Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Google Announces Open Source Contest for High School Students

You're going to have to excuse me for gushing, but Google continues to win my loyalty because of their just plain willingness to work on good things. There hasn't been this much commitment to a "way" of being since two other guys built a company out of a Bay Area garage.

Yesterday Google announce their "Highly Open Participation Contest," a follow-on to their amazing "Summer of Code" program for college students--but this time for high school or "pre-university" students. From their announcement on the Google Code blog they described their "new effort to get pre-university students involved in all aspects of open source development, from fixing bugs to writing documentation and doing user experience research:"
While we're very excited about many aspects of the contest, the best part is that everyone can participate. Contestants must meet the eligibility requirements, but anyone interested in helping out can simply suggest a task to be included in the contest. Our contestants have a chance to win t-shirts, cash prizes, and a visit the Googleplex for a day of technical talks, delicious food and a photo with our very own Stan T. Rex.

Want to learn more? Check out the contest FAQs and tell your favorite pre-college students to pick a task or two to complete. You can always visit our discussion group to get help or share your thoughts.
I've been talking about Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in K12 schools for a few years now, and it has been disappointing to me that so few of the individuals or companies committed to FOSS or benefiting from it seemed to be interested in helping promote its use for educational purposes in K-12 schools. I'll frequently ask my audiences of educational technologists why Apache, MySQL, PHP, and/or Python--all current building blocks of the Web, and which can be obtained for free and run on older computers--aren't being taught in schools. You'd be amazed at the answers, from the understandable "they don't have a marketing or support budget" to the fascinating "if we knew how to use them we'd be working for a Silicon Valley company" (not sure that's very representative, but it has been said). Given the choice to either teach "Free" programs that don't require high-end hardware (and that are likely to lead to actual employment if wanted), or to teach expensive, proprietary programs that require faster computers (and that don't often build employable skills), I'm always surprised at how little FOSS is taught in schools.

It's also interesting to note that many of the Free and Open Source programmers I've talked with in my EdTechLive audio interview series got started programming in their early teens. I don't think that's unusual, and I think we often forget how significantly engaged a young person can be. So, some major kudos to Google for starting this program. Now, the next step will be to see if we can get the students to come and present at next year's K12 Open Minds conference!

(Cross-posted at

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Google Apps for Your Domain in Education

“Google the Jelly Rolls;
Become a Jelly Rolls expert;
Connect to other Jelly Rolls fans;
Create your own content and contribute to the global knowledge base about the Jelly Rolls;
Plot the band's tour on Google Earth and create links on theKMZ file to your blog posts on the shows…”

instructs Google certified teacher, Kyle Brumbaugh, as he sets the scene for students to begin their own 21st century learning experience using powerful Web 2.0 tools. The Jelly Rolls are a fictional punk rock group, that Kyle uses to help students visualize the strategies and skills they will need to participate in Global Communication- a program aimed at making students better consumers of the content they have access to in an online world.

The interdisciplinary program includes Social Studies, Language Arts, and Health working on content standards using topics from Globalization to Digital Citizenship. The program provides an excellent model of integrating technology to produce a learning experience that would NOT have been possible without today’s technology. It also models a way to meet several of the new ISTE National Education Technology Standards for Students

Capuchino High School has adopted Google Apps for your Domain as one of several tools used to implement the Global Communications program. The program uses tools that expand the circle of influence these students have outside of their local community by helping them connect and collaborate. Google Apps for your Domain provides the school with several powerful Google tools, while allowing them to keep their own school domain name: and allowing them to keep control of the student accounts using a web based control panel.
According to Kyle,

“The kids have access to the Gmail function, with chat turned off, docs
and spreadsheets and their own homepage (iGoogle) that they can customize.
Wealso allow them to use the calendar function. The students also use this
e-mail account to create their 'blogger' accounts. Every kid in the Global
Communications classes has their own blog. The next step in the process
for some of them is to start to use reader to subscribe to feeds. “

On the opposite coast, a Vermont school district has taken a different approach to adopting Google Apps for your Domain. Rutland South Supervisory Union started with administration, then teachers, and are now piloting student accounts. Looking to move away from maintaining his own in house post office, network administrator, Jayson Casavant examined outsourcing. The Google Apps for Your Domain free education access resulted in a substantial savings per year for his district. He set up trial accounts for each of the admin team then sent several weekly "google tips" for them to experiment with. Prior to the roll out to staff, he built an extensive addition to our web site offering FAQ's, tips and instructions for the staff.
Jayson feels the change has been well received by his district...

“Having a web based solution has offered our staff more flexibility than our
previous client based solution. Docs and spreadsheets is widely used as are
email and calendaring. We have currently rolled out roughly 100 students as a
beta test and plan to offer email to more going forward. All in all we have
found Google apps to be user friendly and easily scalable to our needs.

Meanwhile, a group of students from Burr and Burr Academy's Research Lab are hoping their district will follow suit. Adam Provost's students have created a proposal for their school to adopt Google Apps for Your Domain. The solution is currently pending, but Adam and his students are hopeful that the school will consider their proposal. They feel that

“Google for Domains makes a wild amout of sense. Have a company offer a
school free email, a management console, collaboration tools, integrated web
2.0 services and spam filtering...for free ? Using your own domain name ?
This program saves schools money and also all configuration and maintenance
time. Reclaiming that money and personnel time alone... Good problems to
have in my book. Most schools are barely scratching the surface educating
kids for the present day. Embracing opportunities and technologies like this
in secondary education, discussing and modeling these technologies instead of
limiting their experiences will bring us closer to educating students for
the future - where they'll be working. “

Best of luck to these pioneering students and other schools as they venture into Google Apps for your Domain as vehicle to provide tools that transform the way we teach and learn.

Friday, November 09, 2007

EdubloggerCon 2008: The Collaborative Conferences

Last year's EduBloggerCon in Atlanta, the all-day meet-up of educational bloggers, was a really fun event. EduBloggerCon and the NECC "Bloggers Cafe" were watershed events in some ways--the physical gathering of educational bloggers and the real-time conference collaborating and communication helped to raise expectations about ed tech conference participation. Whether they led, mirrored, or followed (maybe a little of each) the dynamic changes in networked learning that are taking place in the world of Web 2.0 for educators, they definitely generated an excitement about gathering and learning together.

So it is great fun to announce that we'll be having EduBloggerCon meetings in both Palm Springs (California) and San Antonio (Texas) in 2008, with the great and appreciated support of CUE and NECC. CUE, in fact, is sponsoring a whole series of Web 2.0-style additions to their conference (including a cool social network) which I'll be posting about shortly--and EduBlogger Con "West" will be Wednesday, March 4th, 2008, in the Palm Springs Convention Center in Palm Springs, California. NECC is also graciously hosting again, and the mothership EduBloggerCon 2008 will be Saturday, June 28, 2008 in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. Both events will, of course, be free, and maybe we'll even get a sponsor who'd be willing to swing for lunch (anyone?).

The wiki pages at for both events will be up shortly, and we'll follow the pattern of letting anyone propose discussions they want to facilitate, and others indicating their interest levels in those discussions. And we'll build in ample time for informal discussions. While we've called this an "unconference" before, I think it's really better identified as a "collaborative conference," and hope that you will consider joining us!

(cross-posted from