Last night was the kick-off party at Mozilla for FSOSS speakers and also a time to do a dry run of the PK presentation that I’ll be doing on Friday. I got a sneak-peek at Gale Moore‘s slides and then did a run-through myself. By setting the timing on the slides to 20 seconds I forced myself to stick to the format. It’s not hard to do this when you’re really just talking about your life. It’s a whirlwind tour of what I call my “Zero to Hero Journey”. Come by tomorrow and see it.
The best part of last night though was informal discussions about two topics I love; activism and enjoyable work environments. The former came up in discussion with Gale and Mike Hoye about the systems being used in schools. Seneca uses BlackBoard which is akin to being drawn and quartered on a regular basis. It’s painful to use, ugly, has absolutely nothing to offer students, and even our teachers hardly touch it. Gale wondered why students weren’t rebelling or otherwise agitating for a better system…Moodle for example. My take, granted that I am a bit different than the “average” student at Seneca, is that because of the decentralization of students – many live up to 3 hours away from campus – there is never going to be a decent level of student activism about this or any other issue because we don’t spend time with each other outside of class.
On rare occasions, students may have time to compare notes with each other about their experience in their program – but without a common space for downtime, combined with an interest in making changes to the way things are, we will never join together to combat the system as it stands.
I’m 6.5 months away from being done school and it’s not in my list of priorities to take on this kind of activity either. So no complaining about BlackBoard for me. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.
The second topic, the work environment, was fun because it wasn’t just a Mozilla love-in (and there is so much to love) but instead I heard from someone in a completely different field how much their workplace supported and encouraged them, gave them a clear path to advancement and had a strong team with no weak links. I’m often griping about the team work that we are obliged to do in school, mostly because the teams are often nothing like anything found in the “real world” and then also due to the fact that the assignments are often fictitious and therefore don’t give us as much of a challenge.
The open source class at Mozilla really raised the bar by giving us real work to do and that experience is invaluable. Instead of wasting time with teammates dividing up work and trying to manage other students’ work ethics, we were project leaders on our Mozilla work and we pulled people into our teams as needed to get the work done. This kind of turns the model that other classes use on its ear. Next term I’ll be doing a research and methodologies course where our deliverable is a significant research paper on some facet of technology. I intend to pitch an idea to research the current BSD program’s project stream and how it currently leads to very little implementation. Hopefully with a little research, we can look at ways to turn that around and give the next generation of BSD students a level of satisfaction that will enable them to recognize this in their future workplaces.