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RE: [school-discuss] Homeschooling & FLOSS

Thank you for your thoughts, but I was not making assumptions based upon popular opinions. There is a difference between misconceptions and experiential knowledge. Certainly this group works well together.  However, a classroom is not a long-term relationship.  Membership is not elective. There are real struggles that are present in online learning that are not present in this group.  I am not saying that the problems cannot be overcome, I was simply pointing out some of them. 
Whether we are speaking of homeschoolers (I do have experience with homeschoolers.) or regular public school learners or college...online learning presents challenges that should not be swept under the carpet. I agree with you that these challenges need to be taken on by the greater community. 
Nancy E. Hultquist
Brandon Elementary School


From: owner-schoolforge-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx on behalf of knowtree@xxxxxxxxx
Sent: Mon 3/17/2008 6:46 PM
To: schoolforge-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: [school-discuss] Homeschooling & FLOSS

 "Hultquist, Nancy" <nhultquist@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> OK, I am going to jump in now.  I teach in a face-to-face
> school, but I have studied online and currently teach college
> courses online.  I have also played with developing a course
> for older elementary kids online. The problems of
> learning/teaching online are the blindness that must go along
> with it.  A charter school that was BOTH face-to-face as well
> as online would be the best of both worlds. The online section
> could be extremely individual and detailed.  Face-to-face
> instruction would bring in the community aspects of
> learning.  Then when learners got back to online they not only
> would know each other but they would be more open to invest
> their time in discussions about a topic.

Nancy presented a number of ideas in this post which I think represent
popular opinions about the limitations of using computers in education. I
say it is time we rethink these assumptions, and take up the task of
overcoming them in the broader community.

I have never met any of you and yet we interact, we learn from one another,
we help each other to move in new directions. We inspire each other. We
crack jokes. Young people are even better at this. MMOs (World of Warcraft,
Final Fantasy) and hugely popular, and one of their attractions is social
interaction. If seeing a face makes that much difference, there are web
cams. Besides, homeschoolers are not hermits. They get together regularly
for all sorts of activities.

In a related thread,

Jim Wildman <jim@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> As some background:  I am the father of 5 chilren, whom my wife and I
> mostly home schooled through high school graduation.  I say mostly
> because we sampled both public and private schools along the way, and
> the 2 youngest finished up with the OHDELA charter school here in Ohio.
> In Ohio, the charter schools basically get the $$ per student that is
> allocated by the state, and try to do a better job with it than the
> brick and mortar government schools. 

Some homeschoolers are against this approach, because along with the cash
comes a requirement to follow strictly proscribed curriculum, right down to
which books will be used. One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is
keeping the government out of your life.

> They have had mixed success.  Our
> youngest finished up almost 2 years ago, so my info is a bit dated.  In
> the late 90's, my wife and I were the leaders of a large (150+ family)
> Christian home school support group, and in the early 00's my wife helped
> found and lead a smaller 'eclectic' group in central Ohio.
> I have used Open Source/Linux since 1995, and am currently the technical
> lead for the global Linux engineering group of a large (profitable) US bank
> that was in the news over the weekend.  (We were doing the buying).

Oh, J.P. Morgan, eh? I'm thinking the offer is so low the stockholders may
reject it. Sorry, off topic.

> > It seems to me that we are at a good point to
> > start asking some Bigger Picture questions:
> >
> > How broad is the involvement of homeschooling
> > families/groups with FLOSS, and vice versa?
> Not much that I have seen though it seems like a natural fit.
> >
> > Are there any especially noteworthy patterns to
> > FLOSS usage by homeschooling families/groups?
> Nope.  Probably because most of it is Mom driven. 

This really hits the nail on the head, but think of it as a challenge. If
you want to experience this first-hand, join the Home-Ed mailing list
(http://www.twobar.com/mailman/listinfo/home-ed) and read all about
quilting blankets and cookie recipes. I would guess that less than ten
percent of the postings are about homeschooling, and zero involve computers.

> Alot of families
> concentrate on book based, at least when we were doing.  They are
> shareable and portable and non breakable. 

Non breakable? You had five kids, right? I had two, and our books barely

> I used thin clients with Lynx
> and Pine, but we were definitely the odd balls.

But that is a text-based environment. Much too boring for today's kids. We
are up against MTV and video games.

> >
> > Are there any particular kinds of software
> > that still need to be written to help with the
> > special needs of homeschooling families/groups?
> I think everything I would have ever wanted is available. 

You need to raise your expectations. Almost nothing I want is available,
commercial or FOSS.

> Content would
> still be the big issue. 

Now I agree with you. Right on.

> And when you get into home schoolers, there are
> almost as many niches as there are families, so the content generation
> is really diluted. 

Lets say specialized, and consider it a good thing. We don't all want to
drive Volkswagens, do we?

> Lots of materials from small publishing houses,
> privately held concerns or small businesses.  Once a family gets started
> on a method, most don't want to change and stick to it with religious
> ferver.  Think vi vs emacs as to style, topics, lesson plans, etc. The
> extremes range from the eclectic (what do you want to learn today?) to
> the classic (teach them Latin and Greek as young as possible, and go from
> there).  From the 'crunchy moms', to the 'Jesus spoke in King James English'
> outlooks.  The only really widely adopted 'curricula' are the ones from
> various Christian groups (Abekka, Bob Jones, etc).
> >
> > Should a dedicated homeschooling section be set
> > up on the SchoolForge web site?
> I doubt that it could get the critical mass necessary.  And the tools
> are really the same regardless (roster, group learning, collaboration,
> grade book).

Critical mass is definitely an issue, for now. I believe we will turn that
corner, in less than five years, and the key is homeschoolers. They are
free from the constraints of district IT managers, entrenched educators,
politicians, and textbook selection committees.

I have expanded the Open Slate Project to include homeschoolers. In fact, I
am putting all of my energy there. To help get the content side started I
have set up a wiki where anyone can contribute content.



> >
> > And here's a query that may not be quite so
> > Big Picture--in fact, this is my own personal
> > Ulterior Motive question:
> >
> > Would any collection of homeschooling groups be
> > willing and able to pool together some money and
> > hire a telecommuting geek to help out with
> > tech support, special projects, and the like?
> The best place to start would be state organizations.  The Christian Home
> Educators of Ohio have a week long yearly convention
> (http://www.cheohome.org/) .  I'm sure some of the other large groups do
> as well.

This past weekend I attended the Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii annual
conference. I showed Tux Paint and Squeak running on FreeBSD. What I came
away with was a realization that the parents had no idea how to contribute
to WikiMedia, so I am going to hold some training classes.

> As a starting point, the group we led had 150-200 families, each
> with 1-6 school aged kids in a rural county.  There were at least 6
> other groups of at least 50 families in the county, though some of them
> were very 'closed' (ie, you had to be Baptist, or NOT Baptist, etc).
> Some quick googling will find you lots of lists.  Biggest problem is
> lots of 'yes, we would like that' and not very much follow through.
> I have no idea if these groups have gotten bigger or smaller in the last
> decade (can't imagine they've gotten smaller).
> The Charter schools (at least in Ohio) would seem to be an obvious fit
> (having to do more with less), but they do not have the time/money to
> develop content, so they have to be able to buy it.  OHDELA's support
> infrastructure (chat, mail, etc) was a horrible kludge of MS based asp
> apps, so it would be an obvious target for replacement with any of the
> opensource collab tools.

I constantly question the need to spend a lot of taxpayer money. For the
Open Slate Project I propose making more use of students, with older
students helping younger students. I also support the use of grant money to
fund development, as long as the products are FOSS.

As good as the FOSS world is today, we still do not have what we should
have for education. The Open Slate Project exists to bring together people
who want to contribute to the goal of transforming the use of computers in

Gary Dunn
Open Slate Project

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