I spent yesterday afternoon with a like-minded group of educators who are part of the Becta-funded Open Source Schools project. We spent four hours (!) discussing the ins-and-outs of what educators want and need from us. We were joined virtually by a number of educators from the FlashMeeting (see replay). In the spirit of being open and sharing, here’s an overview of what was discussed!
- We’re concerned with not replicating what is already available elsewhere in the Open Source community. Our focus should, and is, on pedagogical application of Open Source Software (OSS).
- Starting with the half-term after Easter, we shall have a ‘push’ in a given subject area. This will not be at the expense of providing resources, links and discussion for other subject areas. We have a number of historians who are part of the project (including myself), and so will be kicking things off with either History or Design and Technology, where teachers have also expressed a strong interest.
- The idea of ‘having a competition’ was raised at various points at the meeting. Usually it was in an attempt to get students engaged. I had misgivings about this, especially after Clarence Fisher’s excellent recent post.
- As would be expected, there was much discussion of Moodle. I’m not against it, I’m just not a huge fan. The problem is with Moodle is that there’s a fair learning curve, and it’s best deployed as a whole-school learning platform. I’m more concerned with getting teachers, students and parents using OSS they can install easily and locally. :-p
- I floated the idea of having posters that could be downloaded from the site and printed off by educators who want to promote OSS and the Open Source Schools website. We discussed getting professional designers to come up with these, but eventually decided that user-generated ones (after exemplars) would be more in keeping with the community spirit.
- I mentioned that a good way to get parents engaged might be to show ways in which they can control their children’s access to the Internet at home. We need to explore this more as existing OSS solutions we could think of are difficult to deploy on a single machine. I suggested OpenDNS, but it turns out that this is free, but not Open Source.
- We discussed how to get teachers started with OSS. I pointed out the fact that our unique selling point is pedagogical use of OSS, not just being a one-stop shop for everything Open Source! To this end, we’re not going to be providing step-by-step guides on how to download and install programs (unless we’re specifically asked to, of course…)
- It was agreed that video is a powerful medium, and that 5-minute TeachersTV-style examples of OSS being used in an educational context would be useful. This could take the form of screencasts (created using Wink, for example) or videos recorded and uploaded to Archive.org. These would be created by educators on a voluntary basis (after being seeded with some examples) instead of being of broadcast-quality by film crews parachuted into schools!
If you’d like to get involved in the Open Source Schools project, please head over to the website. We’re keen for as many people to get involved as possible and it’s far from an exclusive club.
See you over there!