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Author Topic: Want to run Khan Academy Offline? Introducing KA Lite!  (Read 4909 times)

40hz

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Want to run Khan Academy Offline? Introducing KA Lite!
« on: December 20, 2012, 08:45:27 AM »
Ok. This is exciting. It's possibly the most worthwhile use of open hardware and software technology in the last few years...

"We demoed the prototype "Khanberry Pi" at a company off-site in August, where it was met with a lot of excitement, and led to some great brainstorming sessions. The RPi's composite video output means it can be connected to an old television set (fairly common in the developing world) — combine this with a $3 keyboard and $2 mouse, and an SD card or USB memory stick for video storage, and you've got a completely offline learning platform costing somewhere around $50."


In a post over at OpenCulture comes this:

Quote
Introducing KA Lite: An Offline Version of the Khan Academy That Runs on Almost Anything

by Kate Rix | December 19th, 2012


Salman Khan’s model for free online education hinges on the micro lecture—brief tutorials on nearly every subject under the sun—delivered through YouTube. Launched in 2006, the Khan Academy now has a library of 3000 videos. That’s not bad, especially for a site with the elevated goal of providing a “free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” With the help of hundreds of volunteers, the site’s content is accessible in 18 languages. But even with all of that effort, Khan doesn’t achieve the global reach that it promises. The fact is that only 35 percent of the world’s population has access to the internet, which puts the idea of online learning behind a virtual firewall for many people.

Enter Khan Academy Lite, otherwise called KA Lite. This new service tries to work around that firewall. Software developer Jamie Alexandre and a team from UCSD developed an offline version of Khan’s learning model that can run on just about anything. Once you download the KA Lite software and install it on a Linux or Windows server, students can start watching Khan videos and exercises on computers/devices as tiny and cheap as the $35 Raspberry Pi. Actually, the whole server can be run on the Raspberry Pi!

More here.

There's more information available on the KA Lite homepage.

What I found particularly interesting was how low the resource requirements are for hosting and maintaining something like this. In a 3-part article written by a Khan Academy software development intern Jamie Alexandre:

Quote
My official work at Khan Academy

As a software development intern, I was involved in many different projects. My first major chunk of work was refactoring the code that manages the various video players (along with associated functionality such as subtitles and "energy point" tracking) using my beloved Backbone.js. As the video code was some of the earliest written for the site, and had been growing organically ever since, this overhaul was important for allowing the video player to be taken out of its original context and used more flexibly around the site. It also enabled a project I did during a Facebook hackathon later in the summer, allowing the full Khan Academy video player to be embedded on other websites. Other official projects I was involved with included helping create "new content" announcement emails to send to subscribers (to increase retention), contributing to a reorganization of the video and exercise navigation into a "tutorial" experience, and extending the in-house package management system to do dependency tracing for dynamic package loading.

 
KA Skunkworks

By day, I worked on the primary responsibilities described above, but my nights were spent toiling away on a parallel line of work, which Ben Kamens (Khan Academy's fearless dev leader and outstanding mentor) later dubbed "KA SkunkWorks". By chance, the Raspberry Pi I had been waiting for since April finally arrived in mid-July, and as it sat on my desk at Khan Academy it frequently evoked the inquiry "Awesome! What are you going to do with it?" (to which the only rational reponse was "Everything!"). Fellow intern (and Khan Academy exercise -creation guru) Emily Eisenberg and I hatched a scheme to get Khan Academy content working on the Raspberry Pi, which turned out to be both easier and more challenging than expected. We wrote scripts to generate a simple static version of the site, using topic tree data from the Khan API. However, although the RPi nominally supports 1080p video playback, we had trouble getting videos to play smoothly within the browser (taking advantage of the GPU for HTML5 video), so we opted for registering a custom URI handler that popped up mplayer to play the video. Emily also did a lot of work making a streamlined version of the khan-exercises framework so that it would be fast enough to run on the RPi's limited processor. The result was very minimalistic, but combined with a simple Flask-based API for saving and retrieving the user's progress on exercises, it was enough to allow a completely offline user to engage with the core-value Khan Academy content (videos and exercises), using a pocket-sized, low-power, $25 computer.


The pragmatic pivot; KA Lite is born


We demoed the prototype "Khanberry Pi" at a company off-site in August, where it was met with a lot of excitement, and led to some great brainstorming sessions. The RPi's composite video output means it can be connected to an old television set (fairly common in the developing world) — combine this with a $3 keyboard and $2 mouse, and an SD card or USB memory stick for video storage, and you've got a completely offline learning platform costing somewhere around $50. We met with Neil D'Souza, who runs the fantastic non-profit teachaclass.org, which has been helping distribute Khan Academy content and other educational materials to computer labs at orphanages and schools in remote areas of Mongolia, India, Indonesia, and Mexico. It became clear that there was broad demand for a light-weight, offline server solution for use in a wide variety of deployment scenarios throughout the developing (and even the developed) world, and thus the Khanberry Pi project began to pivot, eventually becoming the open-source Django-based project "KA Lite", which I presented at the last company meeting of my internship at Khan Academy.

.
.
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All server-side code is in pure Python, with no non-Python dependencies, which means all required libraries (e.g. Django, requests, rsa) can be bundled up into a cross-platform package. Originally, it depended on a WSGI server such as Apache being installed, but through the magic of django-wsgiserver, even the server itself is now pure Python. Packaging the Python dependencies up in the same repository also has the advantages that 1) we never have to worry about dependency conflicts, and 2) updating the entire system to a new version with all dependencies in sync is as easy as "git pull" (which we can do P2P, when needed).

After developing everything on laptops, it was exciting to discover that the server ran smoothly on the Raspberry Pi, out of the box. With the addition of a USB Wifi adapter running in Access Point mode, and a low-current 5V power supply, this could make for a very inexpensive wireless server solution, which could be placed in a classroom where students connect to it using cheap tablets such as the Aakash, which is now available to students in India for ~$20.

KA Lite is designed to enable P2P adhoc syncing of database records between devices, or between devices and a central server, towards the goal of eventual consistency within a syncing zone, making devices and facilities effectively interchangeable from the point of view of the end-user (with user accounts and progress data kept in sync). This is accomplished through a public-private key system in which every syncable database record is hashed and signed using the private key of the originating device, and the signature is stored along with the database record. Self-signed device records (containing the device's public key) are passed around as well, so that receiving devices can verify the integrity and origin of all incoming records. The "zone" membership of devices is administered through a central server, which signs a certificate using its own private key, stating that a device belongs to a particular zone, which then allows that device to convince other devices in the same zone to sync with it. (Note that in the current iteration, syncing is only done via the central server, but the way records are stored will support P2P syncing through the same mechanism, once a few details have been worked out.)

Full article and links here.

Talk about throwing down the gauntlet when it comes to all those expensive and complex educational products for which many of our public school systems pay out mega in tax dollars each year...

It's gonna be fun seeing the reaction to this project. And I'm guessing this is just the tip of the iceberg! :Thmbsup: 8)

---------------------------------

Addendum:

On a totally unrelated note, it's nice to see there's always somebody out to make a shameless buck. Over on Amazon, there's what appears to be one of those "hard-to-find toy" vendors that's offering the Raspberry Pi Model-B (being sold worldwide at $35) for the low price of $69.95. And yes, that's not for any sort of bundle - it's for the bare board, with no accessories.

Since there's normally a 30-45 day delay to get one, I'm guessing this vendor is hoping to cash in on people desperate to give one this year as a gift. Even if the Amazon page helpfully states: Ordering for Christmas? This item will arrive after December 25.
 :-\
« Last Edit: December 20, 2012, 08:56:36 AM by 40hz »

Paul Keith

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Re: Want to run Khan Academy Offline? Introducing KA Lite!
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2012, 11:10:05 AM »
I don't want to be that pessimist but if it's just going to be a static webpage/TV show it's already been attempted in local edutainment shows and whiteboards/blackboards since it's the Khan Academy model which is how most poor people in schools are already receiving their droning courses.

I'm not discounting the project, offline video set has merit. I'm just questioning Why Khan? The Raspberry PI is still an OLPC-like object. The flaw has always been it gives an excuse for governments to just throw that thing at your potential students like it's relief goods. You combine the most boring white board videos on the most tedious basic elements and it's a market for replacing night schools, not poverty (in the 3rd world).

Even in the private elementary school I attended where sometimes the video *can* be mildly entertaining, students tend to regret Video day. It's something you want to sleep off on. It's that time when you know your teachers are going to be even more disinterested than you. The Khan Academy encourages dynamic feedback/exercises even on their own developing world case example sales pitch youtubes.

Gwen7

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Re: Want to run Khan Academy Offline? Introducing KA Lite!
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2012, 12:30:24 PM »
I'm not discounting the project...

@pk: of course you are... ;-)

the creators of pi took strong steps to keeping their device from being another olpc-like thing to either be ignored or hijacked by big businesses like olpc was. in my daughter's school the administration openly admitted they worried about things like the raspberry. because from what they heard about it, the self-taught kids were more knowledgeable about them than most teachers were. so where would their math and science teachers fit in with something like that? that is a question which begs a even bigger question. ;-))
and don't even get me started on what their attitude towards the Khan Academy is.

superboyac

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Re: Want to run Khan Academy Offline? Introducing KA Lite!
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2012, 02:52:41 PM »
Thanks 40!  Wow...this is exactly the kind of stuff that I'm into.  This was what I was calling the "portable university".  I even hacked one together with that chinese tv box thing I got last month...AND I put Khan academy on there to see how my nephew would respond to it.  This is really what I should be doing instead of what i am doing.

superboyac

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Re: Want to run Khan Academy Offline? Introducing KA Lite!
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2012, 03:10:05 PM »
I'm not discounting the project...

@pk: of course you are... ;-)

the creators of pi took strong steps to keeping their device from being another olpc-like thing to either be ignored or hijacked by big businesses like olpc was. in my daughter's school the administration openly admitted they worried about things like the raspberry. because from what they heard about it, the self-taught kids were more knowledgeable about them than most teachers were. so where would their math and science teachers fit in with something like that? that is a question which begs a even bigger question. ;-))
and don't even get me started on what their attitude towards the Khan Academy is.
Man, I hate hearing things like this.  It's such a huge issue.

Renegade

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Re: Want to run Khan Academy Offline? Introducing KA Lite!
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2012, 07:45:19 PM »
It's kind of odd. You need to sign up for an account. How would that work offline?
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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

Paul Keith

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Re: Want to run Khan Academy Offline? Introducing KA Lite!
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2012, 11:05:07 AM »
I'm not discounting the project...

@pk: of course you are... ;-)

the creators of pi took strong steps to keeping their device from being another olpc-like thing to either be ignored or hijacked by big businesses like olpc was. in my daughter's school the administration openly admitted they worried about things like the raspberry. because from what they heard about it, the self-taught kids were more knowledgeable about them than most teachers were. so where would their math and science teachers fit in with something like that? that is a question which begs a even bigger question. ;-))
and don't even get me started on what their attitude towards the Khan Academy is.

XD

Ok, I walked into that when I wrote that first sentence but really I'm not discounting it. It has huge potential but it's hard to see how you can protect it from big business. If the thing is as good as it is, you've just fixed streaming and changed the demand for tablet market in a world where some still use Instant Messengers to communicate in an office or where text messages rule the communication airwaves. The only limitation is the server content but it's a concept that turns every thing from porn sites to movie streams to television into a potential mini-ISP that can be viewed with micro-subscriptions.  The only way to monopolize it would be to legalize it with patents in a world where legality is iffy.

To answer Renegade's question, the long text doesn't read like it's offline. More like a one way traffic. The concept sounds like web clipping. You have the offline html and it can be clicked but the webmaster still has the content and is still the one logging in and accessing the site but because the range is closer to the country, you have a more powerful and stable connection to the site content almost like how people play competitive portables in the early days where two Gameboy infrareds have to be close to each other. The server is by far the tricky bit but that's how it's planning to secure itself I would assume.

The first obfuscation is the raspberry pi which has it's own attempts at protecting itself. The second obfuscation is to limit the raspberry pi to a mere wire that sends videos to the television. In doing so you have more stable connections but in the form of a wireless wire instead of a wire and in the form of a wireless internet that isn't a wireless internet but more like a mini-p2p without the p2p aspect.

It's also worth highlighting: Emily also did a lot of work making a streamlined version of the khan-exercises framework so that it would be fast enough to run on the RPi's limited processor.

It's a new form of Video Radio. Not a new form of encrypted internet. TVs are hard to tweak at a whim. Radios can be tweaked via caller requests and instant remixes.

mahesh2k

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Re: Want to run Khan Academy Offline? Introducing KA Lite!
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2012, 12:16:30 PM »
It would be good if they come up with offline USB drives or some disks. Nothing beats these storage media's yet. Internet streaming can be slow in many parts of the world.

40hz

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Re: Want to run Khan Academy Offline? Introducing KA Lite!
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2012, 12:39:36 PM »
@Paul - you know I think the world of you...but there are times when I really can't figure out where you're coming from (or going to) with some of your analyses, to say nothing of your interpretations of other people's intents - unless, of course, you can read minds. Have you really gotten that cynical - or is it simply that I'm a lot more "optimistic" (as in: naive & gullible) than I think I am?
 ;D

Paul Keith

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Re: Want to run Khan Academy Offline? Introducing KA Lite!
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2012, 01:40:42 PM »
I've gotten that optimistic  :P

I think when it comes to poverty, one of the greatest miracles of the world is how the poor can quickly catch up. In my old self, I saw the poor as being somewhat on par with the needy. Yes, many are needy especially when it comes to access rather than talent where poverty may strengthen a man's mind.

They, however, are also fast and furious at achieving greatness so to speak. What I described wasn't a form of pessimism, it was great respect at how good the poor can be.
 
The recent change in outsourcing, the recent dominance of immigrants selling cheap vendor products, the more I see/read/hear about squatters being able to form internal governance of theft, castes and hierarchies and be superior to a ghetto in organization...the more I read about the copycat business plaguing the poor...the more I respect how the poor can quickly unite with the rich's demands such as the question posted on this blog post never coming from the rich so the poor never threw out the same question but the poor being fast at prayers, donations and working together is very much in agreement with the harmony of the middle class and the rich and the non-needy at reacting: http://getrealphilip...devastated-mindanao/

...the more I'm awed by the poor and the clearer it is to see how skilled, empowered (or hard working) and fast (at adapting) most people are including and especially the poor. When they wanted tablets, the poor and needy got their tablets like a chaotic free market democracy towards a product. Yet once they got their tablets, the poor who needed education weren't as fast as acquiring the education they feel deep inside they don't need even though many will morally accept that they do need education.

It sounds pessimistic but it's actually a form of extreme optimism. The poor can and will wield opportunities once they are handed the opportunity. They don't care what the tool aims to be, they care at what the tools can and will do.

This is not to say these projects aren't needed but these projects, if successful, will evolve to the terms of the poor and the market while leaving the higher aim intact which is to provide education to the needy...but it will still evolve. The poor or the needy will make sure of it even if it's simply through creating a space for a less well intentioned supplier to supply it.

It may also just be that I finally read (but haven't finished reading) this

I don't agree nor understand many of the things in it but it did upgrade my vocabulary of a welfare state from a welfare state to a welfare colony and now I see education as everything through that possibility.

His wikipedia page actually has a free pdf that's similar to the chapter on this found in the book:

http://www.un.org/es...s/2006/wp14_2006.pdf

@mahesh2k

The usb drives can't apply to the goal because the primarily target is: using cheap tablets such as the Aakash, which is now available to students in India for ~$20 and it's not about a static storage media.

Not that there's no merit to it but it's an entirely different goal. USB drives and storage media have no real time capability to tweak a database and are limited by their internal memories and require computers. This is almost entirely for televisions with the exception of the cheap tablet that has been mentioned. Unless USBs and storage media have found a way to sync with each other in a wireless p2p range that deletes the data inside and replaces with new videos - it's not really comparable and people in poor countries do use usbs in cases where they can have usbs. You could even say there's too much empty usbs being handed out but there's too little demand or idea as to how to make a person be interested in the content of the usb on a general basis.

« Last Edit: December 21, 2012, 01:50:02 PM by Paul Keith »