Software Freedom Curriculum and OLPC

Neal McBurnett neal at
Fri Jan 18 16:27:47 GMT 2008

I'm writing to a few pretty inactive lists and folks that I hope are
interested in this topic.  So I hope the cross-posting isn't
inappropriate.  I've gotten interested in this topic more myself
recently after participating in the One Laptop per Child "Give One Get
One" opportunity.

I wonder if anyone out there in education-land has experience in, or
is interested in, teaching kids about software freedom?

Here is a wikiversity curriculum:

and here is an essay by Benjamin Mako Hill, the initiator of it:

Below are a few excerpts of what he wrote there that struck a chord
with me

Neal McBurnett       
 The attractive thing to me about OLPC was the idea of students
 getting a real, free software, free hardware, truly open platform
 unlike phones, calculators, and eBooks

 People say that because modifying technology is often difficult, only
 a small percentage of users -- especially young users -- will take
 advantage of the malleability or "hackability" of a product. They are
 probably right. But part of why this happens is because when
 computers are employed in education, we use them as tools to
 accomplish predefined and preprogrammed tasks. Even when students
 learn to program, it's in a window (quite literally in a box)
 separate from the rest of the things that the computer does.

 I don't believe that you need to be a hacker to understand why
 software freedom is important. Proof, I think, is the fact that
 people think that a free press is important even if they don't
 publish or write very well.

 As an exercise, I took it on myself to write the beginning of a
 curriculum that teachers could use to teach students about software
 freedom and the concepts that I think are key to understanding it. It
 tries to come up with models for framing discussions and a series of
 activities to help teachers teach relatively young (i.e., middle
 school students) about issues of computation, information goods, and
 ultimately about software freedom.

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