Education Courses/Seneca College
DRAFT : needs some rework
From Louis's mail
I met with David Humphrey, Chris Tyler and the Chair of the Seneca at York program, Evan Weaver. The meeting was positive and exciting. Frank Hecker's blog on Seneca College gives a powerful account of the college, but what they are doing (have been doing)--including foss and Mozilla--in their curricula, is if not disruptive certainly something close. Hundreds of students have gone through the programs, and they are getting jobs equipped with a solid sense not only of how to program but of how to participate in an active open source project. If Riehle can argue that the jobs will go to those with such training (and others will suffer), then Seneca is in fact charting the path others need to follow. But however exciting Mozilla is, it is not like OOo, which is a productivity platform. So:
The meeting last a little over an hour. The points discussed included:
A * understanding the basics of how they Mozilla code has been taught
B * seeing how or if OOo can play the same game, and
C * if so, seeing if we can overcome the logistical obstacles
A. Dave (who has led the effort, I gathered) explained that what has made the difference is the flexibility of the program. Unlike teaching the same thing again and again to wave after wave of students, Dave will allow students to discover things on their own, acting as a super mentor who can shape a student's ambition to realizable dimensions as well as helping them in their communication with others (and on occasion the project). He and the other professors, as well as advanced students, act as contacts with the community, thus relieving it of the burden of dealing with a flood of newbies. (Finding mentors is for Mozilla as much a problem as it is for us.)
Dave is the Mozilla liaison and coordinates student work with Mozilla and the university. That arrangement is partly sponsored by Mozilla, which sees it in its interest to partly subsidize Mozilla development, among other foss work. The arrangement is quite productive and bears thinking about for OOo; in fact, I'm going to strongly urge the CC to do something similar. The payoff is not just better Mozilla code and more extensions but rather a better relation to foss in general, as students learn collaborative practices.
"Partly subsidize" means among other things to help out with travel; to enable better communication between the liaison and Mozilla developers, and other things that help seed, develop, grow the productive community. I am persuaded we have to do similar things, for OOo, like Mozilla, is not trivial to work on.
Seneca wants to work with us. The issue is providing them with savants able to present on OOo. One way around this is to partly subsidize a liaison and pay him or her to attend OOo conferences, go to Hamburg, etc. We can also record video presentations, lectures, etc.
The cost would probably not be very much and the results could be substantial, for as more students are taught OOo, then they can become mentors in their own right.
I also believe that this--as a particular instance and model--is a worthwhile ambition.