Thursday, June 11, 2009

SoftHum & HFOSS

Hello from the ground floor of the Rush Building at Drexel University where I am part of the NSF-sponsored workshop to explore Open Source Software for Humanity, unofficially abbreviated to SoftHum. After just finishing introductions, we hope to explore how to utilize open source projects in our respective curricula to engage and deepen the understanding and appreciation of software development for our students.

So, the morning involved lots of presentations from the team leaders (Greg and Heidi), as well as a few participants such as Cliff Kussmaul at Muhlenberg (interesting approach, sort of like "backing into" teaching software development), Greg DeKoenigsberg of Red Hat and Frank Hecker of the Mozilla Foundation. We then had a group exercise (no surprise at a SE workshop :-) on teaching and learning exercises & activities for OSS.

Lunch was great, the some summary of the group work, presentations more participants, and onto Ralph Morelli discussing the HFOSS project -- I really am interested in Sahana and working with POSIT on Google Android.

Next Darius Jayazeri (not sure if this is the right spelling) presented OpenMRS.


Day 2: There is an interesting debate arising about what puts the "F" in HFOSS, and what would not be HFOSS, politics, perspective, even "political agnosticism." This discussion has a few sides as I see it:
  • Humanitarian is clearly the application of FOSS for the classics of disaster management, conflict issues and poverty in developing countries (i.e., paternalistic)
  • Humanitarian also includes education, even locally (i.e., own bootstraps)
  • Humanitarian is all application, so what if the military argue that their work saves more lives than are lost (i.e., greater good)
  • Humanitarian is really not applicable to software, as it is a tool and thus "morally neutral."
Libertarian flavor of software was then mentioned, interesting point. Discussion then turned to the concept, attributed to Dave Humphrey, that students should be "productively lost." Heidi and Greg added the technical presentation, including templates and grading rubrics.

Now it's panel time: Greg, Darius, Frank, Clif and Heidi fielded questions and discussed how they teach their courses using HFOSS.

For details, please check back later -- JD

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