08 March 2009

Another fulfilling moment in my life

During last September, I happen to visit Paavai Engineering College at Salem, Tamilnadu for a guest lecture on Linux. It is quite a while after that and couple of weeks before, I got an invitation through my colleague Vinoth to speak students of IT department at Sona College of Technology, Selam, Tamilnadu on Open Source and how they can learn with the help of Open Source. My friend and colleague, Sundar also been invited to speak about "How to handle change", the change from college to company.

We (Sundar, Vinoth and myself) started from Chennai on Friday night and reached Salem Saturday early morning. Vinoth's family (Parents and his brother) gave a very warm welcome. After relaxing a bit after the journey, we reached the college around 8.30 am and met HoD of IT department. We discussed and understood his expectation from us and he insisted to have an informal and interactive session. It didn't surprise us as we prepared our lectures that way and I was more than happy because I do not know to speak formally.

At 9.30am, we started the proceedings with a warm welcome by the students and staff of IT department. I started to speak about Open Source. I planned my session for about 2 hours but wrapped by session within 30-45 minutes as I sensed that the students needed much awareness on taking some areas interest and specialize in a particular area rather than focus too much on Open Source. I feel that Open Source is of much use to the students only when they specialize in a particular area. For example, one needs to know the basics of Networking and Network Security before downloading or using SNORT intrusion detection system. While anyone can download it and do ".configure; make; make install", a lot of theoretical and systematic learning is required to make their learning meaningful. With this in mind, I thought that I would give the floor to Sundar who needed to speak on "change and how to respond to it". It would give me sometime to think about what we should do. Apart from that, I thought Sundar's talk would give students enough courage to speak up and participate. It happened exactly the same way.

Around 10.15am, Sundar talked about change and it was well received and I believe he spoke for more than an hour. Then we left for a break for 15 minutes. The students were impressive on keeping up the punctuality and they were back to their seats exactly after 15 minutes. I was inspired by it. Next, we asked the students to pick an area (Networking, Network Security, Operating System, Database, Embedded) and form groups. Asked them to write down what they already knew and what they would like to know and how they would achieve it.

The view about gaining technical knowledge is not through lectures and trainings. The lectures and trainings will give only awareness. During my session, i thought I should give that awareness and motivate the students to work consistently and specialize in their area of interests. I insisted upon having good theoretical knowledge and expand the gained theoretical knowledge with the help of Open Source Software. A long term goal would be contributing to some Open Source Products and at the same time achieving the purpose of joining an Engineering/Technology course.

We had this session for about 90 minutes and then 15 minutes Q/A session. Few students were around there for another 15-20 minutes to get their questions clarified. We could see some sparks in student's mind. Overall, I had another fulfilling day at Sona College of Technology. It was also quite a learning experience for me and yet again the students showed me so many good qualities that are needed for human beings such as mutual respect and trust. Also, I would like to emphasize and inspired by the humbleness, modesty and professionalism of HoD of Department of IT and hospitality of Mr. Iyyanar, NSS Co-ordinator of the college.

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