Sunday, August 12, 2007

The CanDo Sprint

I spent Monday through Wednesday of last week in a dorm at Gallaudet University participating in an open source development sprint, indistinguishable from similar sprints I've attended, hosted by the Python community or Canonical from Dallas, Texas to Montreal, Canada, to Vilnius, Lithuania. In each case you find a distributed teams of open source developers coming together to work on some associated group of projects. This sprint was indistinguishable from the others, aside from the fact that the average age was about fifteen years younger.

About two-thirds of the 25 or so attendees were top high school computer science students from around the DC metro area, working as paid interns on the CanDo project. The rest are recent high school alumni continuing to work on the project, and a smattering of adult teachers and developers, including the lead SchoolTool developer, Ignas Mikalaj┼źnas, who we flew over from Vilnius. The high school students participated in a yearlong training program to get them up to speed with Zope 3 and other cutting edge web technologies, primarily remotely taught by CanDo lead developer Paul Carduner from his college dorm room in Walla Walla, Washington. Everyone wasn't working on CanDo. Several of us were working on SIF related stuff, and others were writing programming curriculum using the GASP (Graphics API for Students of Python) library developed at Arlington (by students, natch).

It is all a little overwhelming to even describe, let alone experience. In the aggregate it is unique in the world of public secondary education -- an open source project funded primarily by the local government (Arlington County Public Schools, Office of Career & Technical Education and Virginia Department of Career & Technical Education, plus some money from Mark Shuttleworth) written by local students and used in local schools, with development collaboration with the global open source community, and hopefully someday a global community of users as well. It is probably five years ahead of anything like it anywhere else in the world. On the other hand, it is really nothing more or less than a 21st century update of Junior Achievement. It is not a coincidence that this is a project spawned by and for vocational educators. It is very much the kind of thing they've done for decades, just with a new twist.

Anyhow, the kids did great work. This was the last sprint of the summer, and they were intently tying up loose ends to get ready for their new version to be used locally in the fall and in pilots across the state in January. Unfortunately, I have no pictures, but hopefully I'll have some to link to soon.

No comments: