Monday, July 30, 2007

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me Gary Stager Has A Blogger Blog?

Apparently Gary Stager has had a personal blog going all year, which I'm happy about, but I can't figure out how it took all this time to find out about it, especially after this post.

Anyhow, this is nice, because it allows me to finally get a broader look at Gary's views on software freedom, which I'd gathered he doesn't believe in, but hadn't seen him state explicitly, as he does in this post. I left a comment. Also I left a comment on this post.

In the process of writing the first comment, I also found this article by Robert Tinker, How Do Innovations Travel from the Lab to the Classroom? which I highly recommend. A long quote from Tinker:

These examples illustrate the time it takes for technology-enhanced educational practice to become widespread and the range of paths taken. All these examples started with government funding of an R&D group and achieved their greatest distribution after a decade or more by others. Logo, MBL, and Kidnet tried the standard method of licensing materials to a publisher, but all eventually failed and none generated significant income for the developer. Mindstorms stands as a unique example of a grant supported innovation breaking into a mass market.

Another clear message is that the original innovation needs to be more than simply a good idea. To take off, extensive and continuing development is needed of the technology and of educational applications. Research on student learning with the innovation is required, as well as close cooperation with experienced teachers.

With software, the complexity of the required code is a major factor in determining the route to dissemination. Of these examples, only Logo and Kidnet involved extensive software. Two of the commercial Logo efforts failed and the third barely survived. The NGS did not have the capacity to maintain Kidnet software and additional grant funding was required to make the transition to the Web. The MBL software is relatively simpler, but vendors are challenged to produce the needed code and we are currently helping them all with grant funding.

This history has convinced us that the best way to disseminate educational innovations that incorporate sophisticated software is to encourage mimicry by giving away the technology and making it easy to author related student materials. We hope to duplicate for educational applications the phenomenal worldwide spread of the open source GNU/Linux operating system. All the software now being developed at the Concord Consortium is free and open source. These include a wide range of models, probeware, and graphing tools, along with hundreds of student activities based on these.


Miguel Guhlin (@mGuhlin) said...

Thanks for pointing this out...we'll have to drop in and graffiti the walls! (smile)


Gary said...

Hi Tom,

I guess if people had to wait 18 years for a Simpsons movie, a few months for a Stager blog isn't too much to ask.

Now, as for the subject of your comment...

My friend Bob Tinker and his colleagues at The Concord Consortium (and before that TERC) do some of the most brilliant R&D work in education. No question about it.

Bob's observations about commercial products might be true too.

However, the "free" (largely funded by federal dollars) stuff being created by The Concord Consortium isn't exactly setting the world on fire.

Tom Hoffman said...


One big advantage of open source in this area is that it is not strictly up to the Concord Consortium to market the software. Other players can pick it up and distribute it in various ways. High quality open source projects can have a long shelf life as well. Even after the initial grant runs out, and after a commercial company would have to give up and move on, third parties can pick up the software an implement it in a way useful to them.

Look at Squeak. As a commercial product it would have died at least three times. Now its going to be an integral part of the OLPC program.