Transforming our thoughts about teaching

This wonderful little video (produced by some U of M Twin Cities mathematicians) has apparently been viewed over 1 million times now, which is a lot more views than it would ever get in class. I frequently run into faculty that are very intent on holding on to their teaching ideas and techniques, and certainly not sharing them openly with the world. They see those ideas as “their property”, to be guarded and controlled as much as possible. It’s a weird attitude, because almost none of them will ever see any money from those ideas, and the potential for wider viewing and usage is just so much greater if they open up (as in this case).

A good video like this takes a lot of time to produce, but faculty often put in huge hours on their lectures, labs, and demonstrations. Get it out there!

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Making software simpler instead of more complex

Those crazy kids at KOffice have created a simplified version of their office suite especially geared for kids. A cool feature, though, is that it’s fully interoperable with the “adult” version of the suite, so teachers/parents can open documents created by students/kids and vice versa. Nice.

open… has some nice thoughts on the role of open source in a process like this:

These are precisely the kind of innovations that free software makes so easy: hacking together a quick prototype and then polishing it. Let’s hope that other simplified versions follow, since an “Easy” Office would be useful far beyond its original target market, education.

It would also be a nice riposte to never-ending complexification of Microsoft’s own products, which are forced to add more and more obscure features – whether or not users what them – in a desperate attempt to justify yet another paid-for upgrade. Free software is under no such pressure, and can therefore downgrade applications when that might appropriate, as here. Microsoft, by contrast, is trapped by its ratchet-based business model.

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