Wednesday, July 23, 2014

R0ml's Talk: Why Schools Don't Teach Open Source

I always look forward to @R0ml's talks, as do Anna Ravenscroft of Alex Martelli, in the front row (I'm one row back).  Robert Lefkowitz knows how to encourage thinking.

Java and Bluejay are commonly used in college intro to programming courses, both open source, however neither started as open source and the curriculum did not change when they did, suggesting their becoming free is somewhat irrelevant.  How to make Open Source not irrelevant?

We don't want to stress "free as in beer" nor make OSS esoteric.  We want to share an "open source way".  Programmed Visions by Wendy Chun is one of R0ml's current favorites.  He uses her definition of "neoliberalism":  the notion that individuals acting within their own interest within a framework will generate emergent goodness.

R0ml linked this to Martin Luther and Francis Bacon as fostering individualism, then empiricism versus reliance on faith and authority of the cathedral.  Etienne de Condiac also gets credit for fostering an empirical approach, then Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson with their cybernetic / feedback loop approach to governance of, by and for the people.

Darwinism and the hurly burly of the ecosystem, then Eric Raymond.... if everyone scratches their own itch, things will get better in the bazaar.  That's the current meaning of neo-liberalism.

Sugata Mitra's experiments come in, as showing that bazaar dynamics work in education ("minimally invasive education").

How might we capitalize on all this heritage to make the Open Source Way relevant in education?  Teaching programming, sure, but does everyone really need programming for some "job".  Does learning programming make one a more well-rounded person?  We all need health courses even if we don't expect everyone to become medical.  Heath:Medicine :: Programming:_____?

Computer Power and Human Reason by Joseph Weizenbaum gets a plug.

Everybody needs to direct automata, make machines do their bidding.  Praxis versus Techne was the old greek dichotomy.  Our praxis is to teach people how to use software effectively.

Software Assessments, Benchmarks, and Best Practices by Capers Jones.

How does one know if one is becoming a better programmer?

The answers have to do with the source code, not with the end user experience as much.  82% of programming does not specifically involve programming.  Becoming a better programmer is about educating one's tastes, one's sensitivity to flavor.

DARPA's MUSE might fill in the vacuum, of helping people master their machines, but to what extent might we really automate the process of choosing, applying judgement?

Why Don't Schools Teach How to Use Open Source Software?  That is the question.