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The NetDispenser Project

Edu-kiosk and free software incentivizer

Discussion Forum Demo Credit-Feeder Demo Credit-Meter
Manual Build Instructions Overview Paper (old)

Edu-Kiosk: A Tool For Parents

Hello, this page is about a new parenting tool. It's called the NetDispenser and it's basically an edu-kiosk that requires kids to earn their internet access by completing educational tasks chosen by their parents.

Using the NetDispenser, parents can teach their kids without direct involvement and micro-managing, or being the "bad guy" all the time. The NetDispenser does the dirty work, leaving parent-child relationships unscathed.

With the NetDispenser kids learn to feed themselves, just like birds at a bird-feeder. They also learn to make a strong effort when they work, because with a well-designed activity a strong effort is their only option to get back online.

But the NetDispenser is just a tool. It's certainly not about denying access to information, or anything like that. It's just that sometimes parents want their kids to do something constructive. Parents can turn it "on" when they need it and "off" when they don't.

Here's a quick look at how it works: At the center is a wifi-kiosk that grants internet access in exchange for credits. This becomes the new access point for the kids. It broadcasts a web application called the credit-meter that works just as the name implies.

When credits run out the credit-meter revokes internet access to all sites except the online credit-feeder website, where they can always visit to earn more credits. The credits they earn are transferred back to the credit-meter with a simple, one-click procedure. This process can be repeated as necessary, thus keeping themselves online while consuming educational content, learning about accountability, time management and even having a sense of shared ownership.

The desire for internet access serves as a single point of motivation, which translates to a consistent effort regardless of the activity. And experience has found that the type of "caring" when motivated this way is the same type of "caring" that leads to solid learning. That's the type of caring which would naturally occur had they been satisfying their own curiosity. In other words: they do care, it's just for different reasons, but the effect is the same: learning occurs!

So, because it provides a consistent source of motivation, the NetDispenser has potential for teaching a variety of subjects. But to realize this potential requires activities from a variety of subjects. Where do these activities come from? This is where free software comes in.

Free software to the rescue

We see this as an opportunity to stimulate free software for education. By "free" we mean licensed under a free software license, such as the GPL, as well as free to use and free to share.

But what incentive is there for anyone to contribute free software? After all, developing an activity takes time and people can't work for free. This is the basic problem that likely prevents many people from developing free and opensource software on their own. It may be great for the world but working for free is hardly a viable career option.

Free software Incentivizer

The project aims to solve this "incentive problem" by finding a workable solution between parents and developers such that both communities enjoy some value from their involvement and have incentive to participate.

We propose a new variation to the age-old subscription model, where parents who use the full platform become subscribers. By "full platform" we mean transferrring credits between the online credit-feeder and their credit-meter at home. But as subscribers they are provided an interface that enables them to allocate and distribute 100% of their modest ($10 est) fee among their favorite developers. It amounts to requiring full users to support free software for education, but giving them the freedom to choose which software to support. We believe that this arrangement will incentivize development, attract new contributors and stimulate new innovation.

Expanding kids' horizons is never out of fashion. Parents typically want their children to succeed and be prepared for the future, and if a tool like the NetDispenser can help them do it, so much the better. The world's list of free education software can certainly accomodate more titles, and it's a good thing because there's an ocean of unrealized potential out there!

Whether you are a parent, a developer, or both, we hope that you can join us to help teach kids, and to build some high-quality, free-software for education.

  1. The NetDispenser is an inexpensive micro computer, configured as a WiFi Hotspot and credit-meter, which grants internet access in exchange for earned credits.
  2. Credits are awarded by completing educational activities at the credit-feeder website, which is always accessible.
  3. Earned credits are transferred from the credit-feeder website back to the credit-meter device simply by clicking a button on the webpage broadcast by the device.
  4. A second button starts the credit-meter and grants full internet access to all of the child's devices.
  5. When the credits run out it's back to the credit-feeder to earn more credits.
  6. Because the credit-feeder website is online, parents can configure assignments and queue them from anywhere.
  7. The device is easily turned "on" when it's needed, and "off" when it's not. The intent is not to restrict access to information. Rather, it is a tool for parents to help them prepare their children for the future.