Monday, March 24, 2008


Our Birds-of-a-Feather session at the SIGCSE conference went off well to say the least. Attendance was spectacular: we were expecting about ten attendees at most, and got some thirty-five. Discussion was intense, and we could have spent the entire night talking about the issues that came up. It was interesting to note the different ways in which FOSS is playing out in computer science education: from classes simply stressing open source tools as an underlying environment, to those using it as a software engineering methodology, to those using the availability of code to demonstrate the application of algorithms and data structures (and so on). Scott and I have started up a Google Group to continue this discussion and if you'd like to be a member do drop us a line at bcfoss AT gmail DOT com.

Scott and I also attended the HFOSS project workshop. The HFOSS project seems to have come up with a solution to a problem that I've encountered before with students: how does one encourage/facilitation in an open source project (not for recruitment purposes, no, but mainly to get students to tackle non-trivial programming work, and to get them to experience software engineering principles in a serious setting). I tried this at Brooklyn College with some of the members of the student club, but was stymied by the students being intimidated by the complexity of some of the projects and the lack of guidance. And I simply did not have the time to be an adequate mentor. In the HFOSS project though, this work is structured around a class, and the students interact with a developer group (the SAHANA project) that is keen to work with them as well. The students learn about FOSS tools such as PHP and MySql, read about FOSS principles, and go on to make small, but crucial contributions to the SAHANA project. All in all, very impressive, and you could do worse than check out the stuff that Ralph Morelli and his gang are up to.


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