Archive for October 2010
I’ve already had offers from five parents to give me their kids for this project! I’m looking into the details of this project but it sounds like a winner. The contest is designed to get students ages 13 – 18 involved in open source projects. I have tons of task ieas for these kids as the contest is just not limited to coding but also includes these areas:
- Code: Tasks related to writing or refactoring code
- Documentation: Tasks related to creating/editing documents
- Outreach: Tasks related to community management and outreach/marketing
- Quality Assurance: Tasks related to testing and ensuring code is of high quality
- Research: Tasks related to studying a problem and recommending solutions
- Training: Tasks related to helping others learn more
- Translation: Tasks related to localization
- User Interface: Tasks related to user experience research or user interface design and interaction
I’ll started a wiki page to help organize things as time to apply is only until Oct. 29. Leave me comment if you are interested in being a mentor and please feel free to help edit the wiki as I just copied the core pages from the GSoC one and they need some editing. Thanks!
I’ve been struggling with the current approach of providing educational software as stand alone apps versus web-based apps. In FOSS there is a dearth of stand alone apps as many publishers follow the standard proprietary software model and target only certain operating systems. Same for many of the CD/DVD based materials that accompany textbooks provided by publishers. On the other end of the spectrum is an entire wealth of web-based apps and sites that contain some incredible and often free content for learning. But the places that most need this free and open content are some of the places without the bandwidth or technology to access them. Thus my dilemma; to advocate a strategy that tries to encourage more stand alone app development or to forgo stand alone content and focus on just getting learners to the web? The middle ground maybe being a school server with preinstalled content.
If you work in a technology-rich field it’s sometimes difficult to remember what it’s like to not have ubiquitous access to the cloud. Schools, most schools, have limited access and some schools even purposely limit that access. In technology-rich schools it’s mostly a policy issue on how to handle web access. For the rest of the world, the issue is still getting any technology into the classrooms.
OLPC helped lead the way toward delivering a quality technology experience for kids in most need of technology resources. Ubuntu and Edubuntu are now being distributed to many of those same audiences but I’m struggling with what strategy I should advocate as the technologies grow. FOSS will never be able to match the numbers of proprietary software and WINE can only get you so far and you still run into the same licensing issues if you want that software at home and school. One of the reasons so many organisations have chosen Edubuntu over plain Ubuntu is the inclusion of the educational software, even if the list is not long. It’s still better than nothing and that’s the other option.
So going forward I would like to see more stand alone application development but thinking long-term I question that approach. I can see a hybrid approach with a school server with captured sites and preinstalled content that could then be distributed out to student and teacher machines. Remember, no one NEEDS the entire Internet at once, they just NEED the relevant bits to learn the topic at hand.
Last week I was honoured to give a presentation at the Ministry of Education for Malaysia’s Open Source Software Conference. The government is making great strides in moving toward open-source software but like all organisations there are still a few hurdles to overcome. Legacy systems and web interoperability sometimes make it difficult to migrate wholesale but every small step in the right direction helps others follow the path they forged.
Malaysia has a great opportunity ahead of it. The new policy for ICT in schools announced at the conference culminated in a great document outlining their latest five year plan to enhance technology in all their schools. They have already invested a great deal in infrastructure and now all teachers, 1 million, have laptops. The next steps are netbooks or laptops for all 3.5 million students. Wouldn’t it be great to see all those system running Ubuntu?
It’s not just a technology issue but an education issue. Open-source is the right learning methodology and when you talk to educators they understand that. Open-source can offer something no proprietary offering can; true, authentic learning opportunities where the technology is a part of the learning, not just a tool to do tasks.
Think about this scenario: What if the entire country’s schools from preschool to University level adopted Ubuntu? The current proprietary operating system being used by all students is in English, not in Bahasa Malaysia. It’s too small a market to offer a fully translated system but what if we could enable older students to become translators as part of their curriculum process? The tools and processes are already there. Talk about an authentic learning project! We, the Ubuntu project, teach them how to use these tools and processes so that they can have a better learning experience for all their students.
An entire generation of learners moving from consumers to contributors.
Let the disruption begin.
I found out 2 days ago that I will be traveling to Malaysia to attend this wonderful event! I will be giving a presentation on Ubuntu in Education on Wednesday morning. The community there is very FOSS and Ubuntu friendly so it’s a great opportunity to show just how important they are to us. I’m really looking forward to the trip and the opportunity to meet the LoCo team there. If you are near Kuala Lumpur maybe I’ll get to meet you too.