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Open Source Educator (Part Five: Teaching) March 3, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 10:00 pm
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<polyachka> So would you say that OLPC/Sugar got you interested in Open source or the other way around?

<mchua> I got into that because one of the big bottlenecks I saw for Sugar – and this is true of many open source communities – we’re just not that good at teaching people how to join us.

<polyachka> agree

<mchua> If you think about something like… say, playing guitar. There are books on playing guitar, schools for playing guitar, teachers. You can walk down the street – everyone knows what it means to play guitar, they know someone who plays it, they’ve listened to CDs with guitar players, they’ve seen them on TV. And if they want to get started, they know they can grab a book or a teacher, they have some idea – there’s a pathway for that.

<mchua> But open source? How the heck do you start with open source? A lot of open source hackers would say “well, you just *do* it!”

<mchua> but that’s like taking a 5-year-old into a kitchen and handing them a knife and saying “cooking! you just do it!”

<mchua> “there’s nothing preventing you from making a perfect roast chicken right now! all the tools are in front of you! all the ingredients!”

<mchua> “But I don’t know how to turn on the oven or use the knife to chop things!”

<polyachka> 🙂

<mchua> However, professors are masters at turning complicated subjects into scaffold pathways that students can learn along.

<polyachka> I’m laughing here like crazy

<mchua> The good professors, anyhow 🙂

<mchua> So it’s my hope that by working with these professors – if they figure out what sort of resources, guidance, support, teaching, etc. their students need to get started in these projects

<mchua> those same resources and scaffolding and learning-pathway will be useful to other folks as well, other newcomers.

<mchua> And to answer your earlier question, I would say that I was interested in open source first, and then OLPC/Sugar followed from that – but also that OLPC was the first time I was actually an open source contributor, rather than just a user.

<mchua> I started using open source software when I was 14 (a bunch of my high school friends invaded my room one evening with Debian install floppies) and wanted to contribute back to it but couldn’t figure out how.

<mchua> I was intimidated, none of the projects I contacted were responsive, I basically tried to contribute for 6 years but couldn’t figure it out – it was very discouraging, I thought it was because I wasn’t “good enough” to contribute to open source.

<mchua> And that’s why I’m now working so much on the newbie experience, working to help people get started… because I know how it feels to be stuck like that.

<mchua> It’s not that you’re not good enough, it’s that you haven’t found the right mentors, the right entry points, nobody’s told you about the culture, the way of thinking and doing things.

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