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More Faculty Teaching HFOSS! Please!

January 6, 2013

I’ve just come back from our first face-to-face OpenFE team meeting and I’m really excited! OpenFE is an NSF-funded effort to help develop faculty expertise in participating in HFOSS projects as well as creating and evaluating learning materials needed to apply the HFOSS approach (see previous post). We’ve got a really cohesive group that generated lots of interesting ideas in the one-plus day meeting. (Thank you Darci Burdge and Lori Postner for your very congenial hosting of the event).

OpenFE Team

The OpenFE Team –  (Stoney Jackson (WNE), Darci Burdge (NCC), Lori Postner (NCC), Sean Goggins (Drexel), Heidi Ellis (WNE), Greg Hislop (Drexel), John Sener (Evaluator))

During the meeting we spent a lot of time talking about how to get more faculty members involved in supporting student participation in Humanitarian FOSS (HFOSS) projects. Faculty members have many things on their plate and getting started in HFOSS can have a learning curve related to learning the culture, tools, etc. In addition, teaching within a FOSS project can have elements of unpredictability. We talked about approaches to providing an on-ramp to help faculty along this learning curve, including a workshop a la POSSE.

I’ve attended faculty development workshops in the past. These have generally been very good and I have learned a lot. However, when I return home after the workshop, in many cases (with Clif Kussmaul‘s CS-POGIL effort being one exception), I end up only applying a small portion of the workshop content in my classroom. Reasons include not having the time to create new materials for my classes based on workshop content, not being entirely sure how to apply workshop content, and lack of support for learning more about the workshop content.

To address this hurdle, the OpenFE team has proposed an approach that includes a face-to-face workshop combined with providing entrance to two communities to support faculty learning before, during and after the workshop event. One community is the Teaching Open Source community which is made up of instructors and FOSS community members who are interested in supporting student learning within FOSS projects. I have found this community very helpful as I have involved students in HFOSS projects.

The second community will be organized around a particular HFOSS project (e.g., GNOME’s MouseTrap project) and this community will provide support to faculty members as they involve students in particular projects. One of the most frequent questions that I’ve heard from faculty members wanting to involve students in HFOSS projects is “How do I pick a project?” followed by “How do I get started?”  Small learning groups organized around projects will help faculty members with these issues.

The OpenFE team is planning our first initiative to start in May with a face-to-face workshop in June. Initial learning will involve joining communities combined with online modules to get faculty familiar with some of the communication tools used by HFOSS communities including IRC, wikis and more. We’ve also planned virtual meetings using IRC with workshop participants before the actual workshop. During these meetings, we’ll talk about how faculty members can involve students in HFOSS within their own classes and to answer questions faculty may have as they get ready for the face-to-face meeting.

The face-to-face meeting is planned for early June and will be lead by both experienced Teaching Open Source members and FOSS representatives. Workshop content is based on Red Hat’s POSSE curriculum which aims to provide an immersive experience involving professors in the culture, tools and practices of open source communities.  During the face-to-face workshop, attendees will experience hands-on the process of contributing to an HFOSS project.  The workshop will also cover how to involve students in an HFOSS project within a class including assignments, grading, etc.

I’m excited about adding more faculty to the Teaching Open Source community. I’m also really excited to see more faculty and students involved in more HFOSS projects.  Please join us by joining Teaching Open Source and drop me an email (ellis at wne dot edu)  if you are a faculty member interested in attending a workshop.

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