Thursday, July 29, 2010
But a problem that eats time and resources.
As most people reading this already know, The HeliOS Project rescues or receives broken/decommissioned computers, refurbishes them, then gives them to financially disadvantaged kids in the Austin area.
One of the biggest challenges we face when we get on site is in familiarizing the child with their new Linux system. Most kids have had Windows exposure from the first time they touch a computer. Getting them through the initial system shock of a new environment has had its challenges.
In some cases, we've done a 30 day check-in to see how the child is doing with their new computer and have found the parent or guardian has put Windows on it. Maybe because the child wasn't familiar with it...
Maybe because the parent wasn't familiar with it.
Nothing we can do about that...it is their computer. We simply will no longer provide any software support for it. Still, it shows a need for a more intense or comprehensive knowledge of the Linux Desktop...at least upon first exposure.
Neal has worked with computers in all sorts of ways since 1964. He did his doctoral dissertation on acquiring computer based technologies by organizations - essentially coming to understand how acquiring the technology would change the way things were done and, in addition, coming to understand what was required for a successful acquisition of the technologies. His area of teaching centered on Computer Integrated Manufacturing - that is using computers in all of the functions within a company - from design, management- purchasing, manufacturing, etc. Now Neal's passion is to use computers as a tool to improve education - world wide.
Neal knows what many of us know...through the slow but steady processes already in place, Linux as a desktop will become an important part of the educational experience. The operating system has become fully functional but much of the educational software as it applies to Linux itself is lacking.
What Neal sees as a critical need, is a way to teach kids about their Linux system. What better way than through a game?
The biggest challenge is making sure we are not reinventing the proverbial wheel here.
There are tens of thousands of active Free Open Source software projects akin to this currently. Some are public, some are not...if there are programs out there that are meeting this need, there is no need to waste time duplicating it. Our efforts are best spent augmenting those programs. If they do not exist, then we want to create it.
Let me give you an idea of what Dr. Scogin has in mind. From one of the emails between Neal and myself:
"I continue to work on the Linux Learning Computer Game. The basic structure I am working on is to have the learner be presented with a Given set of information and then be confronted with a Situation which is like a question where they have to Respond to get a Result. The Respond time and Outcome (Correct or Incorrect) give a certain Score. I don't have a Game background but from my earliest days (Super Mario Brothers) it appears to me this is the structure. If anything the Linux Learning Game is simpler. I am using this structure to learn (teach) the Linux file structure as well as the A+ Certification."
Or more aptly, a stepping stone to eventually taking the Linux + courses and tests. The immediate function of this game would be to familiarize the child with her system in a fun but challenging way. That of course, at least theoretically, would prompt further curiosity or interest.
I am not a coder, and neither is Dr. Scogin, however not knowing how to write the software doesn't preclude one from seeing the need for that software.
What I want to do here, aside from letting you know this project exists, is to ask you if you know of a learning tool such as this. Time is of more value than money and finding that the six months work you just completed was to duplicate another effort is not acceptable to anyone.
I am soliciting researchers, ideas, coders, artists, volunteers, and bloggers to help us move this project forward. Sure, the current parameters are pretty loose but that's why I have put this in front of you.
I cannot think of anyone more qualified to be a part of making this happen.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 10:59 AM