Argao’s IT-in-charge

What does the town of Argao get for one peso a year?

It pays for the services of a man responsible for the town’s new technology innovations–IT consultant Querubin Momongan.

Momongan is responsible for putting into place a proposal for a wireless fidelity (wi-fi) zone at the town square.

The full computerization of business processes in the municipal hall was implemented under his guidance and expertise.

Argao’s IT-in-charge also leads an ambitious undertaking to decentralize treasury operations to the barangays and provide Internet access to all schools, homes, and villages through the local broadband network (LBN) project.

Although he retired in 2003 after spending almost 24 years as a bank consultant abroad, Momongan said he came out of retirement last year when he was asked to help by Mayor Edsel Galeos, a close personal friend.

“He (mayor) is a very good friend of mine. He asked me to help so I helped,” he said.

Momongan explained he is trying to duplicate in Argao what he has learned abroad, given the budget constraints and other limitations of a third-class town.

“We are 15-20 years behind technology advancements” of a first world country like the United States, he added.

He said though that once the town implements its LBN project, it would be at par with other technology-savvy nations. That’s not bad for an idea that first cropped up over a bottle of wine, he added.

Momongan attributes to the mayor improvements seen in the past 10 months that have not been witnessed in the town for so many years.

“This is all because of him (mayor). He is strong-willed, goal-driven, charismatic, approachable. Wala siya’y minus (He has no bad trait),” Momongan said, by way of explaining his desire to continually introduce improvements to the town using new technology, for a salary of only one peso a year.

Wireless in Argao

MUNICIPAL WI-FI. I spent a day in Argao and was pleasantly surprised to find several dependable and free Wi-Fi hotspots. I was surprised because in Cebu City, free Wi-Fi access isn’t as widespread as they say it is in places such as Davao City. When I say free, I mean full Internet access without having to enter passwords or keys. At least full “http” access, I don’t mind not being able to use the other protocols.

Many shops, at least the last time I went warbiking or going around on a motorcycle to check for free Wi-Fi hotspots, just depend on zones ofPLDT and Globe for their customers’ wireless Internet access.

But not Argao.

The municipal government turned its beautiful plaza into a free Wi-Fi zone. There you are, surrounded by Spanish-era buildings, three cannons, beautiful masonry, and music that comes from cleverly hidden speakers, and you have free high-speed wireless Internet access.

I was told that the Wi-Fi zone was set up last year by Argao town officials. Now it isn’t, technically, municipal Wi-Fi—the term means the entire city or town is covered by wireless Internet signal—but it’s a start. Its munisipyo Wi-Fi.When I was at the plaza on a Saturday night, I saw one person park his multi-cab near the Argao town hall, take out his laptop and thenaccess the Internet. I opened my Asus Eee PC, which is such amarvelous piece of gadget, and checked my e-mail. The connection was relatively fast.

I wasn’t able to do speed tests, though, because I was supposed to beon a quick vacation—to “get away from it all” and my family was already on their way to the museum.

VOIP. I asked Ruel Rigor, who showed us around, on the extent of the Wi-Fi spot’s usage and he said only a few locals use it. The availability of free Wi-Fi in the town plaza is such a huge help for tourists and locals who need to access the Internet.

It also opens the possibility of using the signal in the plaza to make VOIP calls for free. If you have a Symbian-based phone, you can use Fring with Wi-Fi not only to chat with your friends, but also call themvia Skype or the application itself, if they’re also using it. The call is free because you’re connecting through Wi-Fi.

I was able to chat with some contacts using Fring, but none of my Skypecontacts were online when I was in the town center so I couldn’t testcalling with Fring.

OTHER SPOTS. Wi-Fi access isn’t just limited to the area near the Argao town hall. I was able to detect another Wi-Fi access point, albeit secured, a few meters away. The resort I stayed in near theMahayahay beach resort also offered uninterrupted free Wi-Fi access. The signal covers part of the public beach resort so you can probably get away with piggybacking near the beach, even at night.

I hope other local officials, especially in tourism areas, follow Argao’s Wi-Fi deployment. Heck, I hope more Cebu shops follow Looc Garden Resort and start offering free Wi-Fi to costumers.

The last time I was in a coffee shop in Ayala several months back, I was told to buy a card when I asked about Wi-Fi access. But things are starting to change. I’ve been told many coffee shops are starting to offer free Wi-Fi to costumers.

Asking the city where I live in, Lapu-Lapu, to follow the example of athird class municipality might be a pipe dream or a financial nightmare—remember how much Lapu-Lapu City Hall paid for computers it distributed to schools?

(Max Limpag maintains a blog at max.limpag.com)

This month’s focus: Sogod

Cebu Directory revisits Sogod and learns why its name is the Visayan term for “beginning.”

Sogod is a town full of surprises—from the white sand beaches that dot the town’s coastline to its popular restaurant and deli named Borussia.

Read more about this town of beginnings.

Where Have All The Teachers Gone?

From the UP Alumni Metropolitan DC egroup, this link from the Sun.Star Bacolod was sent: Sun.Star ARTICLE: Where have all the teachers gone?. Part of the article says:

YEARS ago the country saw the exodus of school teachers to work as domestic helpers in nearby countries. There just wasn’t enough income from teaching anymore. Although teaching can be considered a vocation and one of the great professions, teachers and their families have stomachs to feed too.

And I say:

Can anybody blame us why some of us are here abroad?

But there will always be Filipino teachers back home and our main goal in the Pinoy Teachers Network is to empower those members and the rest of the Filipino teachers through knwledge and skills impart/ professional development trainings. We are hoping to do this whenever each of us goes back home. We, the PTN organization, is still in the infancy stage and we have high hopes and ideals for the upliftment of the Philippine Educational System. Our teachers back home and the Philippine Education is what made us world class teachers. We believe it’s PAYBACK TIME!

I hope there would still be people in the government who would be willing to help us with our noble goal. KAYANG KAYA BASTA SAMA SAMA, di ba?

The good news according to the paper is:

With the release of the $200-million loan from the World Bank to improve the country’s educational system, we can only hope that the money will really uplift the educational system and does not just fall into the wrong hands again and in the pockets of a few.

And I say:

I am not going to ask anymore what the government is going to do with the $200-million loan (again????), an infant does not ask questions he has very little voice and most of the time isn’t heard/ understood, but messages sent are sometimes picked up.

My message to those in the government and the Department of Education is this: “Through the history of civilization, the concept of education has remained stable. Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but education endures. Societies that succeed respect their teachers, and the teachers respect themselves.”

***Teacher Sol who is a special education teacher in Washington DC is the Director of Pinoy Teachers Network.

Teens and Blogs

My students were hesitant writers when they started out with me during the first days of the school year. They could not even start writing a poem or a story with a given topic. It was a struggle for them to write.

I also noticed that their vocabulary is very limited to simple words. They lack imagination which could be the reason why they were having difficulty with writing.

But technology opens new opportunities for helping children to learn the rudiments of grammar and composition, while encouraging them to share their work to each other and to the whole world. It is apparent that many of today’s students raised at keyboards and eager to exchange messages with their friends, are comfortable with these new technologies and eager to use them. Then an idea integrating this into my curriculum dawned to me. The publishing of my students’ works through our class website and our school website positively motivate them to write better each time (see: http://digitalanthology.blogspot.com ).

The readers (who are not only the teachers and students in the school but a national and international audience) give good feedbacks that make each of them smile and anticipate for more comments about their works.

The National Commission on writing asks for the time writing deserves in the curriculum. It explores how technology can be used to advance writing and examines the dimensions of a responsible and effective assessment system. I believe I have a principled idea for advancing writing in compliance with the district and state requirements.

With the advantages this blogging technology gives the students I wouldn’t be surprised with this news:

MySpace soars to nearly 50M members in two years

MySpace, a social-networking Web site, has become the hottest spot for teens to instant message current pals and forge new friendships by checking out the posted pages of others. The ad-supported site, which outstripped eBay and Google in terms of number of pages viewed in November, has been attracting 5 million new members a month. USA TODAY (1/8)

ON THE CONTRARY…

Schools warn teens about social networks

Several Washington, D.C., area high schools are warning students against posting salacious material on social networks like MySpace.com and Xanga.com. Many students have been disciplined for posting sexually explicit material or including references to alcohol and drug usage. The Washington Post (free registration) (1/17)

With proper guidance from teachers and parents on using this technology, I still think that the benefits that we get from blogging outweighs the disadvantages. What do you think?

***Teacher Sol is now blogging at: http://teachersol.blogspot.com

Teacher Bloggers

How many times did I learn from my blogger friends that I was the one who inspired them to be bold and brave in uncovering their real identity and/ or putting up their pics on the web? That’s a very risky thing to do, but admirable for their being personal and sincere. This tech virus that I bring is very contagious, haha.

Recently, I helped my Teacher Consultant colleagues in the DC Area Writing Project set up their own educator’s blogs. I am very happy with the outcome, both blogs are successful in what they’re supposed to be:

THE DC TEACHER blog = (by DCAWP Teacher Consultant, Elizabeth Davis) This blog is an information portal developed by a DC teacher to inform and engage DCPS Teachers in issues and policy decisions impacting their profession and public education in the district.

MRS.C-S’s CLASS WEBLOG = (by DCAWP Teacher Consultant, Trelane Clark) This is where her class will communicate, share, and discuss what they are doing in the classroom. It is for students, parents and anyone else who wants to stay informed about all the great work that they are doing.

DIGITAL WRITING, DIGITAL TEACHING blog = (by Red Cedar Writing Project Teacher Consultant, Troy Hicks) A blog about teaching English through technology.

Well, I didn’t create Troy’s blog. He’s probably more knowledgeable than I am in using this blogging technology; he’s working on integrating podcasts right now. I look up to him as one of my mentors being in the NWP Tech Liaison’s national leadership team. But I am very flattered to know that I was one of the people who really inspired him to create his own educator’s blog.

This made me reflect on how many teachers are getting into this new blogging technology. I wonder what the exact stats are of educators who start their own weblogs everyday. But “to facilitate communication with parents, some Arizona schools are asking teachers to maintain their own webpages” (via Education Wonks). My school, Jefferson Junior High School, is also encouraging teachers to create their own websites/ weblogs so we can make homeworks accessible to our students even after class hours.

When I was appointed last year as the new DC Area Writing Project’s Technology Liaison, I told my director, Judith Kelly, that I am going to advocate for the use of technology among the DC Public Schools teachers. The job granted to me wasn’t a job at all, because I am enjoying what I am doing sharing what I know about integrating writing and technology inside the classroom…blogging in short. I’ve taught teachers who are taking graduate courses create their own class websites through blogs. I’ve given seminar workshops to my fellow DCAWP Teacher Consultants on Blogging 101. I am practicing what I preach. I guess I am doing what is expected of me 😀

How many teacher bloggers do I know? Many, and the number is still growing everyday.

Below is a list of my teacher blogger friends globally. If you know someone who’s supposed to be in this list, please let us know. We would want to exchange ideas and learn from each other through blogging *wink*

Thailand: Little Miss Teacher/ UK: Primary Teacher UK / Philippines: Mga Turo ni Tito Rolly, Teacher Bugsy, School Librarian in Action , Filipino Librarian /USA: Education in Texas (Texas) Fred’s World (Florida), Digital Writing Digital Teaching (Michigan), Education Wonks (CA), Beliza’s Handiwork (CA), The DC Education Blog, The DC Teacher, Mrs C-S Fifth Grade Class, Ms. Coti’s Fourth Grade Giants , The Chutry Experiment (Washington DC) , First Year Teacher (Colorado) / Middle East: Iranian Teacher XP / Australia: The Open Classroom

Educators Community Blogs: National Writing Project, DC Area Writing Project, Pinoy Teachers Network, Jefferson Junior HS Community Website

Teacher Sol is a proactive blogger. She’s now blogging at www.teachersol.blogspot.com.

Bloggers vs. Sony: The Rootkit Fiasco

In just another demonstration of how blogs can change the course of human opinion worldwide, bloggers have exposed that Sony/BMG is actually installing rootkits–a form of malware–in systems where some of its audio CDs are played.

Mark Russinovich of Sysinternals, who originally discovered the rootkit, wrote an analysis of how certain Sony/BMG discs implement a digital rights management scheme that basically modifies the Operating System core to hide files and running processes, and “phone home” back to Sony/BMG to send back data on the user’s music playing habits.

The malware, which is actually classified as a rootkit because of how it modifies the operating system to hide files and running processes, was reportedly so badly written that infected computers took a performance hit. And while Sony/BMG’s own software (actually licensed from a third party, First 4 Internet) had no payload itself, its ability to hide files from the operating system is a potential threat. To date, a couple of trojan horses that use the Sony Rootkit’s technology have been discovered. To add salt to the wounds, the rootkit’s creators made it so difficult to remove that some resorted to reformatting their hard drives to get rid of the malware.

Simply put, this is DRM gone bad!

Russinovich’s initial blog commentary sparked extensive discussion and even debate (but generally leaning towards the “Sony is bad” camp) both on- and off-line, which involved the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other online advocacy and techie groups. This eventually led to certain parties filing class-action lawsuits against Sony (including the EFF, the states of California, Texas, New York, and even Italy–yes, the country). Here’s a site that collects information on lawsuits against Sony/BMG.

In the local context, fellow pinoy tech blogger Atty. Noel Punzalan writes his analysis of the applicability of Sony’s End-User License Agreement in the light of local laws.

It’s a question of which will prevail: the rights of the intellectual property owner, or the privacy of the consumer. In my opinion, in this case, where the copyright holder knowingly violates the privacy of the consumer and utilizes underhanded tactics, then it is the latter who should be protected.

Sony has since capitulated and apologized, but still short of admitting its culpability.

Whatever the results of all the lawsuits, the fact remains that Sony/BMG has etched its mark on the world–there will inevitably be dozens, if not hundreds, of infected discs still lying around in CD racks of those unaware about the problem (which is perhaps majority of the populace), waiting to be inserted in a computer and do its bad stuff.

But without blogs and vigilant bloggers like Mark Russinovich, the world would not have known about this issue, or at least it would have taken longer to discover.

See more of Mark Russinovich’s posts on his Sysinternals Blog.

Here’s a comprehensive wikipedia entry on the Sony/BMG Rootkit fiasco.

*** Angelo has recently moved his blog to racoma.com.ph and is passionate about beautiful websites and winning the Isulong SEOPH challenge.

Popecasting

So you want to download Pope Benedict XVI into your iPod?

You might think the Vatican as old fashioned. Think again. It is actually one of the first global institutions that took advantage of podcasting. Chances are, you’ve probably heard about podcasting only a few days ago, but Vatican Radio has been utilizing this relatively new technology since early this year. And yes, the Holy Father has his own podcast. Well, sort of.

Podcasting is basically the process of producing audio and making it available through websites so listeners may download the audio content into their audio player. Papal messages, especially those the Pontiff delivers during his customary weekly general audience at the Vatican, are available for download from the Vatican Radio website. You have a choice of formats. You can download his minutes-long speeches and reflections either as .ram or mp3.

And if you find it hard to understand his German-flavored English, you can read the full text of his messages in the Pope Page. Call it the Holy Father’s show notes or his papal blog. If you have spare time to send him comments and feedbacks you can actually do so by emailing him. His email address is benedictxvi@vatican.va. I am not joking. Try it for yourself. Plus you can subscribe to the Vatican Radio’s podcast feed using this url: http://feeds.feedburner.com/vaticanradio105live.

My hope is that the Pope will be able to touch the hearts of people all over the world and strengthen their faith through his downloadable teachings, pronouncements, and reflections. And I too hope that podcasters around the world may use the technology to communicate sound moral values and to advance a culture of love, peace, and solidarity.