[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Major interview

Ray / Roman,

> skills. I know there are some on this list who work or study in
> universities ... do you see any mechanisms that might be developed
> to encourage Ed and CS graduate students (undergrads too?) to
> collaborate on development of the sorts of teaching apps (as
> distinct from school-management apps) that schools need?

Tough question. I suspect that you are right in your thinking that
institutional barriers are probably the most important ones in most

Part of the problem is that this type of project is very applied, and
interdisciplinary to boot. In a scenario where people do things for
academic credit, it is rare to bring in such a diverse set of skills.
The question of which department gives credit for what work arises. This
could be resolved in a couple of ways. "Reading courses" or "special
project courses" are not uncommon in most universities, and offer a
convenient catchall for such work. 

A second problem would be political, as the very nature of this project
would involve a few different departments. This would require a prof (or
more likely several) who understands OSS, and has good linkages between
different departments (CS, Ed, etc) so that the project could be floated
without ruffling too many feathers, lest the project get trashed at the
higher levels (I've had this happen to one of my projects at McGill).

Assuming that the political ramifications can worked out, there remains
the question of credit. Assuming that we have a bunch of students
working together on such a project. How would credit to each of the be
apportioned? Are the educational students getting CS credits? Would the
CS students get Ed credits? Seems to me that it would be easier for all
involved to make such a course fall under the CS umbrella such that it
would be an elective for the other students (Education students know
that having CS credits is a good idea, and can help get them a minor in
CS or whatever. Similar for students in bio, chem, phys, and so on...).

In my pathetically narrow and biased view (heh), I think that we can
make a good case for such a course by specifying how such a course could
be structured and carried out. The goal would be to pull together a few
(2-4) CS students for each non-CS student and have them plan, design,
manage and create an OSS app to satisfy a particular need. That's not to
say that other programmers couldn't get involved (far from it), but it
would put the onus on the development squarely on the individuals
involved. The CS prof would make available a development machine or two
to do stuff like CVS, mailing lists, archives, IRC, web (read:
everything SEUL has). Once set up, this should be simple to maintain

>From the CS perspective, this would put students in a real-world
development situtation, where they have a limited time to deliver on a
particular design. Thus, this would be particularly appropriate for
upper year students. On the other hand, once the app planning were
complete, the non-CS student would take a substantial role in
development by maintaining web pages, testing, documenting, writing
announcements, and perhaps actually doing some coding. In the process,
the non-CS student would be getting a substantial exposure to html,
mail, and a number of other web and development related activities
(hence satisfying the CS-requirements for the non-CS students).

The added benefit to this approach is that it initiates the next
generation of programmers to the world of GPL-based development; as
such, it should help get more folks into the "public hacking" (er,
programming for the public good) mindset.

Hope this helps,


Pete St. Onge