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Re: [school-discuss] SchoolForge Art Gallery?

Hi Justin,

On 7/26/07, Justin <jriddiough@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Charles Cosse wrote:
> Hi All,
> i must have missed Justin's  funding opportunities post, so thanks for
> the reminder.
> IMHO the following would work:
> The SchoolForge community establishes a truly open, interest-neutral,
> software base for educational applications, hosted at SchoolForge,
> perhaps,  which serves as a foundation for satellite programs around
> the world.
> Let's say this software base exists. Now,  an arbitrary  university
> professor (or other) submits a funding proposal to the institution of
> their choice (NSF in US, local Dept of Education, etc) and proposes
> that funding be provided for mentoring a handful of students, (perhaps
> as a college class, perhaps as a high-school class, even an after
> school program, etc) to develop education applications derived from
> the software base that they download from SchoolForge.
Bases like this exist in learning management systems - and being that
they are web based, most questions of cross-platform compatibility are
answered.  How would something such as this differentiate itself from a

It  wouldn't be web-based, but stand-alone applications derived from a common starting point. LMS are good for some things, but aren't much for  game-style user interactivity.

My perception it that it sounds more application based instead of web
based - so it wouldn't require a significant effort to pick it up and
try it out.  But what could be developed through this method that is
beyond the reach of LMS systems?

Interactive, feature-rich, educational games. 

A possibility that SVG & AJAX will have a scripting language built
around them that give pretty much the entire functionality of pre-video
Flash players?  If applications were built in this way - they could be
feature rich and available through a browser.  Seems like something to
keep in mind..

The only problem with flash stuff is that you can't develop it on Linux, or not very well, at least.

Is each application a specific binary/package?


Could it be set up so that they download a single application - that
offers a built in catalog and list of education apps in various
categories?  Sort of like an I-tunes, but edu apps instead of songs.
Would this overlap, or assist in efforts of projects such as Childsplay
or GCompris?

Hadn't thought of the i-tunes analogy, but anything's possible, and i guess that too.
Gcompris seems like great software, also Childsplay, and certainly not intending to step on any toes.
GCompris is close to what i'm thinking, but [1]it doesn't take data, [2]is it multi-user (accounts)? [3]it's not exactly "underneathe" a specific application, but seems to be, rather, that applications plug-into it.  Correct me if i'm wrong -- i haven't studied them in great detail, and probably should before sticking my neck out like this, but time is limited for us all...

> The software base would have everything a non-programmer would need to
> derive their innovations in the form of a new educational application,
> conforming to a few specifications, such as student assessment
> data-taking capabilities output format, namely, so data from various
> apps could be mixed/matched and compared.
Could you provide more information on how something like this would

"Could work", not "would work" -- the main thing is that it be a community project from the ground-up.  The semantics in this case are important, because i don't want to sound as if pushing a personal agenda.  Rather, i'd like to be a consumer, and start a satellite program locally.  And i'd like to see other people around the world do the same, specific to their needs, and everyone benefits from everyone else's efforts and innovations.  That said, howvever, i have, indeed, dabbled in this, and i can only refer you to my latest attempt to prototype something of this nature, called MultiplicationStation.  It writes data to a flat ascii file, which, in my case, i run through a tool called "nplot", but any plotting software that can read ntuple-type data would work. It's only an example.  It would be best to start-over with a group of developers, such as the folks behind GCompris, Childsplay, TuxPaint, SchoolForge, teachers, administrators...hopefully it wouldn't collapse under it's own weight.

Is it something directed towards non-programmers, and giving them
the ability to make applications?  

I thought that would provide a good "business" model, yes -- then, using the example of a university, your program's representative could act as liason between various departments, recruiting students from them to implement these apps in their respective fields, thereby promoting those fields to the schools (student recruitment), and hopefully even capturing some of the insight held by students who would not normally have contributed to the K-12 education system in such a way, otherwise, but, through your satellite program, have not only contributed some of their unique perspective, but also been imparted with some game-development skills that they otherwise would not have acquired.

Are there established standards in
place for handing information that would be generated from these
applications to student information systems?

There are some standards wrt LMS's, but, from what i can tell, they are all infiltrated by commercial interests.  I don't have names on-hand, but i'm recalling the list of plugin-module standards in Moodle.  I'd have to check, and it's 1:48 am right now..

> The apps could be designed in cooperation with local school systems to
> compliment their curriculum, or fill-in blanks which textbooks don't
> cover. The student developers would learn valuable programming skills,
> corporate sponsors might like to provide some support (thereby
> establishing early relationships with promising, motivated students),
> and the finished apps would be uploaded back into a central
> schoolforge repository for the benefit of schools everywhere.
And if it is directed at non-programmers, and uses some sort of easy to
figure out scripting/GUI/etc - what would the student developers be
learning that wouldn't better be covered in having them take courses of
established programming languages?

Well, it's a long way to be able to develop a game when starting from CS 101.  In my case, I once proposed to teach a class in Python at our CS dept, and the dept head told me "No, Python etc are langs that students usually just are expected to pick-up by themselves along the way."   That seems not to have changed much, 10 years later.  Moreover, the CS dept at a university should be included in your satellite program -- all depts should.  It should be viewed as the "Mother of all collaborative, inter-disciplinary efforts".   CS depts have lots of students looking for funding.  Let them help the Physics student developing the physics-specific edugame for the local K-12 system.  Get a corporate sponsor to pitch-in for the cost of a small blurb on the "credits" panel of the application.  Make that panel a standardized part of the developer's kit so there's some uniformity among apps. A Chemical Engineering student taking a 4 credit class on-the-side to develop a ChemEng app to promote their field to K-12 students can't afford the rigorous route to game development.  But they obviously have so much to offer -- their insight into what has helped them, as students, appreciate subleties within their subject, and ways of thinking that have helped them learn.  If they could have some way of conveying that in an educational application without having to do a double major in CS, then my theory is that many would do it.