Archive for the ‘EdTech’ Category
The third quarter of RIT’s Open Source Development class made their project pitches last night. As each one was made, there I was poo-pooing all the ideas.
It’s not that the ideas weren’t good, on the contrary, some were shockingly well thought out and could be the start of some very great projects. It’s just that my critiques, while trying to be helpful seemed to be continually negative in nature.
Regardless of how I came across, I was trying to give direction and allow the students to think a little further into development process while there’s still time to work out who’s working with whom and on what.
So besides pointing out that snowball fights might not go over well with children living in tropical climates and war, fighting, and demons can be very inappropriate in some cultures, we also had some good conversations about where to focus their energy right now.
The first focus is Research. What’s already out there? Is there anything similar being done?
The second, which ties into the research is my new favorite phrase “Begin with the finishing touches.” Is there anything “close enough” to what you want to do? If two or more components were coded together, would that get you to your goal faster?
The vibe I got last night was that the kids might still be transitioning their thinking about what’s appropriate to copy and build upon. After all, one of the things that makes this class unique is the whole plagiarism aspect. While we can’t disregard licenses and copyright completely, there’s a whole slew of great code out there just waiting for someone to modify.
It will be interesting to see what the kids end up working on. I’ll keep you updated on the progress.
We got started Saturday morning at Seneca@York with an unconfrence/barcamp style pitches.
Right after lunch, Remy DeCausemaker and I did a joint presentation covering the class we’re involved with at RIT.
I kicked things off with the presentation (download) I did for the Ontario GNU Linux Fest a few weeks ago. I didn’t quite fill the 50 minutes at OGLF, and I managed to whip through all of them in about 20 minutes on Saturday.
Then Remy brought us up to speed on how he got involved with the class and how his new position as a fellow at RIT fits with his ongoing work with organizations such as the Sunlight Foundation.
We then tag-teamed questions from the group. Everything from gaining a foothold in universities, to the kids getting excused from class on Tuesday if they attend Remy’s upcoming Hack-a-thon.
After the keynote, we all made our way to Dave and Buster’s. I had never heard of the place, but I liked it. If you haven’t been, it reminded me of a grown-ups Chuck E Cheese.
On my way back to my hotel, I was passed by a police car… Then an emergency truck, then a fire truck… “Must be an accident somewhere” I mused to myself.
However, all 3 turn on Wilson Ave… in the direction of my hotel.
Why yes, there was a fire truck parked in the driveway when I arrived moments later.
It was only a dryer fire and I was able to get into my room about 30 minutes later.
I’ll cover Sunday’s hack fests in my next post so look for day 2 soon.
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,