RfD: FSFe-education [FSFE projects]

E L Tonkin py7elt at bath.ac.uk
Sun May 20 17:18:11 UTC 2001

On Wed, 16 May 2001, Christian Selig wrote:

> Hello,
> Lionel Elie Mamane wrote:
> > There is no point in having free software if no one knows how to use
> > it. I think we should make some efforts leading to:

> Film at 11.
> -- snip
> Okay, so the goal is clear: Free software for education. 
> You have mentioned three points:
> - The first was the creation of general purpose applications for
> education. OFSET is doing some. 
> - The second point is "promotion". Could you specify what you mean with
> "promotion"?
> - The third is exposure of students to free software. I think this is
> conclusion of our actions, not an action itself.
> Who would be interested in a FSFe education working group? What should
> be its goals? How could these goals be reached?
> If there are enough people willing to participate, I propose a separate
> mailing list. 

I'm definitely interested in this. From my experience and I'm sure most
peoples', there are huge numbers of people out there who are
a) unaware of the existence of Free Software solutions
b) under the illusion that paying for software is a guarantee of the high
quality of that software 
c) honestly interested and aware of the existence of Free Software
solutions but who simply don't know where to start with it
d) exposed to Microsoft products early due to the fact that this company
has an unfortunate tendancy of literally giving their products away to
educational establishments. Good marketing.

I think the first priority is to look at the software that already exists,
as much as writing more. There are many cases, as so often in the
GNU/Linux world, in which all the solutions already have been coded but
not yet integrated together. For example, look at Gnumeric and Gnuplot,
which just beg to be integrated and given user-level documentation...
(disclaimer: I like them as they are!)

Also, I do feel that some thought could be put into simplifying things,
ie. single documents folder accessible to users, no complicated filename
stuff or 'lpr', a Recent Files folder, and so on. With some HCI-style
thinking, X could meet the 'average user' half way much more effectively
than the "tied into a 1985 interface design" conception of Windows. 

Apart from user-level docs for everything (vital!) the people I mentioned
in point c) are probably a very good reason to make some very well
publicised efforts in education. I spend a couple of hours a week teaching
people the absolute basics of Free Software, on average, and I was hoping
to put together some half/full day classes in summer for those interested-
'LaTeX-fests', for example. Of course, this stuff is not easy to grasp but
there are many people, especially in science, whose only reason for
avoiding it is a lack of education in the subject.

I would do classes in AbiWord and so on, if I could honestly say that I
was aware of anybody who had this sort of mid-range competency to
computers and an interest in GNU/Linux. I am sure these people exist, but
maybe some publicity would help them to know what organisation to ask for 

It would be a great thing if some responsible body [insert name here]
could actually come up with some reasonable syllabi and so on for this
sort of short course, and even some form of certification for those that
complete it (and a test?) successfully - and the same for those that
instruct the course. Maybe this exists already but all I've heard of is
the expensive effort from RedHat.


// OLDSIG "All bad art is the result of good intentions." - Oscar Wilde 

/* START NEWSIG */ Processor: (n.) a device for converting sense to
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