It was Monday and after dinner at Red Bones here I was, in the kitchen of the Elm street apartment drinking rice tea and talking about Open Source Software and its future…
Bernie, an Italian man, told me how he got involved into OLPC and Sugar world. Almost three years ago, an entrepreneur and business owner back in Italy, he heard the buzz about XO and the idea for its unique software. Bernie contacted OLPC and started his voluntary mission of creating great software that will change the world of education and children’s lives for better. Here is the interview with him from 2 years ago: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Bernie_Innocenti_interview
Since then he worked on the OLPC deployment in Nepal and many other cool projects (check out his blog at http://codewiz.org/wiki/BrainDump )
The idea of open source software is great and powerful, but has its disadvantages as well, like “Who fixes all the glitches?” Linux started free public software with Red Hat, and then came Fedora. In case of Sugar, Bernie first worked on graphics, he calls it low-level work, something very different from foundation. Right now he is doing architecture work or “architecture fetish” as Adam put it.
I was curious about the phases for Sugar project, he kindly explained:
Phase One – create software/frame – Done,
Phase Two – create community and applications (activities) – Almost there,
Phase Three – create content (curriculum) – In the Future.
How to make it sustainable? Provide support and maintenance, becoming, perhaps, consultants to those willing to invest. He thinks that Sugar’s purpose and future is for children but I suggest that this product or its modification could be used by any educational organization or corporation for educational purposes, training of all kinds, etc.
I went to Babson College and it is very entrepreneurial and innovative, but we had boring classes too. My favorite classes were with non-traditional format, interactive, engaging, and technology driven classes like the one on international organizations. It was an on-line class that was taught by a professor from Thunderbird University over the summer! We used on-line discussion, reading, testing, and it was almost 5 years ago!
Bernie told me about his favorite class he took last fall at Harvard extension school on education and technology: participation in Forum, blogging every day and creating content together with his schoolmates. Everything was posted on-line, so the results of his work were always visible for better collaboration between kids, pardon, students.
Of course, he loved that class, as constant involvement made him better connected to the teammates and interested in his own vs. peer results. Isn’t it the goal of any school/class to engage students into communication with each other, to make learning more fun and help apply the knowledge? It is not about just memorizing dry theory, but real practical application. When students interact, they share their findings, and help each other in a more informal way. There should be some healthy balance beween individual vs. community customized curriculum. And why not let individuals/groups create their own curriculum, that is Users=Creators and vice versa?
At that point our conversation sounded more like science fiction, which we also discussed, esp ideas from the book Foundation by Isaac Asimov…
I told about Russia, that all elementary, middle and high school is usually in the same building and for 10 years of your life you go there and are being taught in a very structured standardized way… An Educational Jail, where you are force fed all kinds of knowledge, not at all in Montessori way. And after 10 years you ask yourself: What was it for? And now what?
As I was walking to the T (subway) I thought about famous sci-fi novel Monday begins on Saturday by Arkadi and Boris Strugatsky about people who love their jobs and start their work week on Saturday, instead of Monday. It is about you, Bernie and Adam! Money is a bonus, but not main objective; you do this work because you love it. Perhaps it is A whole new mind approach…
I missed last train and had to take a cab, but that whole evening was so worth it!