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

Re: [seul-edu] Our presence at trade shows

I usually hesitate to post in response to a question like this one, only
because my own ability to do this sort of work is quite limited, and I
dislike proposing work for other people to do. (The next two shows I expect
to attend, for example, are both Embedded-Systems conferences, which don't
usually have an education track.) So at least take these suggestions with
the appropriate amount of salt.

When SEUL-EDU goes to a show, the people going there need to have a clear
idea of why they are there. What audience are thry trying to reach and what
do they want to say to it? In the case of a show like San Jose's LinusWorld,
there are several potential audiences:

        -- educators: they come to the show to see what Linux can do for
                them, and they need guidence about that: examples of
                applications, lists of URLs, sources of technical
                support, names of companies that will provide financial
                support (discounts, grants), and places where they can
                share their own contributions. Putting this on a CD to
                be handed out (or even a floppy) would be neat; a well-
                organized printed document would be next best. Combine
                that with a few attractive, highly visible demos that would
                catch their eye. But a serious question is: how many
                educators actually go to LinuxWorld? No one I know locally
                went, partly because the show was a bit too late for 
                their schedules, conflicting with the need to get things
                ready for the imminent openings of schools around here.

        -- developers: some come looking for interesting projects they
                can volunteer on, but this is a small number. Most come
                for entirely different reasons. Our share of this audience
                will be small, consisting of potential volunteers and
                of people looking to develop products they can sell to
                schools. The first group needs to see interesting "in
                development" products and be pointed to the teams that
                need help. The second group needs information on how
                Linux is used in schools, what things are missing that
                educators care about, and(perhaps hardest) something to
                convince them that the Linux-in-education community isn't
                exclusively about what schools can get for free.

        -- parents: we get them free as part of the other groups (I doubt
                people come to LinuxWorld *because* they are parents). 
                We can show them how they can help their kids' schools
                through Linux advocacy, through volunteering their Linux
                expertise, and through being more realistic about what
                schools and teachers need in the way of computer support
                (that is, teachers mostly want to do the job of teaching,
                and they want computer systems that make that role easier,
                not ones that add a whole level of complexity to it).

In the context of a booth at a show, we need to think about which of these
audiences we want to attract and what materials we can produce that will
attract them, both for their brief time at the show and (more important)
after they have left. It's no different, and no less demanding, than the
decision any business makes when it appears at a trade show -- how does the
appearance at the show help the goals of the business?

Now a booth is not the only thing we can do at shows. Others are:

        -- attend the shows, to see who else is there. Make personal
                contacts with other groups who might advance our
                goals of using Linux to help schools and teachers
                do a better job of educating students (actually, I've
                never seen our goals phrased quite this way, but it 
                seems to me a more sensible goal than "getting more 
                schools to use Linux" or some such).

        -- give presentations: I've never seen a SEUL-EDU presentation,
                so I don't want to try to suggest how to do them. Here
                too, the goal needs to be clear.

One difficulty I see in our development of materials is being sure we are up
to date on what is available. Because Web sites often outlast their
purposes, it's easy to end up describing "stale" initiatives. (For example,
is OpenClassroom completely abandoned as an initiative or just moribund? It
certainly isn't active, as far as I can tell. Another example: when I
recently looked for info on e-mail filtering, I kept finding links to Active
Guardian, a project abandoned some time ago.) This isn't a problem unique to
Linux and education; it surrounds almost every Web-based activity.

On the other side, the recent discussion here about a directory of math
resources has caused the start of what promises to be an excellent resource
... someday. But the directory doesn't exist yet, only an outline for it. So
we might want to promote this project in circles where potential
*contributors* will learn about it, but not yet in circles that mainly
contain potential consumers of its services (since they will go there onyly
to be disappointed).

The last thing I want to see us to is write the sort of document that
usually appears under the name MANIFESTO. We aren't proclaiming anything (or
if we are, who would bother to listen to us?). What we are doing is both
duller and more useful -- identifying ways in which something we know is a
valuable resource can be used to address the widely recognized need to
improve the process of education.

This means we focuse on materials that emphasize practical benefits, not
abstract or theoretical ones. We explain why Linux isn't just something that
schools should accept because it gets them stuff for free (Linux itself, and
volunteer sysadmin time from Linux advocates), but is a system that they
should support with budget and staff resources. Doug's weekly reports ... a
lot of the material in them, anyway ... collects the pieces of this story. 

This kind of material might then better be presented at education
conferences than at Linux shows. If our goal is to attract educators to
Linux, then we need to do that where they are. The tie-in with Linux shows,
then, is also to be present at them, but to promote our presence at them in
education circles, not just in Linux circles.

This all sounds very ambitious, prehaps too much so for a (relatively) small
group, most of whom have day jobs. Maybe the real message is that we need to
think about doing fewer events, but planning them further ahead and so doing
them better. For example, my work responsibities kept me busy with other
things at LinuxWorld. But I could help with preparation of a disk, or of
written materials, for use at shows too far from Palo Alto for me even to
consider attending.

Sorry to ramble on so. I hope these thoughts are of some help.

At 06:54 PM 8/29/00 +0000, Manuel Gutierrez Algaba wrote:
>On Tue, 29 Aug 2000, Doug Loss wrote:
>> I'd like to get some discussion on what shows we should attend
>> (worldwide), what kind of presentations we should put on, and how we
>> should make all this happen.  It would be nice if we can develop
>We should have a kind of MANIFESTO explaining these points.

------------------------------------"Never tell me the odds!"---
Ray Olszewski                                        -- Han Solo
Palo Alto, CA           	 	         ray@comarre.com