KarlieRobinson.com

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NYSCATE 2009 – Bringing Open Source to Education

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NYSCATE 2009 was, in my opinion, a big success. At least as far as short notice, first-time-out, events go.

We had lots of SWAG, thanks to everyone’s help. Even some more last minute Fedora SWAG by way of Charles Proffitt. And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Mike Lee. Not sure why I didn’t mention him in the last post, but he did send some print collateral ideas. It was his email that gave me the graphical layout for the Sugar Spin discs we printed and burned for the booth.

So Mike, and Chas – Thank you again.

Now as far as the action in the booth, Monday was a much busier day than Tuesday. We gave out lots of Sugar Spins and lots of openSUSE Edu Li-F-E discs.

Of course the topic of Sugar on a Stick, getting involved, Freedom and free downloads were covered over and over again. All good stuff and I don’t think explaining it ever gets old for me. In fact, when I left at 2:30 on Tuesday, my voice was hoarse.

The OLPC XO-1 laptops were such a big hit and I knew they would be. After all, when you have educators, and an education tool, what would you expect?

One thing I didn’t expect was that about 10% of the booth visitors thought it was a toy and/or hadn’t heard of OLPC. So it’s a good thing they stopped by so we could introduce the possibility of truly open and interactive learning.

On the other hand, those who were familiar (having at least heard of OLPC), only a few had ever seen one in person.

The very few folks I spoke with who knew lots about OLPC commented that they still weren’t sure how to introduce the learning environment into their schools or lessons.

Almost no one knew about Sugar on a Stick as an inexpensive alternative to an XO deployment. (and yes, I’ll give them that one, as SoaS is still a fairly new concept)

In contrast, almost everyone I spoke to at Ontario GNU Linux Fest knew of OLPC and seen an XO in person.

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing a big red flag here.

We should all be wondering why this knowledge gap between FOSS and Edu has formed. Is it because bunch of geeks, hell-bent of freedom and open communications are avoiding local conversations about topics that would have a positive effect on the children in their community?

I might be wrong, but that may be more than a rhetorical question.

In my opinion, by staying in our own geek community, no matter how international that may be, and rarely taking FOSS into the local community it seems we’re being counter productive. I’m not sure if it’s fear of being too geeky for the average citizen, or what. Regardless of the reasons, I’m now seeing that it’s an area that should be addressed.

Now to get off my soap box and walk the walk, here are two examples of how I’m trying to bridge gaps locally.

First I offered to help a rural school district in Wayne County NY hold an install fest. I’ve even gone so far as to say I’d help find computers to install Linux and FOSS applications on. Why? Because the 2 teachers I met with casually mentioned that they have children without access to basic word processing at home. (Lucky for me, Chas Proffitt is also the meeting coordinator for the LUG of Rochester and we had a chance to talk about volunteers from the LUG to help should this get rolling)

How big of an impact could we have by installing Linux on a few “EOL” computers? I don’t know yet, but the digital divide doesn’t need to exist when Puppy Linux and other light/fast Linux distros can bring 10 year old computers back to life.

Second, and high on my list, is the opportunity to reproduce the RIT class at a local Catholic High School. The school’s Director of Technology told me he bought an XO through Give one Get one, but hasn’t seen too much excitement in the school yet. He also told me there’s a desire to do more computer science type classes. Can you see how I was starting to get excited as we spoke? I love it when two problems can be addressed with a single solution.

And yes, of course I’ll post an update if there is more to report as a result of my time at NYSCATE.

That’s all for now,
~Karlie

Written by Karlie

November 24th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

2 Responses to 'NYSCATE 2009 – Bringing Open Source to Education'

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  1. Great write up! Yes,… as a group the FOSS community must take the opportunities presented to them to at least be visible at computing events. In NY State we have, with the help of many, been to NYSCATE, EdTech Day 2009, WhiteHat Security Day and held two information festivals. When the 'average home user' starts seeing people using Linux and Open Source Programs they become 'aware' of the possibilities.

    cprofitt

    30 Nov 09 at 7:22 PM

  2. Thanks Chas.

    I really have you to thank for tuning me into more EDU opportunities in NY State and I totally agree with your philosophy. In fact I think more LoCos and LUGs should follow your lead.

    Again, it's not that I don't like the work already being done by the Open Source Community, but it's time to blaze some new trails.

    Karlie Robinson

    1 Dec 09 at 8:30 AM

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