Wednesday, April 11, 2007

CanDo: A Model of Collaboration

Miguel quotes

"The greatest growth engines of the 21st Century," share Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams in (Wikinomics), "will be business webs that fuse the resources and competencies of the developed and developing worlds into unbeatable combinations."

And asks:

Are we fostering creativity and global collaboration, or are we doing the same old thing because it's comfortable, or locked in due to pressures in our respective communities?

Let's hear those stories of creativity and global collaboration! Here are a few....

1001 Flat World Tales Project -

Westwood Wiki -

7th Grade Science -

So, what am I missing?

Well, how about CanDo?

I don't talk about CanDo enough, partly because it is hard to explain a unique global collaboration in fifteen words or less. Here's the general sequence of events:

  • South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth (living in London, UK) hires (Vilnius, Lithuania-based) Steve Alexander (English) and Programmers of Vilinus (Lithuanians) to start writing a free platform for school administrative applications, called SchoolTool.
  • Mark decides to start a new company (Canonical) to create a new Linux distribution (Ubuntu), and hires me (Providence, Rhode Island, USA) to manage continued development on SchoolTool based on my contributions to the SchoolTool email list, insightful blogging, and a few small code contributions.
  • I give a talk at PyCon, a conference for the Python programming language, in spring 2005, in Washington, DC, and meet Jeff Elkner a programming teacher at Yorktown High School (Arlington, Virginia, USA) who has used Python, Linux and other free software in his teaching for years.
  • Jeff is holding a "sprint" at the conference to plan a new application called CanDo, which will be developed by his students and alumni to manage competency tracking, with his friend Dave Welsh, a Television Production teacher at the Arlington Career Center, acting as the first customer.
  • At the sprint I convinced Jeff to combine forces with SchoolTool, and we continue planning via email and meeting at NECC 2005 in Philadelphia.
  • YHS alum (technically he graduated from a school in Switzerland, iirc, but he was one of Jeff's students) Paul Carduner leads development of the first SchoolTool-based version of CanDo, ready by the fall of 2005, with help from YHS student Eldar Omuraliev and mentors from the local IT community. Due to the relatively immature state of SchoolTool itself, this is a bit of a hack, but it works, and Dave Welsh is happy with his new system.
  • Dave is a born evangelist, and presents CanDo throughout the district and state of Virginia, resulting in funding from both.
  • With this money, Jeff sets up a training program and internships to continue student development of CanDo. We increase coordination between CanDo the core SchoolTool developers in the US and Lithuania, meeting at the New England Linux Symposium (NELS) in New Hampshire for a very exciting sprint, with our professionals aand CanDo's interns collaborating with teachers and tech coordinators attending the conference.
  • In the fall of 2006, a substantially improved version of CanDo is deployed more widely in Arlington. Other area districts express interest in piloting SchoolTool.
  • Local funders are very happy with what they're getting for their investment in CanDo. Leveraging SchoolTool development gives them good return and sets high professional standards for the project, while the direct connection between teachers and local student developers insures that the project is responsive to the needs of end-users. Mark Shuttleworth kicks in $10,000 to fund student interns in 2007; Jeff Elkner recruits high-end budding geek talent from the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Arlington for this year's training and internship program.
  • At PyCon 2007, we host a sprint with CanDo high school interns pairing up with our SchoolTool developers from Lithuania and Belgium. Ours is just one of many sprints going on at the conference, for example, a few feet away Guido van Rossum, creater of Python is leading a group redesigning the language's I/O system, and across the room Ian Bicking and a clutch of hackers are working on OLPC development. It is like the Computer Clubhouse on steriods and human growth hormone. At the sprint we make several improvements to SchoolTool's resource booking system in response to requests from Arlington; they begin beta testing this work in Virginia immediately after the sprint.
  • Jeff has planned a series of sprints through the summer, including a return to NELS (now FOSSED), and CanDo developers making the trip to the EuroPython conference in Vilnius, Lithuania this July.
  • The latest news is that the Virginia Department of Education is going to sponsor 8 formal pilot sites for CanDo in Career Centers across the state of Virginia.

How's that for a global collaboration? I'd say it is about time for a CanDo feature in Technology and Learning or Edutopia. Anyone have any connections?

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