I wrote this back in Octo­ber, and for some silly reas­on I for­got to post it. Bet­ter late than nev­er, I say. emoticon

It seems that every couple of weeks I’m at some kind of FLOSS-related event. You just can’t keep me away from them! They may require a lot of work, but it cer­tainly feels reward­ing to get the word out. This is espe­cially so in regards to the edu­ca­tion­al sec­tor. Chil­dren are our future, and they are gen­er­ally more will­ing than your aver­age adult to learn new and dif­fer­ent things. It is an educator’s job to impart know­ledge, and it is the duty of any respect­able edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tion to facil­it­ate a free and open flow of know­ledge. What bet­ter way to achieve this than with free software?

This concept was not lost on the eduact­ors, par­ents and stu­dents at the Sydney Edu­ca­tion Expo in June, and I’m proud to say that we man­aged to rep­lic­ate that suc­cess at the Sydney Moodle Con­fer­ence on Octo­ber 1415 (Sat­urday and Sunday). Once again, I manned the Linux Australia/​SLUG stand, join­ing Pia Waugh, Lind­say Holm­wood and Andreas Fisc­her. The SLUG Com­mit­tee stopped by for a while, too.

Where­as most people at the Edu­ca­tion Expo were unfa­mil­i­ar with FLOSS, many of the attendees of the Moodle Con­fer­ence had some idea about it. Moodle itself is avail­able under the terms of the GPL, and many com­pan­ies and schools have become part of its user/​development/​support com­munity. All we had to do was to remind them that we rep­res­ent the under­ly­ing FLOSS con­cepts that have made Moodle so great, and that Moodle func­tions in con­cert with oth­er FLOSS pro­jects such as Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.

The response was over­whelm­ing. We were pre­pared to hand out a truck­load of Ubuntu CDs, only to dis­cov­er that most attendees had already been sup­plied with one as part of their offi­cial con­fer­ence kit. That didn’t stop us from dis­trib­ut­ing many more, though. We had one fel­low so excited about FLOSS on Sat­urday that he brought along his laptop the next day for an impromptu Ubuntu install­fest. We demon­strated a range of tech­no­lo­gies, includ­ing Compiz and Ink­s­cape. Vis­it­ors were impressed with the ease of the Ubuntu LiveCD installer, and with how Moodle can be installed (com­plete with depend­en­cies) in only a few clicks via Synaptic.

Most inter­est­ing for me was the Live Online Event, which was a pan­el dis­cus­sion on-stage in front of about 150 people. Pia was slated to rep­res­ent the LA/​OSIA point of view, but was forced to bow out due to oth­er com­mit­ments. Much to my sur­prise, she asked me to fill in for her. So there I was, on-stage, in front of well over 100 people, field­ing ques­tions while being recor­ded and streamed live over the Inter­net. I had nev­er done any­thing like that before, but I think I went reas­on­ably well. Pub­lic speak­ing and gen­er­al spoken com­mu­nic­a­tion are cer­tainly skills that I would like to fur­ther exer­cise in the future. Thanks for your sup­port, Pia! emoticon

The top­ic which dom­in­ated the pan­el dis­cus­sion, and one which I had been pre­vi­ously unaware of, con­cerned how far soft­ware pat­ents had intruded into the realm of edu­ca­tion­al soft­ware. Moodle-com­pet­it­or Black­board has been issued an appalling pat­entfor tech­no­logy used for inter­net-based edu­ca­tion sup­port sys­tems and meth­ods.” I was some­what relieved to see that Mar­tin Dou­gia­mas, Moodle’s founder and pro­ject lead­er, was not con­cerned at all by this event, at least as far as Moodle was con­cerned. Nev­er­the­less, the spectre of soft­ware pat­ents has been loom­ing over FLOSS for some time now, and it is still very unclear if/​how the situ­ation will ever be resolved. 

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