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Re: [Osdc-edu-authors] NEW EDU ARTICLE: Education in 2030: Open source and community-based



Never multitask in traffic. :-)

Thanks for this, Matt --- from where I sit, I'd like to put this on OSDC because I appreciate the point-of-view. Other thoughts? Comments? Concerns? Jokes? Opinions?

Matt, did you have an idea for the title?

thanks.
mab

On 05/15/2011 04:56 PM, Matthew Jadud wrote:
Hi all,

On Fri, May 13, 2011 at 17:35, Mary Bitter<mbitter redhat com>  wrote:
Education in 2030: Open source and community-based

Please facetweetblog! Thanks to Mel for the article!

Have a great weekend everyone&  if you are bored, feel free to write an EDU
article. ;-)
I got bored. Actually, I was bored for several hours today, but I
nearly killed several people on the Mass Turnpike when I tried to open
my laptop while driving and write a response to Mel's article. I
swear, that seventy-four tractor-trailer pileup was not my fault. So,
I resumed my boredom in the hotel room, and did this instead of
grading exams.

My intention is that we just run it on os.com/edu. If we don't want
to, I'll just run it on my blog, perhaps. Feedback and criticism is
welcome/encouraged. My primary goal wasn't so much to reply to Mel's
article as to try and get Greg wound up enough so that he might write
a response to my response. (Actually, I suspect I did a poor job, but
it's good to have goals just the same.)

Speaking of, Mel: are you in Springfield yet?

Cheers,
Matt

Begin Article Text:

<p>
Let's be up front about things: I'm angry about the rhetoric I hear of
late surrounding education. Teachers (and their unions) are being
vilified, legislators and parents are demanding "accountability," and
at the same time, the financial support necessary to educate a society
is being slashed drastically. Regarding education, everyone has an
opinion---and they feel their opinion is "informed" in some way simply
because<em>they went to school</em>.
</p>

<p>
Mel Chua's recent post<a
href="http://opensource.com/education/11/5/future-education-looks-open-source";>Education
in 2030: Open source and community based</a>  is typical of the
challenges to the educational establishment that are<em>en vogue</em>
today. No literature of any sort is cited to support the claims made
regarding the relationship between FOSS and<a
href="http://www-distance.syr.edu/andraggy.html";>andragogic
learning</a>, despite there being a rich philosophic and research
tradition in this space going back to John Dewey's work, if not
earlier. Given the lack of evidence, I feel many of the claims
regarding the "learning" that takes place in a community (what does it
mean for a collection of individuals who come-and-go to "learn?") are
overstated. For example, to say that "The responsibility for your
learning rests in your own hands; people can and often will help you,
but they're not obligated to." says to me that you are as likely to be
unsupported by a group of strangers as anything else---which does not,
to me, define a learning community in any way, shape, or form. And,
perhaps most disappointingly, there are no concrete strategies or
solutions offered: we are left to believe that people who want to
learn things can magically do so if they have (1) time (an incredibly
valuable and hard-to-come-by resource), (2) the Internet, and (3)
committed members of a magical FOSS community who will stand by the
learner's side and mentor them as they decide they want to learn...
<em>something</em>. (I am aware that I am in danger of overstating
Mel's point-of-view, but her claim is that "education," for some
definition of the word, will look like a FOSS community by 2030. It
isn't my intent to overstate her position, but to me, it already
appears overstated and under-considered.)
</p>

<h3>Seven Principles</h3>
<p>Chickering and Gamson's<a
href="http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/7princip.htm";>Seven
Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education</a>  are a good
starting point for dismantling some of the confusion surrounding FOSS
communities and novices/learners. In doing so, I have translated
"student" to "Learner" and "faculty" to "The Community." In each case,
I quote from Chickering and Gamson's article, and then offer some of
my own commentary.</p>

<ol>

<li><b>Encourages Contact Between the Learner and The Community.</b><br/>

<p style="font-style: italic; margin-left: 3em; margin-right: 3em;">
Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of classes is the most
important factor in student motivation and involvement.  Faculty
concern helps students get through rough times and keep on working.
Knowing a few faculty members well enhances students' intellectual
commitment and encourages them to think about their own values and
future plans.
</p>

<p>While FOSS communities do often provide opportunities for<a
href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimate_peripheral_participation";>legitimate
peripheral participation</a>, they are not typically capable of
educating non-expert participants. As Mel said herself: the Learner
must demonstrate that they are worthy of the time and attention of
members of The Community, and it is not up to The Community to help
them get there. I contrast this with paid educators, the overwhelming
majority of whom come to work every day because<b>they want their
students to succeed</b>, and helping the Learner succeed is their job.
</p>
</li>

<li><B>Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation Among Learners.</B><br/>

<p style="font-style: italic; margin-left: 3em; margin-right: 3em;">
Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort that a  solo
race.  Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not
competitive and isolated.  Working with others often increases
involvement in learning.  Sharing one's own ideas and responding to
others' reactions sharpens thinking and deepens understanding.
</p>

<p>
FOSS communities develop reciprocity and cooperation amongst experts,
not Learners. Nor are there "playground spaces" or "learning
sandboxes" in projects like Firefox for people without technical
skills to come together and communicate and collaborate with
each-other. Community members are typically busy "scratching their own
itch." New, inexperienced members of The Community are not placed
together into "learning groups," and few, if any members of The
Community make it their mission to make sure these new Learners are
supported in becoming core members of the team. This kind of learning
and development is left to the Learner, and they must demonstrate
success before The Community is likely to acknowledge them. (I am
aware that many projects have a community participation manager or
similar---I play a role like this in my own project---but it would be
disingenuous to claim they are typically engaging new or potential
community members in the way that I have described.)
</p>

</li>

<li><B>Encourages Active Learning</B><br/>

<p style="font-style: italic; margin-left: 3em; margin-right: 3em;">
Learning is not a spectator sport.  Students do not learn much just by
sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged
	assignments, and spitting out answers.  They must talk about what
they 	are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences and
apply 	it to their daily lives.  They must make what they learn part
of themselves.</p>
	
	<p>
	While we would like to claim that FOSS participation is active
learning, it typically lacks a reflective component. Core members of
The Community cannot always be counted on to even provide commit
messages, let alone write reflective blog posts about the work they
do. Experts in The Community are rarely taking time out to support
Learners as they begin exploring the most basic aspects of the
project. Likewise, for Learners, if they are engaging on the
periphery, no one is encouraging them to reflect, or to engage them in
dialog that helps them transform their reflection into meaningful
learning.
	</p>
	</li>
	
	<li><b>Gives Prompt Feedback</B>  <br/>

	<p style="font-style: italic; margin-left: 3em; margin-right: 3em;">
	Knowing what you know and don't know focuses learning.  Students need
appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from courses.  	When
getting started, students need help in assessing existing 	knowledge
and competence.  In classes, students need frequent 	opportunities to
perform and receive suggestions for improvement.  At 	various points
during college, and at the end, students need chances 	to reflect on
what they have learned, what they still need to know, 	and how to
assess themselves.</p>
	
	<p>  A new Learner in a FOSS community has no idea what they do or do
not know. Nor does The Community help provide a transition path from
novice to expert. Well, this isn't entirely true: the Wikipedia
community typically rejects your edits, and leaves you to discover
that many parts of The Community are overrun by individuals who claim
exclusive control over the content they tend. In many software
communities, the Learner must master version control, the syntax of
wikis, poorly designed bug tracking software, aging chat mechanisms,
and less-than-friendly mailing list environments just to get in the
door. This is sometimes referred to as "yak shaving," but in truth,
these are just obstacles for the novice Learner... and the Learner is
not typically being encouraged by a member of The Community as they
begin caring for a new Yak.
	</p>
	</li>
	
	<li><B>Emphasizes Time on Task</B><br/>

	<p style="font-style: italic; margin-left: 3em; margin-right: 3em;">
	Time plus energy equals learning.  There is no substitute for time on
task. Learning to use one's time well is critical for students and
	professionals alike.  Students need help in learning effective time
	management.  Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective
	learning for students and effective teaching for faculty.  How an
	institution defines time expectations for students, faculty,
	administrators, and other professional staff can establish the basis
	of high performance for all.</p>
	
	<p>Nothing of this sort exists in the FOSS world. The Learner is
assumed to have infinite time,and if they want to contribute, they are
also assumed to have infinite wellsprings of patience and desire in
order to overcome infrequent communications and support from core team
members, poor documentation, and specialized tools. Core members of
The Community have mastered their tools (some of which may be
customized for their specific project), and value their own time
highly... and therefore<em>do</em>  emphasize time on task. That
emphasis rarely includes supporting the Learner.
	</p>
	</li>
	
	<li><B>Communicates High Expectations</B><br/>

	<p style="font-style: italic; margin-left: 3em; margin-right:
3em;">Expect more and you will get more.  High expectations are
important for everyone -- for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling
to exert 	themselves, and for the bright and well motivated.
Expecting students 	to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy
when teachers and 	institutions hold high expectations for themselves
and make extra efforts.</p>
	
	<p>  The Community places no expectations on the Learner. (Or, they
implicitly place incredibly high expectations: implicit expertise, for
example.) If there are expectations, they are rarely communicated
clearly as part of the project. Or, if you prefer, The Community
expects the Learner to contribute work that is at the same level (or
better, typically) than that which is already part of the project.
Work at a lower level of quality is easily rejected, and unless The
Community has an explicit desire to grow and encourage participation,
no real reason or encouragement of the Learner is necessary.
	</p>
	</li>
	
	<li><B>Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning</B>  <br/>
	<p style="font-style: italic; margin-left: 3em; margin-right: 3em;">
	There are many roads to learning.  People bring different talents and
styles of learning to college.  Brilliant students in the seminar
	room may be all thumbs in the lab or art studio.  Students rich in
	hands-on experience may not do so well with theory.  Students need
the 	opportunity to show their talents and learn in ways that work for
them.  	Then they can be pushed to learn in new ways that do not come
so easily.</p>
	<p>
	If the premise is that the Learner is ultimately responsible for
themselves, and The Community has no real responsibility towards them,
then this must necessarily be true: the Learner can go about their
work at any pace and in any way they want. Further, they can choose
work that does not challenge them to actually learn anything new, but
they can instead focus on what they do well.</p>
	</li>
	</ol>
	
	<h3>Educators Matter</h3>
	<p>If every FOSS project had an educator as part of their team---or,
at least, assigned someone as "Project Educator"---we might be able to
have a conversation about FOSS projects representing<em>learning
communities</em>. But, they don't. The Linux Kernel is not a "learning
community." The Mozilla Foundation is not a "learning community."
There are lots of people "learning" as they go about their work,
yes... but<b>the projects themselves have no educational mission
whatsoever.</b>  (I'm glad<a href="http://p2pu.org/";>P2PU</a>  is
aspiring to great things. When it offers free breakfasts and lunches
to underprivileged kids in East St. Louis, as well as safe and
valuable after-school programs, we can talk about the transformative
role it can play in education children around the world. Until then,
it's a way for people with leisure time to share their own perceived
expertise with other people who have leisure time.)</p>
	
	<p>The reason for projects like<a
href="http://www.cs4hs.com/";>Google's CS4HS</a>,<a
href="http://teachingopensource.org/";>TeachingOpenSource.org</a>  (and
the community's outreach effort,<a
href="http://www.redhat.com/posse/";>POSSE</a>) is to bring educators
into the mix. The Community (in general) has taken no responsibility
regarding the education of Learners; if someone wants to be a core
committer to the GNOME project, The Community is not prepared to teach
them Inkscape (and the toolchain of utilities required for updating
graphical components of the GNOME GUI) or C++. And while it is
possible that a Learner will develop these skills on their own, in
their spare time (by visiting the library to read out-of-date books on
C++, use public computers that don't have tools for software
development, and study the source code for a project in-depth in their
web browser), the reality is that many of these participants have been
taught and supported in critical ways by excellent educators who
helped them become the self-actualized learners they are today.</p>
	
	
	<p>That, to me, is the big lie hiding in Mel's "Education 2030" post.
Mel did not develop into the self-actualized learner she feels she is
today without the support of countless, excellent parents and
educators. While the nature vs. nurture debate is timeless (for an
aged mention, see<a
href="http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,789690,00.html";>TIME
magazine, 1940</a>), Mel knows how to read and write not because The
Community reached out and made sure she knew her numbers and letters,
but because of a system that helped support her in her growth and
learning. And I would maintain that there is nothing on the horizion,
as we sit here in 2011, that implies that the Open Source Community is
going to rise up and take responsibility for the growth and learning
of nations by 2030. There might be more videos on the Kahn Academy
website by then, but that isn't<em>learning</em>, that's just
<em>content</em>, and I'd really like it if we remember the critical
difference between<em>content</em>  and<em>education and
learning</em>.
	</p>
	<h3>Postscript</h3>
	
	<p>In doing a<a href="http://lmgtfy.com/?q=education+2030";>Google
search for Education 2030</a>, I found the<a
href="http://www.hoover.org/";>Hoover Institution, Stanford
University</a>. The<a
href="http://www.hoover.org/taskforces/education";>Koret Task Force on
K-12 Education</a>  provides for an interesting collection of articles
and videos, specifically with regards to their research theme of<a
href="http://www.hoover.org/taskforces/education/AE2030";>American
Education in 2030</a>. From an<a
href="http://www.educationnews.org/commentaries/book_reviews/90489.html";>EducationNews</a>
book review:
	</p>
	
	<p style="font-style: italic; margin-left: 3em; margin-right:
3em;">In these essays, members of the Hoover Institution’s Task Force
on K-12 education, joined by several keen-eyed observers, blend
prediction with prescription to paint a vivid picture of American
primary and secondary education in 2030. What follows is necessarily
speculative, and readers may judge portions to be wishful thinking or
politically naïve. But none of it is fanciful-we’re not writing
fiction here-and all of it, in the authors’ views, is desirable. That
is to say, the changes outlined here would yield a more responsive,
efficient, effective, nimble, and productive K-12 education system
than we have today.
	</p>
	
	<p>If our goal is to discuss the role of FOSS in education, or what
FOSS-centric approaches to education might look like, then I would
argue that we need to be more aware of the current research taking
place in education as well as the discourse taking place around the
world regarding the realities of educating a society.</p>


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