Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Software Freedom Day report

Last year we held Software Freedom Day at my school, Grant High School. This year we held it at Penola High School - another FOSS oriented school in our region about 50km away.

I think that many of the SFD events across the globe happen in capital cities. Ours is regional and in a country where we have some large distances.

WE had about 50 visitors with a good percentage of those travelling 30km or more. Of those there were a number that travelled 100 km or more. I think that maybe the biggest might have been from Kingston which is about 130km.

This provides evidence to the success of the emails that Jason from Penola (Event team leader for 2008) sent out to schools and also to the work that Robert did in drumming up interest in the radio and paper news media. Nice work.

Schools can be regarded as societies agent for conformity. They are also societies change agent where we want people to conform to new directions or values. Making schools aware of the choices that they have regarding FOSS is really important in that context.

A feature of the event was the number of school teachers who came and travelled some distances for. When I talk to teachers about FOSS I invariably get HUGE agreement on the philosophical reasons why we want students to have access to this stuff. They are BIG on access and equity and invariably ask why so much money is paid for other software when there is this stuff available that they can just give to the kids. People from the broader community ask the same question but often in the context of why so much public money is spent on software that may not be necessary, as they look around the computer lab classroom that then event is run in.

I think that there will be a number of new schools who will be giving away the OpenEducation Disc to students soon as a consequence of our work on the day.

I did notice that none of the ICT coaches in the region showed up and so perhaps we need to target these sorts of people who carry some regional influence next time with special invitations.

The people who came, often also asked "Why haven't I heard about this before?". They sounded almost like they had been cheated out of something. This was a question asked by teachers as much as other visitors. In response I generally asked them the question "how do you find out about what you can put on a computer?" Many came to the conclusion that it was through sales people and so they were able to draw conclusions from their answer fairly easily.

From some I got the question 'So what is in it for you?'. Being a teacher I could rant about the access and equity thing for students and how I wanted to create an environment where students could continue with their learning outside of school unencumbered. They invariably saw the sense in that and felt comfortable with the explanation.

The other thing that I heard a lot was thankyou. I felt that these words were very geniune and sincere. Thanks for putting on this event and thanks for showing me this stuff. Thanks for giving me these options.

Last year, being the event organiser, I did not get to feel and observe these things as I was too wrapped up with making the event happen. My sincere thanks to Jason for being the event organiser this year.

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