Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My FOSSED Keynote

I'm giving a keynote at the FOSSED (formerly the Northeast Linux Symposium (NELS)) conferences in Maine and DC this summer. The Maine one will be on June 20th at Gould Academy; the DC session is at Gallaudet University from August 5-8. Check their website for more details.

Here's the little summary of my talk

FOSSED: Reaching Beyond the Grass Roots

FOSSED is a grass-roots conference dedicated to spreading free and open source software from one educator to another. This is an important and beautiful thing, but we can also now see emerging patterns of free software adoption, support and creation that go beyond spreading freedom one classroom or school at a time by engaging government, grant-making foundations, academia, professional organizations and commercial vendors.

In this keynote, SchoolTool project manager Tom Hoffman will discuss the significance of examples such as the Indiana INaccess initiative, One Laptop Per Child, the Scratch development environment, regional government-funded Linux distributions used throughout Spain, and "Open Technologies" advocacy, building a broader vision of a world where free software is the norm in schools, and collaboration across organizational, commercial and national boundaries creates learning environments that are more effective and efficient for individual learners and communities.

I got the talk pretty well planned out during the drive down to PA for Memorial Day, and I'm excited about finishing and presenting it. Basically, in the first half, I'm going to sketch out a fictional but more or less present-day scenario where the key non-profit players in educational technology embraced free software and content a couple years ago. Then I'm going to go back through the scenario and contrast that with what we've really got. What it will let me do, I hope, is show the cumulative effect of all the little slights, half-measures, and licensing gaffes that I complain about here. For example, what if the MacArthur Digital Media and Learning initiative was investing in Scratch instead of proprietary software? You can make a long, long list of missed opportunities like that, and I think the cumulative effect will be impressive. A little depressing, but hopeful because the necessary shift is so small. We only need a tiny gestalt shift.

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