Open-Education

My interest in applying open-source to education dates back to February, in one of my first postings: Letter to Robert J Stevens, CEO, Lockheed Martin.

I was first approached about participating in a conference at Indiana University on October 1st, and accepted the invitation on October 2nd. I’ll be writing about the conference itself shortly.

In order to prepare for the conference I met with several IBMers who work in the area of education, including some members of the Corporate Community Relations (CCR) team. While my previous efforts as an open-source volunteer had been in the area of humanitarian assistance, the preparation for the conference, as well as the conference itself, made me think more about education and open-source, and so I decided a couple of weeks ago that going forward I would focus my efforts on what I call open-education, by which I mean the use of open-source technology both to provide education and also to assist educators and educational institutations in their vital work.

I made that decision because working on open-education means I get to work with two groups that mean a great deal to me:

  • I respect no group more than our clergy and educators. Our clergy tell us why we should strive to make ourselves and the world around us better; our educators provide us the education to do so.
  • I have found that no group is more fun to work with than open-source folks.

So by working on open-education I get to work with members of both these groups.

I have also come to appreciate the importance of education to IBM. As a business education is worth hundreds of millions of dollars of income to IBM each year, most of which comes to the division of which I am now a part, Systems and Technology Group (STG), our hardware division. Promoting and supporting education is also fundamental to CCR’s mission; IBM spends more on education than in the area of humanitarian assistance and to other non-profit organizations. Education is also important to IBM Sales and Distribution (S&D), IBM Software Group , IBM Global Services, and IBM Research. Indeed, my letter to Lockheed’s CEO was prompted by my experience in the “IT Academy,” a cross-divisional IBM effort that works with high-schools in the “tri-state” area: New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

I have just started an internal IBM wiki so the interested IBM groups can share information. It can be found at Education wiki (accessible only inside IBM). I have also started working as much as time permits on supporting IBM’s business activities in education.

I plan to spend the forseeable future working in the area of open-education, both as a business issue to IBM and as the main part of my personal voluntary efforts.

Towards that end most of my posts going forward will be about open-education and open-source. I will begin by trying to provide some education myself, by writing intensely about WordPress in a variety of ways in the weeks to come. I will use the Category “word-press” to mark such posts.

I will write of other topics, but I hope the focus on education will be evident. Don’t worry Smart Guy #5 (Tom Friedman); I’ll still read you column each Wednesday and Friday and post on it as I see fit.

I started the post with following introduction, but it got so long I’m putting it here by way of background.

BACKGROUND

I’ve been working part-time for several months with the members of IBM’s Corporate Community Relations (CCR) team. They are the folks responsible for IBM’s philanthropic activities. They do this in support of IBM’s commitment to be a responsible corporation.

The CCR team approached IBM’s open-source team almost a year ago. They were interested in enlisting IBMers with open-source skills to volunteer their skills as part of IBM’s On Demand Community. Initially they were seeking to work in an area known as Humanitarian-FOSS, at first in support of the Sahana project that I have written about earlier in these pages.

I was joined in my efforts a few months ago by Rob Eggers, a fellow member of IBM’s Linux Technology Center, several hundred folks who as a team are part of IBM’s efforts that support Linux; see Linux at IBM.

I made one modest contribution to the Sahana effort, in the form of the HumanitarianFossMailSampler, a summary of the first 1500 or so postings to a key mail list, humanitarian-ict yahoo group, a group that includes many members of the Sahana community.

As a programmer I would like to participate in the Sahana effort. But the reality is that my area of expertise is compilers and programming tools, and I don’t have the LAMP skills that are needed to work on Sahana.

Rob has been engaged for some time as a part of a small group working on the “logistics” module. He has recently enlisted another volunteer with LAMP skills from the LTC to help in this work, and I am comfortable that work will make good progress.

Our group worked entirely inside the firewall until mid-September, when I made a decision that on my own time in my role as a volunteer, I would start blogging intensely to see what would happen.

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