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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Use programs like Google internship to develop your knowledge

Read this news in TOI of 25 April 2012

Seventeen students have been selected by Google for the internship with its program called ' Google summer of code ( GSoC). GSoC program was initiated in 2005 to offer post secondary students beyond 18 years to write software code for various open software projects. Selected participants are paired with mentors for a project. The idea is to give students exposure to real world software development scenarios. 

These kind of live projects, with real problems, are very useful in applying the learned concepts in real world. This is what converts information into knowledge. If you have read the process of converting data to information to knowledge you will understand the impact of such live projects. This is what Howard Garnder calls 'Understanding something'. 

Look at what students in the above program are doing.  Smit Patel, a student for 3rd year BTech who has got selected in GSoC program, plans to integrate a 'bibliography engine' to the software which is missing until now in an open source software suite called Callligra Suite ( which is similar to licensed Microsoft office). This internship is for 3 months, typically starting from May and ending in July. More importantly, in GSoC, the student can talk with a expert mentor to ask any questions and clarify doubts. 

Out of the 17 students who have been admitted in Google internship program, one is from first-year , 4 are from second year, 9 from third year and 3 from the final year of B Tech ICT program. In other words, a student can join this Google internship program at any stage of his education. One need not be a master or an expert in something. One can use these live projects to apply the concepts into a real world scenario and deepen one's understanding at any stage of the education. 

These kind of live projects help a student in understanding all the various concepts in a subject, connect them together to solve a problem, and therefore build it into a 'knowledge' that can be re-utilised later. The student is forced to move from 'rote' learning to 'real' learning. A live project like this also enables the student to 'gain' the confidence in accomplishing some useful output. And more importantly, he also gets a straight entry in corporate world if he does the project well. Success or failure of project is not important; it is the student's ability to handle the real-world constraints that are tested in such a project.

There is an additional bonus in doing such a live project. A student's future education path is automatically selected after a project work. If he likes the work after GSoC, such as software, he continues on the same path. Even if he does not like the work, he knows what he does not want to do in the future. As we have seen in this blog, shifting from software work-path to domain work-path is difficult. So if you come to know that you do not like software, you prevent lot of future misery.  Therefore in both the cases, it is helpful.

Google internship program is just one example of doing a live project in software area. But every engineer, chartered accountant and other graduate student gets a chance to do a live project scenario in the final year; which imparts the same benefits: development of knowledge and the accompanying gaining of confidence. If you are working in a town like Pune or Nashik, you can even find a company who is willing to do a project for its own use and pay for it. For example, GSoC pays US $ 5000 to work on a 3-month project ! Be it in software, electronics, civil, hotel management, journalism or any other area, student must find a live project scenario to work on. There is no better way to develop knowledge. This is also the benefit of interdependency, which we discussed in the blog.

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