Stimulating Content Communities

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Stimulating Open Content Communities for OLPC

This is Part III of the Grassroots series. I am skipping over Part II "Teambuilding" because it has proven harder to write. I will come back to it. Thanks to Xavi Alvarez for reminding me to work on it and the wiki

OLPC seeks to provide every child with a powerful learning platform and an-ever evolving array of powerful learning activities. To accomplish this, OLPC must not only build and distribute the base platform, it must nurture and encourage three groups of people:

  1. Software Developers
  2. Educators
  3. Artists

These communities may be international and have sub-groups by nation or linguistic region. Here are my suggestions for comprehensive programs to stimulate the development of these communities. I have put special emphasis stimulating communities in developing nations.

Developer Program

see the current Developers program

Engineers in developing nations need more financial incentives to participate in Open Source projects than engineers in the developing world require (often none), typically due to the financial pressures placed on them by their families. We need to convince both student developers and their teachers that they should switch their academic focus from J2EE to Python.

Benefits for Core Developers:

  • Certificate from an internationally recognized technical university -- ideally MIT.
    • Other possibilities are the MIT Media Lab or Open Source Lab at Oregon State. Certificates are a big deal in the developing world.
    • Certificates could be based on amount of code contributed to, participation in code reviews, hardware development etc.
  • Discounted internet access and possibly provide extra UPS -- this benefit would vary country by country and a grassroots organization would have to coordinate it.
  • Free hardware -- important step, OLPC is already doing this
  • Discounted or free examinations for related IT certifications for accomplished developers
    • Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE)
    • A Python programming certification -- I know this doesn't exist but OLPC is a good enough reason to start one
  • Internships -- We intend to offer internships at OLPC Nepal but this may not be feasible in a country without an active OLPC organization.

Events to Stimulate Interest in OLPC

  • Regional and international events to stimulate interest in development, should emphasize commercial value of skills learned from working on OLPC, for example: "learn Python and you could eventually work for Google, Red Hat, etc."
    • Regional and national programming contests with significant prize money, for example in Nepal $2000 USD would be a substantial prize and huge incentive
      • Separate contests for Activity Development, hardware development, and power systems development, could be organized similar to the IEEE Computer Society Design Competition
      • Pie-in-the-sky idea -- regional Google Summer of Code style summer camps focussed on OLPC
    • Regional or national programming hackfests and sprints

Educator Program

The term educator includes many types of individuals including working teachers. I refer to an educator in the OLPC context as anyone who generates instructional content and/or facilitates learning with kids.

It will be hard to convince veteran teachers to use a radically different method of instruction. However, we can convince the next generation of educators who have recently graduated or are still in university. If we can win their support they will ensure that OLPC is an integral part of their respective national education systems in the long run.

We especially need to recognize individuals that digitize histories, literature, other academic works under the creative commons license.

Benefits for Core Educators

  • A Certificate from an internationally recognized Education Body or Academic institution -- a certificate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education would be ideal.
    • Unfortunately, a certificate from Brazil's Ministry of Education would mean little in Nepal
    • Possible Certificates: Certified Teacher Trainer, Certified Curriculum Developer
    • A Certificate from an educators local Ministry of Education recognizing their contribution to OLPC
  • Points towards academic tenure -- We will pursue this in Nepal
  • Free hardware
  • Discounted Internet Access

Events to Stimulate Interest in OLPC

  • Regional and National seminars to develop different kinds of learning activities
  • Regional and National awards for learning activities
  • Teacher Training Seminars

Artist Program

We need artists to help develop the creative possibilities of the XO. Specifically I am thinking how to involve musicians, photographers, and graphic designers. Frankly, I am at a loss how to best reward this community as I don't have a creative bone in my body and I only hang out w/ computer geeks. However, we really need to stimulate this community. Please contribute your ideas for the artist program.

We need artists to 1) generate learning activities around art and design and 2) Digitize paintings, music, photos, etc. under the creative commons license so that children around the world can enjoy them.

Benefits for Core Artists ???

Events to Stimulate Interest in OLPC

  • Etoys Art Competition
  • TamTam and SynthLab Composition -- Could be run through TamTam website
    • Students could post their composition to the Tamtam site
    • site visitors could vote for their favorite composition
    • We need some kind of competition to spur digital musicians to implement different instruments and rhythms into TamTam
  • SJ Klein's idea -- create a drop-in center where storytellers, musicians, and graphic artists could get their work digitized.