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Old 01-18-2008, 03:27 PM
Neal McBurnett
 
Default Software Freedom Curriculum and OLPC

I'm writing to a few pretty inactive lists and folks that I hope are
interested in this topic. So I hope the cross-posting isn't
inappropriate. I've gotten interested in this topic more myself
recently after participating in the One Laptop per Child "Give One Get
One" opportunity.

I wonder if anyone out there in education-land has experience in, or
is interested in, teaching kids about software freedom?

Here is a wikiversity curriculum:

http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Software_Freedom

and here is an essay by Benjamin Mako Hill, the initiator of it:

http://mako.cc/copyrighteous/projects/20061030-00.html

Below are a few excerpts of what he wrote there that struck a chord
with me

Neal McBurnett http://mcburnett.org/neal/

http://mako.cc/copyrighteous/projects/20061030-00.html
...
The attractive thing to me about OLPC was the idea of students
getting a real, free software, free hardware, truly open platform
unlike phones, calculators, and eBooks

People say that because modifying technology is often difficult, only
a small percentage of users -- especially young users -- will take
advantage of the malleability or "hackability" of a product. They are
probably right. But part of why this happens is because when
computers are employed in education, we use them as tools to
accomplish predefined and preprogrammed tasks. Even when students
learn to program, it's in a window (quite literally in a box)
separate from the rest of the things that the computer does.

I don't believe that you need to be a hacker to understand why
software freedom is important. Proof, I think, is the fact that
people think that a free press is important even if they don't
publish or write very well.

As an exercise, I took it on myself to write the beginning of a
curriculum that teachers could use to teach students about software
freedom and the concepts that I think are key to understanding it. It
tries to come up with models for framing discussions and a series of
activities to help teachers teach relatively young (i.e., middle
school students) about issues of computation, information goods, and
ultimately about software freedom.

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Old 01-18-2008, 05:16 PM
"Simón Ruiz"
 
Default Software Freedom Curriculum and OLPC

Neal, everyone,

We also participated in the G1G1 program and got two XOs for our
Python class, who've been working on finishing up the Connect activity
for them.

We teach a few computer programming classes here, all in "Free as in
Speech" languages (Python, Java, C). Although we don't have, say, a
unit on what software freedom is and what it means in the grand scheme
of things, I think we get a good sense of it across. A few of our
students have started using Ubuntu personally after being in our
classes, even.

In this day and age, though, it might be worth having a unit to
explore the concept, though issues of Software Freedom might not fit
into most classes curriculum.

Perhaps in English or Art classes, however, a discussion should be had
about copyright law, comparing and contrasting the "All Rights
Reserved" style of copyright that is available on one's creative works
by default, the "Some Rights Reserved" style of copy[right,left]
promoted by Creative Commons licensing, and the "No Rights Reserved"
state we call Public Domain.

A basic understanding of copyright law seems to be becoming more and
more necessary in today's digital society, especially when creating
art—whether it be with a brush, a camera, a pen, or a keyboard and
mouse.

Just some thoughts...

Simón

On Jan 18, 2008 11:27 AM, Neal McBurnett <neal@bcn.boulder.co.us> wrote:
> I'm writing to a few pretty inactive lists and folks that I hope are
> interested in this topic. So I hope the cross-posting isn't
> inappropriate. I've gotten interested in this topic more myself
> recently after participating in the One Laptop per Child "Give One Get
> One" opportunity.
>
> I wonder if anyone out there in education-land has experience in, or
> is interested in, teaching kids about software freedom?

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Old 01-19-2008, 04:44 PM
"Joseph Hartman"
 
Default Software Freedom Curriculum and OLPC

Hi Neal, I'd be interested in looking at the curriculum you come up with. I teach K-8 so as long as it isn't geared for juniors or seniors in HS I will probably be able to use/adapt it. Please post more as you progress. Cheers -joe


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Old 01-20-2008, 02:19 PM
Neal McBurnett
 
Default Software Freedom Curriculum and OLPC

On Sat, Jan 19, 2008 at 09:44:04AM -0800, Joseph Hartman wrote:
> Hi Neal, I'd be interested in looking at the curriculum you come up
> with. I teach K-8 so as long as it isn't geared for juniors or
> seniors in HS I will probably be able to use/adapt it. Please post
> more as you progress. Cheers -joe

Links are in my original message:

> > Here is a wikiversity curriculum:
> > http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Software_Freedom

and I'm not claiming any credit:

> > and here is an essay by Benjamin Mako Hill, the initiator of it:
....

Let us all know what you think, and I hope you and your students
contribute!

Cheers,

Neal McBurnett http://mcburnett.org/neal/

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Old 01-20-2008, 05:18 PM
"M. Fioretti"
 
Default Software Freedom Curriculum and OLPC

On Fri, Jan 18, 2008 09:27:47 AM -0700, Neal McBurnett
(neal@bcn.boulder.co.us) wrote:

> I wonder if anyone out there in education-land has experience in, or
> is interested in, teaching kids about software freedom?

(general comments first, practical feedback at the bottom)

Neal,

thanks for your comments and links. I for one are definitely
interested in teaching kids (and parents!) about software freedom,
even if I am not a teacher myself. See for example:

http://digifreedom.net/node/55 (submissions always welcome)
http://digifreedom.net/node/74

> I don't believe that you need to be a hacker to understand why
> software freedom is important. Proof, I think, is the fact that
> people think that a free press is important even if they don't
> publish or write very well.

While I, too, am sure one doesn't need to be an hacker to understand
software freedom (most of my recent work is based on this very
concept) I feel that part of the reason why almost no hackers care
about it yet is the fact that... most hackers aren't really interested
in explaining certain issues in the right way for non programmers, see
eg:

http://www.ukuug.org/newsletter/16.3/#help__marco
http://digifreedom.net/node/103

At the practical level, I think/suggest that software freedom should
be just one (and not the major) part of a comprehensive "Digital
Freedom" curriculum which is badly needed these days.

We FOSS enthusiast tend to put software freedom at the center of
everything, but the intersection of ICT and civil rights in ordinary
life creates a lot of more or less interrelated problems in which the
license of the involved software is almost, if not totally,
irrelevant.

Take e-voting, for example: mention it to a FOSS advocate and very
likely he or she will jump up and talk for hours on why the source
code of voting machines should be free and how to write it. Without
stopping for a moment if e-voting as such is a worthwhile or dumb idea
in the first place...

Ditto for Trusted Computing, DRM and friends: they are bad because
they are anti-consumer, not because you cannot run free software on
machines or digital content mutilated in that way.

Feedback is obviously very welcome!
Marco
--
Help *everybody* love Free Standards and Free Software
http://digifreedom.net/

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