Friday, June 16, 2006

Red Hat's Lucy Ringland on Open Source in Education

Red Hat's Lucy Ringland has finagled her way to NECC 2006, and it should be fun to have her as a part of the dialogue on Open Source Software in Education. Lucy and I recently traded emails, and here is what she had to say:

My background: years of working with the Cooperative Extension Service/4-H Youth Development, designing and presenting technology camps and workshops for kids/parents/teachers/anybody who would listen, organizing hardware recycling/refurbishing events and using the hardware to teach Computer Camps to kids in rural NC who don't have access to computers at home...teaching them about the hardware, how to upgrade/troubleshoot/repair, install an Open Source operating system (any flavor that would load on the machines - SuSe, Mandrake, various RH distros - as far back as 5.0, Slackware, etc, etc.) and providing tech support followup for the kids (they took the machines home with them). MA in Curriculum Design. Dad was a high school principal, which scared me off of being a public school teacher! But I like working with kids, so the non-formal route seemed the way to go.

My personal philosophy on OSS in Education - any distro/application that works is a good distro/app to use. Some are better at certain parts of the picture than others. All of them can potentially reduce costs, allow for extended use of hardware, and put choice into the hands of teachers/administrators, and open the world to kids. The OSS in Ed landscape seems pretty scattered - pockets of people working on their own thing, often on top of their own distro - the community in action. It would be really great -to band together and support each other. Not consume each other, but complement each other. Expand the "mindshare" - any effort that expands OSS and the community/collaboration philosophy helps us all, right? LTSP/K12LTSP may be a good choice for some schools/situations. Something else might be better for others. It needs to be bigger than that. Let's help people find the right fit for them - whatever that is. Or help them figure out how to create/adapt what will work for themselves.

A first thing we can do is really educate the education community on what OSS is, how community/collaboration works, what stuff is already out there, what it can do for them, what it will cost them (in time/money/whatever), what help they can expect and where to look for that help. Give them an opportunity to safely examine the software - Open CD, LiveCDs, etc. And start building a "global" repository - for software, for curriculum, for administrative tools, for information. And a place for kids to explore OSS and share their work.

This isn't a Red Hat thing, or a Novell thing, or a thing...it's a supporting kids and education thing - an Open Source thing. A choice thing. Am I too far out there? or does this sound similar to what you're thinking?


Right on the money for me, Lucy!
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