Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Teaching free/open source to high school students

A few weeks ago I taught a class on Open Source: Contributing to free culture (catalog entry) for Spark, a one-day program put on by the student-run MIT Educational Studies Program. I was fortunate to have two helpful co-teachers, Tyler Hallada and Jacob Hurwitz, who assisted with the lesson plan and the in class lecture.

We ended up teaching 3 sessions of the 1hr 50min class that Saturday, with about 10 students in each session.

I was pretty impressed by the quality of the students; a number of them had used GNU/Linux before, but even those who hadn't were able to gain something from the experience. The class was broken up into three segments:

  1. Lecture on a brief history of open source and the free software movement
  2. Small research project on an open source project
  3. Lab where students could work through OpenHatch's training missions
The point was to mix up what could otherwise be a very boring lecture.

I think we might have missed the mark on the last bit, as I get the feeling that we didn't end up giving the students good actionables. While the quality of OpenHatch is high and the organization's campus outreach programs are amazing, skills practice only goes so far without clear direction to apply said skills. I'll be following up with the class participants to see how they're progressing on their own open source contributor journey, and will post updates if I have any.

While not an OpenHatch event, if this sort of thing interests you, OpenHatch runs a series of events like this one and has a mailing list for discussing planning and sharing best practices. Subscribe and say hi!

The presentation is enclosed below, and of course is licensed under CreativeCommons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. [PDF]


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