This paper outlines Seneca College's approach to teaching FLOSS in the classroom and discusses the results the program has attained.
An interesting part of the document is the summary of the key challenges of integrating FLOSS participation into a structured curriculum.
A prerequisite for teaching open source effectively is a professor who has one foot ﬁrmly planted in the Open Source community and the other in the educational world. In order to turn students into contributors, you need a dedicated conduit and liaison who can introduce students to the right people within the Open Source community.
On the academic side, the professor needs to connect with students on a personal level and to be aware of and able to navigate within the learning and adminis-trative context of the educational institution. On the Open Source side, the professor must have deep contacts (and friendships!) within the community, understand the community culture, and know what matters to the community so that projects selected for the students have traction. She must also know and effectively use the community’s tools — for example, knowing when to use IRC, when to use bugzilla, and when to use e-mail to communicate. The faculty member must have bought-in to open source principles, and use the community's products in a production environment ("eating your own dogfood") — there’s no credibility to lecturing about bugzilla.mozilla.org using Safari, or presenting Power Point slides about OpenOfﬁce.org.
The massive size of most large Open Source codebases prevent any one person from effectively knowing the entire codebase in detail, a problem that is compounded when multiple languages, layers, or major components are involved. This leads to the need to be productively lost in the code — moving beyond being over-whelmed and becoming effective at searching, navigating, and reading code. The professor must demonstrate how to cope in this state instead of pretending to know each line, and this includes pulling back the curtain and showing the students how she uses community resources and contacts to ﬁnd answers to questions. There is no textbook for this; it is behavior that must be modeled.
Source and Licensing
- Initially sourced from http://chris.tylers.info/ols2008/
- Copyright (c) <year> by Chris Tyler. This material may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License, v1.0 or later (the latest version is presently available at http://www.opencontent.org/openpub/).
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