[OSGeo-Discuss] Next 5 years for OSGeo

Tyler Mitchell (OSGeo) tmitchell at osgeo.org
Fri Oct 2 12:11:14 PDT 2009

"Agustin Diez Castillo" <Agustin.Diez at uv.es> wrote:
> you're right we should teach techniques and no software packages but more
> that we should educate free citizens. 
> Truly, I can not understand why Universities teach closed knowledge when
> should knowledge [openness is required to be knowledge]. We should teach 
> how to fish instead of give away fishes because this is what our students
> demand.
> To sum up, Universities should be the perfect place for Free Speech and in
> packages Free Speech is FOSS4G.
> Anyhow, High Schools are a good place to start.

You beat me to it Agustin.  I agree with your points and was going to warn
that we not try to play at the same game as corporations that seek to embed
their products into schools.  Since, in the end it is what is taught that is
important, not what tool they learn.  Instead, I suggest we come at it from
the angle of providing additional tools to enable educators (at any level)
to teach the liberal arts/science aspects of a geographic education.  I
could be wrong, but it's my impression that in the past when this was done,
I believe universities were actually *producing* FOSS as an outgrowth of the
knowledge the students learned instead of merely ingesting some product. 
Any truth to that?

I'm proposing the education group help match up existing FOSS teaching
material with a recognised curriculum.  e.g. the curriculum might say that a
student needs to learn about geographic coordinate systems - so we match up
a module that provides sample data and shows how to witness the effects of
transformations, projections, etc. using Proj.4 commands, then visualising
it in a desktop app, etc. that they may choose.  

In the end maybe I do agree a bit with Ian, in that I don't think it's
profitable to be trying to usurp particular existing software roles in
academia - which many professors will have personally chosen.  How do you
fight a choice after all?   But we should come at it from a totally
different angle more along Agustin's philosophy and providing choices for
foundational teaching aligned with curriculum.  I'm personally not
interested in taking on an anti-proprietary angle in the debate and
encourage us to look at the problem afresh, with hope of possibilities :) 
Okay, that may be mostly just rhetoric, but we can't forget that even the
big proprietary guys are users and supports of some of OSGeo products and
libraries - a real success story for us.

Please note, for those who are unaware, we do have an Education discussion
mailing list where we talk about these things regularly too:

Best wishes,

p.s. In many universities I think we have been witnessing a move toward
'training' for careers as opposed to foundational concepts for critical
thinking.  I suspect it has to do with competing with colleges and
independent training programs for student dollar$.  I don't think it's the
actual professors, but higher up that the mentality seems to set in. 
Consider also that all proprietary software has their own professional
training courses, material and training providers already - perhaps even at
lower cost and higher effectiveness than taking a full university course
over months and months.  Odd to think about in my mind :)  But it helps
remind me that there is also a market for education outside of established
academics as well... how much of a market remains to be seen.

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