You should definitely check out the article, but here is the interview in its entirety...
What inspired you to give your talk at OS Bridge this year?
I have 3 boys of my own who are either in or entering the public school system, and I am seeing a real void in the education they are receiving with computers. Obviously, computers are everywhere in schools now, but it is really disappointing to see kids only being taught how to use programs, not create them. As with most things, if you want to see change, you have to do something. I started hosting a programming club for my son and his friends, which turned out to be really easy to pull off. I wanted to share with others about my experiences and motivate them to run their own clubs.
I also see a real opportunity to "bring up" and mentor the next generation of open source citizens. Communities like Scratch can be a great way for kids to see how open source works and how powerful it can be. From simple things like sharing your source code with others (there is no way to share your program on Scratch and not share your source), to good etiquette when commenting on other programs, to more complicated concepts like forking someone else's code (Scratch calls it a remix). I wanted to show people the importance and value of instilling the culture of open source in our kids at a young age.
What did you focus on in your talk? What was the feedback/response from attendees?
I wanted to convey the excitement kids experience when they are exposed to the source code of a program. Both from the perspective of creating the code, and from seeing the inner workings of other people's code. I remember as a kid playing Castle Wolfenstein with my brother on our Commodore 64 and how it felt when we discovered we could open the source code up and give ourselves extra lives! It's great to see first hand someone's mind expanding when they discover what's behind that game or app that they love, or that there really are no limits to what you can make your program do... including making it "crash" or "glitch"!
I think this connected with a lot of the attendees because most programmers can think back to times when they've had these sort of mind-altering moments. I think it's easy for us programmers to forget that most people don't see computers the same way that we do. People who haven't been shown or taught about programming naturally think there's a lot of magic or voodoo behind the scenes when they click a button. I think the attendees could relate to their own experiences with OS's and platforms that are becoming more and more closed, and see that the chance kids will naturally have their minds opened up to the world of programming is getting pretty slim.
Are you currently working on any kid-focused open source project right now (and if so, what are they)?
I am continuing with the programming club for my kids and their friends. This has also led to teachers requesting that I run a session at the school for all of the kids which I think would be really interesting.
What other kid-focused events or projects do you see going on in open source right now? What would you like to see (new projects, efforts from companies, products, etc.)
I really love the things that are popping up like KidsRuby and a book "Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python". I think Scratch is a really great starting point, but it definitely has many, many limitations. The sooner you can get kids into a real programming language and interacting with communities like GitHub, the better.
What I would like to see happen is for our elementary and middle school curriculum to include programming. With tools like Scratch and projects like KidsRuby out there, there's really no excuse anymore.
Anything you'd like to add?
Open source as a culture and a way of getting things done in the real world is so powerful. I think it will be invaluable if we can bring up an entire generation who have been exposed to it from a young age.
posted at 2011-10-27T17:10:31 by baerg