Dinda's Foss Blog

Open Source Software and Learning

Getting to the ‘aha’ moments for kids and computers

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I had the privilege last week of visiting  with Anthony Borrow, the Moodle Contrib coordinator.   Moodle is a great success story for open source in Education as its adoption continues to grow among not just in schools but many corporations and non-traditional learning organizations.  It turns out Anthony is located at a school not too far from my current hometown and as soon as I drove up to school I recognized the building as one I had visited many years ago during my own school days.  Long story, short version – I’m coming full circle with my life.

The discussion ranged from how Moodle has been so successful, to how this one guy is the primary QA and code reviewer for the whole project and then side journeys into pedagogy, learning theory and how open source fits the model that every school and educator says it wants to promote; authentic learning and enabling collaboration.  It seems so simple; open source lets students take apart the technology, work on real world tasks and solve real problems.  So why isn’t it deployed more in schools?  and why aren’t more educators using open source projects in learning?

The school also has a unique work program that allows each student to work a full day at a local business office.  The argument, which I’ve heard before sitting on various technology in schools committees, is that students need business computer skills and since most offices are using Windows, well kids should be taught the current tools.  Did I just hear a collective scream?  If you’re over 25, chances are the desktop OS version you were using in highschool is already obsolete.  Ten years is a long time in technology years so today’s 15 year olds being taught to use the ‘current’ software tools is fine but there needs to be more to that approach.

Driving away from the school, which btw, is in a pretty rough area of town and not too far from my where my Great-grandmother’s house used to be, I couldn’t help but thinking about that issue.  We’ve created a generation that is a great consumer of technology but we’re not enabling them with the right tools and skills to help them move from simple consumers to developers of that and even newer technology.

Do you remember that first moment when you realized you could make your computer do something different b/c a little bit of coding?  That ‘aha moment’ when you created or changed something?  That moment when you were suddenly enabled and encouraged to make changes or create something entirely new?  Isn’t that what we want all kids to have the chance to do?

If you are in Barcelona the week of November 2 – 5,  2010 you should check out these two back to back events that will help change the world of open learning:



Written by dindafoss

September 13, 2010 at 3:25 am

Posted in education, ubuntu

One Response

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  1. The “aha moment” is something I was very intent on when I made Qimo. First with eToys and now with Laby, I wanted to make sure that it provided the kids a fun and encouraging way to learn that they can “teach” the computer.

    Related to this, we’ve had many requests to remove the menu button, or otherwise prevent the kids from leaving the “safe” confines of the default games. But I wanted to give them somewhere to explore once the default games started to loose their newness. Kids have a remarkable ability to learn by trying, and I wanted to give them as much room to try as I could.

    Michael Hall

    September 13, 2010 at 5:04 pm

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