A story in the AP may shed some light on this:
American Education had better get its act together; it’s a global arena now.
Watch this video:
And then read the following:
My purpose in the following is to relate the foregoing video to our situation here at NCCU. I rub a lot of folks the wrong way, and I honestly do not intend to, but I came up in something like the Chandler family- success was expected. There was never any pressure or pushing, it was just assumed each of us would find a way to kick the world in the butt. Most of us did. Now, I know that many of you also came from environments like that, so I am not at all bragging about my pedigree. But the point is that most of our students do not come from the Chandler family. WE are their Chandler family, and we have to: 1) inform them that it is their solemn duty to kick the world dead square in the butt, and; 2) help them devise a methodology to do so. Right now that way is mainframe, but we do not in the least have to limit ourselves to that. But the fact of the matter is that mainframe is giving these students worldwide notoriety, and attention is a great motivator to succeed. There are other areas we can have the same level of success, because it’s the approach that matters, not the specifics of the technology.
My Aunt went to medical school in 1953 in spite of threats to her mother- a teacher in Montgomery, Alabama- to try to dissuade her from such foolishness. Two of her younger cousins also became physicians, and from them six of the following generation also became doctors. These are black folk in Alabama, mind you, in the 50’s, 60s, and 70’s. My great uncle- my grandmother’s brother- was insane enough to finish Columbia Law School in the 1920s, and it took the good white citizens of Alabama 15 years before they could figure out a way to disbar him. No problem, his nephew, my uncle Solomon Seay, used a state law that said that the state of Alabama would pay the tuition of any Negro who wanted to go to professional school as long as they did not do so in Alabama. Smart move, ya’ll (guess they figured there would be danged few Negroes to go to school). My uncle, educated in law by the state of Alabama, ultimately wrote the briefs for the Rosa Parks case, and whupped the US govt in the Tuskegee syphilis case. In other words, he used the very system designed to enslave him to liberate himself and his people. I call that ironic. His son, Quentin, is now a full partner in a 200 or so partner law firm and making tons of money (wish he’d give me some).
Here’s my point: I can’t help the way I am. It’s in my DNA. I cannot be quiet, and I cannot no try to win with my dying breath. It’s how I was reared. And I don’t know any other way to teach my students than to be prepared to slaughter their opponents intellectually. It’s the only way I can play the game. If that is out of place at an HBCU, someone needs to let me know, because I’m just warming up…
In conversations with Mel Chua, it surfaced that a great place that for computer information systems (business IT) programs to add value to the OSS community is in project management. It’s something that we do well, and it seems that the community can benefit in our expertise in this area. One of the profs in my CIS dept- who has deep expertise in PM- is very interested in engaging the OSS community in helping increase the awareness of the project management body of knowledge. It should be very interesting.
One thing I can guarantee the open source community: If it understands at least the basics of the concept of “the zone of proximal development” or ZPD (which, in general, public education does not), participation in open source will take off like a rocket. It’s not complicated at all: learning can only occur in that space where the learner can complete a task only with the assistance of an expert tutor (and that tutor need not be a person, but can, in fact, be a community). That space is the zone of proximal development. Eventually the learner can perform the task without assistance, and moves on to a higher level of expertise, resetting their ZPD if you will. This is the basis of my pedagogy, and I let our results speak for themselves. Two good places to start are Vygotsky’s Thought and Language (you can try Mind in Society, but it’s a little more challenging), and Binet’s The Development of Intelligence in Children. Thought and Language is a short book, Binet’s is much longer, but you do not need to read the entire work to get his point- what we call “intelligence” is wholly subjective and a matter of the environment of the subject. My colleague Matt Jadud of Allegheny College in PA also had several references with which I was not familiar and intend to grab. Matt, by the way, is a full fledged computer scientist (Ph.D and all) who took it upon himself to thoroughly expose himself to the learning theory literature to become a better professor. That leads us to another theoretical strain, one that deals with domain expertise and how one disseminates that expertise, that we will leave for later.
The open source world needn’t master a bunch of psychology terms to get the point: all it has to do is draw students into the community. Once they are in the community, the community will teach them and they will learn. But we need the same gentle entre that the profs were given this week: we were welcomed and a path was made for us. Yes, we had to exert effort, but exerting that effort was a lot of fun.
No, the open source community is not for everyone, but participation in it is extremely valuable for anyone seeking a career in info tech in any area (programming, project management, system admin, etc). I so fully immerses you in the domain of software development that your knowledge of every area of IT increases by orders of magnitude. Wonderful stuff!
Laurie Williams (not open source, but good work on teaching programming)
That my students and my department need to participate in the open source community is clear; how we will pull it off is a horse of another shade. The problem we have as academics is how to make new stuff part of our official program. Our students, of course, have an overall goal of getting a piece of paper at the end of the process, and anything that does not in some way contribute to that goal will be sternly questioned by both the students and the institution. In addition, when I encounter students like Ian Weller, the high school student with big league open source skills, it forces me to question the efficacy of our entire process. At the end of their entire program, with a CIS degree in hand, my students are completely oblivious to a major technology entity like the open source community. HUH?
The only way I can see this being effective for us is to have a semester long class in open source development. Actually that might be a great class to have after the students take their two mandatory programming classes and before their senior project. Of course it will take time to develop a course in this, but during the interim I can put this community on our students’ radar screen. Of this I am certain: if we can plug the NCCU students into this community, as a matter of course their expertise will grow exponentially. I can’t remember one week where I learned as much as I did about something that I knew very little about. It has been quite an experience…
Last night Greg D. treated us (on Red Hat’s gracious nickel) to a fine table at The Pit, an exquisite BBQ joint in Raleigh. I swear it looked like all of Red Hat was there. I had an amen corner with three Red Hat engineers, and we talked tech till the wee hours (well, actually until about 8 when I had to dash). I am really looking forward to working with the crimson chapeau folks in days to come. They are quite a bunch…
At our POSSE training this week, yesterday was the first day I felt I was falling seriously behind. As the only non-computer scientist in the group, I nonetheless felt fairly comfortable with the technical level and pace of the course. Until yesterday…. We did a lot- fix a bug in Firefox, went through a package review step by step, etc, and conceptually it was quite a bit of new material to absorb. Be that as it may, I will carry on. No guts, no glory….
I am a professor in the Computer Information Systems program at North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC. I have been on faculty there for the past five years. Prior to that I was a technology manager at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, GA.
At NCCU, I have taught Intro to Programming, Web Programming, Database and Intro to Mainframe Programming. Here is a look at one of my classes:
This week I am at Red Hat in Raleigh, NC at the Professor’s Open Source Software Education (POSSE) event. It is tremendous!