Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Emerging Synergies in El Salvador Free Software Project

Yesterday was a really encouraging day for the Juan Chacon Free Software Project.  Douglas Cerna, SchoolTool developer and hacking high priest of our project, sent an email and made a phone call to Lic. Liseth Giron, Profesora de Computacion at la Universidad MonseƱor Oscar Arnulfo Romero (UMOAR), to start a conversation about how we might work together on several projects.  Douglas's chat to me afterward captures the mood of their conversation:

Douglas: WOW
and wow
just wow

It turns out that Lic. Giron is already familiar with the free software movement, has Ubuntu already running at the university, and is interested in exploring ways we might work together toward community development in Chalatenango.  So our collaboration with PEACE, International and UMOAR is off to a promising start!

When I first learned about the Free Software Foundation more than 15 years ago, I thought the day would come when free software would play a crucial role in movements for progressive social change.  Now, watching free software sweep across progressive Latin America, it is great to be able to play a small part in the process.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Educon 2.2

Chris Lehmann, principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, teaches a class to a group of mostly senior students called Modern Educational Theory (see Chris's letter to the students of the class here).  I found out about the class from the SLA student taking me on a tour of the school in session during the 1st day of Educon 2.2.  That Chris teaches a class like this comes as no surprise -- he believes that the education experience is something we should do with students, not to them, and it shows in SLA.

This was my 3rd trip to Educon, but the 1st for my colleagues Isaac Zawolo and Dr. Ann Kennedy.  It was apparent to each of us that we were in a truly amazing place of learning.  As our guide took us from class to class, walking into any class that we wished, and talking with students and faculty (especially students!), what we saw everywhere is characteristic of SLA: confident, articulate, reflective students actively engaged in learning -- learning not just how to do things, but why.

The educational experience at SLA is informed throughout by the three essential questions: How do we learn?  What can we create? What does it mean to lead? and the five core values: inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection, that guide its mission.  Students at SLA are so articulate because they articulate, day after day, at SLA.  They are able to answer deep questions about what goes on at their school because reflecting on their experience is a core part of what they do there.

As we undertake the creation of the Governor's Career and Technical Academy in Arlington, I hope we can learn from what I saw at SLA to bring our students the same kind of education for a democratic society that the SLA students experience.