There they were, in the strange City of Faith, after a long southward journey.
The prince remembered the first time he saw the sea. It was magnificent. However, looking at the sea out of the train's window could not provide him with a full view of this new view. Even young, he was aware of the reason for this journey. He didn't know what was waiting ahead though.
It was an early morning. They started their new life as strangers in this City of Faith, the economic center of the southern hemisphere. Nobody questioned who they were and why they were there. People were just too familiar with immigrants like them.
They used-to-be-royal family had some relatives in this new territory. The King used to lead an army over here. Despite that, they got lost and it took them another 3 hours to get to the relative's house. It was later learnt that this relative is his grandfather's brother, who was at that time the Deputy Minister of the Internal Affairs of this southern kingdom. It didn't matter to him anyway.
There, he met several aristocrats. Even though they were generally friendly and hospitable, he found it quite uncomfortable. Perhaps because everything was fresh and strange to him, or because he didn't like this place.
A few months later the Deputy Minister passed away and his family attended the funeral. At this point, they was given a small house to live in by another relative. They soon settled in their new place and it was a kinda substandard life.
The room was dark and small and they had to share it with another student. Luckily, he was very meek and friendly and it was somewhat alleviating the pain he was suffering from. The pain of fleeing from his own kingdom, leaving everything and everyone behind.
It was painful, but he, and his whole family of four, were strong enough to endure the mental hardship.
Everything was about to change and they were all ready to start anew.
He was born into a small royal family who was at that time ruling a small kingdom in the northern hemisphere.
Even though the kingdom had returned to its peaceful state after years of being invaded, his father, who was then the nominated King, had to join the army to set a role model for the citizens while his grandfather took care of internal affairs.
He stayed with his mother most of the time, who was then teaching at a local high-school. Every once in a while he would go and join with the Queen in her class, which in fact is a fun activity of running around and poking her students.
A few years later the King came back and took control over the country, designated a new capital which was far away from the Queen's school.
The prince's health in the early years wasn't good due to lack of nutrition as a result of years of wars. His mother, however, took good care of him so he didn't have to suffer a lot from health issues.
Occasionally his father would pay a short visit to his mother and him but the visit didn't last long. It seemed ok for him though, as he got used to it.
In the early years of his life, the prince was living with a lot of different people in the family as his parents were so busy with doing what they were supposed to do. He was living with his maternal grandparents, fraternal grandparents, and with his uncle. He stayed with his uncle for the most of his pre-school time and went to a kindergarten nearby his uncle's house. He often felt lonely and missed his parents. He felt he was left behind and no-one wanted to take care of him. But it seemed ok because he soon got used to it.
On the contrary, he really enjoyed the time spent with at his fraternal grandparents' palace as there were a lot of younger princes and princesses over there. He could spend the whole day hanging around with them and playing games. Of all, he liked one of his younger brothers best, who has become his life-time friend and sibling. Even now that hasn't been changed, no matter how the younger prince becomes.
Then one day, his father finally allowed the family to reunite and it was a very special day for him. He still remembered how beautiful the sky was and how fresh and excited he felt when on the way to the new palace.
The palace was located on the bank of the river, the other side was a lake. So basically it was surrounded by a lot of water.
He started to enjoy watching the every boat, fishing boats, sailing ones, etc. sailing past his palace. Sometimes the King bought some fish from the fishermen and it was very delicious.
The capital was a small area with not so many people. Some of them worked for the state factory which produced brisks, which were then used to trade with neighboring countries or sell to domestic markets. It was a quite successful business as a matter of fact. The King himself ran the factory and created lots of jobs for the citizens. The economy was healthy and growing steadily.
The new experience brought about many changes in his later years. He went to school, made a lot of new friends who were also the capital citizens. They were very playful and enjoyed life. However, some didn't like him as he came from a royal family but overall life was fine. He did pretty well at school and was quite a good son at home.
However, he was spoiled as he was a prince. He knew how to drink at the age of 4 and how to smoke cigarettes at the age of 7 or so. Everybody in the country knew he was a young drinker but his parents didn't know he was a smoker too. This inevitably affected his ventilation system eventually.
Life was tranquil and joyful until the floods from the river kept flooding his country. Gradually all the results of hard work were swept away and the country fell into an economic crisis.
To make matters worse, neighboring countries started to eye the throne and mobilize their armies to the border.
In the end, his father was forced to step down and his family left the country in exile. He was at the age of 14 and was in the middle of grade 4, mature enough to understand what's been going on and what to expect in the future.
So they went to the southern hemisphere to seek a new life as citizens of the economic center of the region. A lot of hardships were waiting for them to overcome and the new refugees had to figure out how to start a new life from scratch.
I'll tell you why.
Since April I've been so worried about this mandatory internship. It's not an internship by any means. It's like one goes to a company, observes the business processes, documents everything and put them into a report, gets it signed and sealed and then sends it to the university. Due to the silly nature of the internship, I don't even have to go to the company everyday, and in fact until now I haven't paid any visit whatsoever!
By the way, the company suddenly appeared in my radar when one of my close friends said her father is a friend of the deputy director and it is ok for me to intern there with her. Marvelous!
Around the second week of SEALNet's Project Vietnam 08, or PV08 for short, she sent me a message telling me that I wouldn't have to worry so much about this silly thing. In effect, she's been very enthusiastic about this opportunity but for me, after more than a week with PV08, I can't find anything more boring for the last summer of my life!
Certainly the company is a good one to observe, a state oil importer! Considering the current volatile oil prices, it's such a good company to learn about. However, if the internship lasts for at least two months, it will be willing to spend my time there.
I can't understand why such a university as mine thinks 1 month is enough for an internship. This is simply awkward (btw, I've learnt some very useful "awkward" hand signs from Matt! :)) ).
Anyway, it's just not so fun as SEALNet so I'm a bit lazy to do what I'm supposed to do.
Tomorrow I will pay a visit to the company. I've heard that the people there are quite friendly. Hopefully it's gonna be a nice day.
Oh dear, I'm jealous of people who have an actual internship. Next year perhaps!
The fact that Vietnamese 2.0 websites are emerging rapidly is indeed very encouraging. I've used several ones of them and was particular impressed by cyvee.com, a social network for professionals.
www.clip.vn is another hit. It resembles the way www.youtube.com works in many way and what is more, it's for the whole Vietnamese community.
In the search for suitable web 2.0 technologies to introduce to the classroom, I've almost decided to include clip.vn in the list. However, there's one thing that prevents me from doing so.
It's similar to the fact that everyone can drink any beer or wine here in Vietnam. People regardless of age can watch any movie in any cinema nationwide. ANYONE CAN WATCH ANYTHING on this video site. And as I've observed for a while, there are many inappropriate clips for children. But the sad thing is the administrators don't implement any controlling system whatsoever to prevent kids under 18 from viewing such videos. This fact alone has stopped me to think about clip.vn as a promising educational tool in an e-learning 2.0 environment.
In conclusion, I think clip.vn should learn the control mechanism that youtube applies, for video clips with mature content, only adults can view them. This is still a bit ineffective if a child mask themselves as being an adult but for the most part, it helps. Perhaps I should write them an email soon.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's the clue:
Be careful, you need to be over 18 to watch this video!
E-learning 2.o - or learning through web 2.0 technologies - has been one of the most fascinating ideas I've ever been exposed to.
I remember the first time I taught computing skills to the children at the 15 May School last summer, I wanted to introduce them to the idea of web 2.0 and all the magic of the new technologies, with a view to bridging the yawning technical gap. However, at that time I didn't have any experience in teaching computing at all and it was more like help them to have fun rather than teaching them real computing skills. They did learn something, though.
Then, as I begin to embark on the new journey, the idea once again appears in my mind. And this time, with careful planning, I believe e-learning 2.0 will be a reality.
As the world is getting increasingly online, companies are shifting their products from an OS-based platform to a web-based one. Along the way, it opens the opportunity for people to get away with MS Windows, which in my opinion is a very evil thing (if you've ever worked with Microsoft, you know this!)
I'm talking about enabling children to blog about almost anything, specifically blogger, which has a Vietnamese interface. It's true that Yahoo 360 and other Vietnamese blogging engines are dominating the market here but blogger is much better than any of these things. I don't know, but maybe we will have a look at some popular Vietnamese blogging sites and choose one that we see fit.
There are also flickr, twitter, moodle, etc. But the difficulty is they are all in English and it is very hard to get the kids to these sites.
Another thing is helping children to learn language on their own in the new way. This is something I'm thinking about.
Anyway, it's more like a planning stage, at least I know e-learning 2.0 is the way to go, but more in-depth research needs to be done as a matter of fact.
Below are two very interesting slideshows that i found on slideshare.net:
E-learning 2.0 in Development
Creative Web 2.0 Learning
Rongkun was the one I sat next to on the first lunch we had with the team. Somehow I felt he was very special, and of course, he was very friendly.
I tried to talk to him and learnt that he knew a lot about Vietnam. He then showed me a fan with an embedded picture of an ancient building of which I didn't know.
In the afternoon, we were basically recruiting team members for our separate components. Just a short explanation, we were in SEALNet's Project Vietnam 08. There were 3 components: leadership/ English Championship/ and Computing. I was leading the Computing component and therefore made a brief sale pitch to attract team member.
Rongkun was among the people that raised hands to join and that was surprising since he studied International Politics and he doesn't look like an IT man at all (later I learnt that working in a team from a diversity of background was such a blessing!).
So there he was, with us, the other 5 members of the team.
The most noticeable thing from Rongkun is that he never stops smiling. omg, how on earth can I do that, smiling all the time? I takes a very positive with great spirit to smile all the time. I truly admire that smiling skill of him (joking, but I truly admire that though!).
The second special thing about Rongkun is he is very gentle and a bit formal when drinking tea (as I observed).
The third thing is he eats a lot, by a lot I really mean a lot. He eats until his stomach cannot be stuffed with food anymore. I'm so jealous of that since I have digestive problems and should eat very little amout of food.
The forth thing is he is very special in the way that whenever he is silent, it means he's communicating with his own god. I don't know exactly what it really means since I've never seen him communicating with his god.
The fifth thing is he is always willing to serve and it makes him happy to serve silently. Actually my leadership style was very much affected by this attitude and this is something very new that I haven't encountered before.
The sixth thing is he is very intelligent, judging by the fact that he was one of the 10 candidates who were selected to enter Peking University out of 40,000 students. 10 vs 40000, that was freaking freak. And it was only decided in one exam. I don't know if I can ever dream of accompishing such achievement at all.
And after all this, Rongkun is very calm, has a great sense of humor, a very positive attitude, and an intention to serve people without asking for regconition.
I don't know if my limited vocabulary has described him as well as I intended to, but he's been one of the most special persons I've ever met in my life.
So I've decided to take on the new challenge. A US$30,000 grant for a project proposal that brings innovative technological solutions and internet applications to change lives.
Perhaps if it were at another time, I wouldn't even pay attention to the opportunity but it was just so in time when SEALNet Project Vietnam 08 was nearing its end.
As the co-leader of the Computing Component, I felt so excited to work on this new proposal. I've been a fan of technology and i feel that years of reading technology news and books has finally paid off.
Basically, the idea is to build a public computing library that runs on the educational version of Ubuntu, a Linux variant. Linux is an unknown to many but it's truly an OS of choice for developing countries like Vietnam and feel that if it is introduced properly, differences can be made. With a wealth of educational applications already there to serve, there's virtually no cost at all to run the system.
Then, the second focus is on E-learning 2.0, or using web 2.0 technologies to educate the children. Yes, I'm talking about the children, and about innovative technologies. The children should know how to blog, use Google to search for information, iGoogle, online collaborative tools such as Google docs, etc. Basically the idea is to bring power of 2.0 to the classrooms.
Until this point, the cost is $0.
What should be there in the computing lab is of course the computers. I've discovered the thin-client theory. It works in a way that thin clients (computers without harddisks) pull everything from the server computer (even the operating system itself) and display them to the users. As a result, the thin clients can be built from very low-cost components or from old computers, which means these can be obtained from the community or corporations who have computers that they wish to throw away. With approximately $3,000, such system can be set up.
Most of the investment will go to training. This involves empowring teachers and staff with the skills necessary to teach the children new knowledge and to maintain the system as a whole.
Lots of work needs to be done. I need to find a local organization to work with since I myself is not eligible to apply for the grant.
However, I'm very positive.