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 14–15 (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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