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[school-discuss] Re: Best Educational conference - Open Admin for Schools

> Hi All,
> I was wondering what would be the most useful educational conference
> to attend to talk about open source educational software (and in
> particular Open Admin for Schools)?
> I'm at the Linux Symposium, and it's very interesting, but not really
> what's of most interest to me...
> Any ideas?
> Les Richardson
> Open Admin for Schools

Les --

This is a very good question. I don't think it has an easy answer, which is
probably why you bothered to ask :-)

(I hope you don't mind that I cross-posted this to the Open Slate mailing

There are so many different kinds of gatherings. IT conferences.
Open-Source conferences. School administrative and governance conferences.
Teacher conferences. Success is more likely when all sides are addressed.
Visit a FOSS conference and you can dazzle your audience with the technical
design of your software, but you won't find many educators there. Visit a
teachers conference and the people you meet will not comprehend what your
software does, or the significance of it being FOSS. The trick will be to
convince the FOSS folks that educational software is a good thing, and at
the same time get the teachers and administrators to appreciate the value
of FOSS. The bridge across that divide has yet to be built.

The biggest obstacle I see in dealing with public schools is the resistance
to change. Even when I find a teacher who is interested, they are not the
decision maker. Neither is the Principle. Neither is the PTA. It is a lot
safer for them to keep their head down and continue to do what has been
done. Or, even more frustrating, to only do things that studies have shown
are of value. No study, no data, no chance.

In the face of this I have turned my attention to homeschoolers. My
project, like yours, was designed for a typical brick-and-mortar school, so
naturally I find myself having to reinvent it in the environment in which
homeschooling operates. It's too soon to say how successful this approach
will be. I'll be the first to admit that homeschoolers have a tendency to
be mothers seeking an old-fashioned, home spun, nurturing environment for
their children, a situation that is as distant from the technical nature of
Open Slate as a teddy bear is to a PS3. The good news is that many
homeschoolers I have met are concerned that their children won't get enough
IT skills to be successful out in the world, and are looking for ways to
introduce more IT into their curriculum. The problem I have with that is
that I want Open Slate to be a lot more than an opportunity to learn
*about* computers. I want it to be the essential basis for how learning
takes place.

This is not to say that I have turned my back on big schools. What I am
counting on is the success of the Open Slate concept with homeschoolers to
generate a ripple effect, so that the big schools come to us.

As for Open Admin, I suggest you look for homeschoolers who join together
to form a loosely knit cooperative. This approach seems to be very popular.
The coop would set up and manage an Open Admin system. Obviously things
like time and attendance will be different. You might offer to host these
little groups rather than rely on them having a Linux guru available. Give
it some thought.

Gary Dunn
Open Slate Project 
73 BMW E9 (3.0 CS) 2213583 (rust repair research project)