[Linux-aus] Programs for education, was Re: Special support for women

Kim Hawtin kim at hawtin.net.au
Thu Oct 31 13:05:15 EST 2013

I've spent a little time thinking about this thread, the greater issue 
of new folks entering the FLOSS world and especially getting younger 
folks into the field. I'm no wordsmith, so please bear with me.

On 30/10/13 17:19, Glen Turner wrote:
 > But I know my merit is the result of considerable investment of
 > time and energy by many dedicated people (including many people
 > on this list who have patiently explained things to me).
 > Now I am old enough to start paying that education forward
 > to the next generation.

Helping get folks a foot in the door feels like the hardest part.
This is precisely why I've put so much effort into our local user group.

 From time to time new folks show up, ask heaps of questions, I try to 
direct them to the right forums that should be able to answer their 
questions, then you don't see them again for many months.

Are we much scarier than we think we are? (Or is it just me?
Is everyone here thinking, is it just me?)

 > I would hope that as I do so I give everyone the same opportunity.
 > But I know that just by being an old, loud, opinionated man that
 > this won't be true for some young, shy, reserved women --
 > they're slightly afraid of me, I'm slightly confused by them.

I know if I stumbled upon LinuxAus/LinuxSA or similar when I was a teen, 
I certainly would not have been able to engage in any meaningful way. 
Meeting and interacting with new people is difficult, still.

So as much as educating new people who might be interested in FLOSS, our 
community, conferences and user groups, we need to educate ourselves.

In the broader sense of being able to give them a soft landing. Guide 
them to the communities that can provide them with information for their 
immediate quest. Our part is to start them on their path to discovery of 
the tech and our community.

 > I've no problems with Linux Australia running special programmes
 > to help people whom us older folk scare upon first contact.

Of all the programs that LinuxAus runs, I hope this helps the *whole* 
community educate and support, not just the current of involving more 
women. I hope that it enables a whole new way of thinking about how we 
help new people explore our community and show what it has to offer. 
Women *need* to be a part of that.

I am unsure of the time lines, but I am aware that there will be a 
MakerFare in Sydney 'soon'.

I volunteered at the recent MakerFare in Adelaide. I answered questions 
on just about everything on offer on the day. To my eyes there was no 
gender imbalance there, in the parents or kids. Most interestingly there 
were many parents there, looking for ideas that interested their kids. 
It was as much education as entertainment.

The most frequently asked questions asked of me, about me, by parents; 
"what do you do for a living", "what got you into that" and "what got 
you interested to volunteer for MakerFare". At the time, not something 
I'd really thought about too much.

Perhaps MakerFare is a venue for education about LinuxAus? Certainly an 
event for folks in LinuxAus to have ones eyes opened about what 
interests kids. Certainly started me thinking about the kinds of things 
I was interested in when I was 'that age' and what set me on the path 
that lead me here.

So, what am I saying there? Only with ongoing engagement with the 
public, will you get posed the hard questions that we as a community 
haven't thought of. We have to take a look at those questions, the 
feedback and the ongoing relationships with people "outside" the 
community. We need to evaluate and feed it back into how we educate 
ourselves to educate the public about our community. We have to be 
careful that we don't become disabled by those challenges, the need for 
change and not fall into the insular trap of it all being too hard.

Perhaps we can look to others who have trod this path in recent times?
I bumped into this TEDx this morning, although I'm sure there is plenty 
of more appropriate material closer to the task at hand;

For those that don't do flash or youtube;
  "David Goldberg talks about seven skills that engineers are
   missing, skills that are essential for them to be effective
   in the 21st century."
The key points that young engineers need to learn;
- Ask questions
- Labelling patterns
- Modelling conceptually
- Decomposing the problems
- Experimenting in the field
- Visualising solutions
- Communicating

I'm not suggesting that everyone needs to be an engineer. Really the 
'problem' that we all have overcome, to some degree, is learning how to 
learn. That is the skill we should be able to impart to people joining 
our community.

Most of the responses I have in conversations with new folk that come 
along to our user group is "I don't know the answer to your specific 
problem, so look in these places, ask on these mail lists and ask on 
these IRC channels..."

The 'investment' that Glen talks about. Something LinuxAus can do, is 
help provide *paths* to learn. So folks can be educated about paths to 
investment in skills they thing value.

Its not just about attracting one group or another to the FLOSS 
community. People will take advantage of that help if they see it 
scratches their itch, solves a problem or helps then find the joy in 
discover, or sense of self achievement.




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