Tuesday, July 03, 2007

More On L3rn...

Ramona Pierson leaves a comment over at Wes' place:

This brings up a great conversation as we all move forward. We are essentially functioning like a Dot com within a school district which has its benefits and its struggles. The benefits for a district is that we are nimble and capable of rapid development cycles and we are very customer centered. Our team spends a lot of time working with and listening to teachers, students, and other educators as we design and develop programs. The struggle comes from having a different cultural approach to development districts tend to purchase software solutions from large companies and are subject to vendors demanding tight controls on their source code; while we have approach development from a community/grassroots approach, which is comfortable being part of a larger open learning and open development community.

Unfortunately, one difference between a dot com and EdTech REA Seattle Schools, or whatever the official name of the people who have created l3rn is, is that a dot com does not operate in the crazy cone of silence which encloses a public school department. Why is this stuff such a secret? Why is there no web page describing this unique and important approach to developing software for schools? Or if there is one, why is it so well hidden? What they're doing should be a model for other districts.

Over time, as the districts become more comfortable with the open source/open community approach to development and problem solving, it will become easier for departments such as ours to release code as it is developed. It is our responsibility to the community and the district to develop processes that provide responsible source code sharing and meet the legal concerns of a district.

This is why we need some mainstream open source in K-12 education advocacy that doesn't suck, backed by some foundations, industry groups and corporations that people on the school board will recognize. Given that there are plenty of the aforementioned that are at least superficially behind open source software, and quite a few that substantively support freedom, this should not be impossible.

We are entering what may be the last, most aggravating period before a global public/private ecosystem of free software for education emerges. The last phase when schools are using 100% free tools and public money to write software that they only fail to release to the commons because of bureaucratic inertia and benign neglect by mainstream "advocates" of open source software.

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