are attracting the interest of primary schools in Croatia. "For example, two years ago, we created a programme for a school for students with special needs."
Nothing ever happens
The advocacy group is supported by "Zajednica tehničke kulture" (Technical Culture Community), a youth activity fund from the city of Split. The fund focusses on technical education.
SOK started offering its workshops and courses seven years ago. The organisation now also organises a so-called 'unconference', once per year in Split. It is involved in similar conferences organised by free software groups in other regions and neighbouring countries, including this weekend's "Nothing will happen" conference in Moravice (Croatia). SOK members include university students, university teachers, primary and secondary school teachers and professional system administrators.
School of Informatics, week 2 (in Croatian)
School of Informatics, week 1 (in Croatian)
Main page of SOK (in Croatian)
Nothing will happen
Zajednica tehničke kulture Zagreb (in Croatian)
Zajednica tehničke kulture Split (in Croatian)
Croatian Linux User Group (in Croatian)
Razmjena vještina - Skill exchange (in Croatian)