How will Free Geek's Education Program change over the next 3-5 years so that Free Geek can better fulfill its mission and live up to its principles?
State of the program
Currently, the Education program is run in a rather ad hoc manner under the direction of the Knowledge Bees committee. There are three sets of classes that are kept going on a regular basis and are really quite successful at their purpose: The Adoption Class, the Command Line Class for Builders and the Advanced Linux Class.
In addition, there is some educational aspect to everything else we do, from Tech Support to Recycling, but especially in the Build program, but there is little overall coordination of the education aspect of these areas.
Current and past issues
We have had an overall problem finding and keeping volunteer teachers. The most successful classes are backed up with a staff person, who may end up being the teacher for weeks or months at a time. We have and have had some excellent volunteer teachers, but cannot depend on them to be regular enough to cover all classes. Further, we have had enough last-minute cancellations that we do not dare schedule a class without a paid backup teacher.
One of the issues that comes up repeatedly is that adopters want more actual instruction in using linux, beyond the "Here's your box and how to navigate the menus" adoption class.
People interested in coding generally fall into two groups, those wanting to learn to code and those interested in helping with coding projects. These two interests have not mixed well. At this point, there is a small group of people helping code, but not as a formal educational program. (People coding are learning new things, of course, but there's not a formal teaching structure.)
Another problem in the past has been trying to coordinate varying skill levels of those involved. An intake step that accurately measures someones level and laces them correctly could correct this. Without that step, the most successful coding classes (in the past) have been the ones that start with very large and open enrollment, but as the class "finds its level" those less skilled people drop out, and those more advanced either drop out or become de facto teachers.
Also, in the past when we've tried to teach coding we've had more success when the class and homework centers around Free Geek's actual needs, and less success when we try to offer something unrelated to the work we are doing. This is true regardless of the skill level of the students.
Build and Prebuild
These programs are the primary educational component of Free Geek, much more so than the formal classes. They are very much "hands on" and give a lot of practical experience in computer construction and repair. The main problem with them is that they only focus on what we are building now, and the install process is very unusual. Long term builders graduate into other programs, such as advanced testing or laptops, rounding out their experience.
Trends and predictions
The new Education Coordinator will add structure and consistency to the program, both for formal classes and hands on training. Existing work will be more educational, as the Education Coordinator will focus on creating curricula for our existing programs. Recycling, receiving, testing, advanced testing, build, and online sales are possible areas that could become better documented (with an eye towards education) and set up as a series of learning steps. There may be more formal classes offered, and we may be able to offer classes that don't directly benefit Free Geek. Generally speaking, the new coordinator will also be able to identify the educational components that already exist in Free Geek and describe these to potential academic partners.
In terms of our site, additional classes would require additional time and space, though that may be just improved use of our current space. The "classroom" currently only functions as such for a minority of the time we are open.
Keeping volunteer teachers may require incentives or structuring classes so that they are more interesting from a teacher's standpoint.
A couple of major possible trends:
- We could offer more instruction to grant recipients, perhaps on site classes and installation.
- We could offer more general linux instruction for adopters
There have been proposals in the past for income-producing classes for the general public. This is probably not going to happen in the near future. Also, it must be remembered that not everyone here is interested in either learning or teaching, but in assembling boxes or other production activities.
|Good (for Free Geek)||Bad (for Free Geek)|
(to Free Geek)
Strengths: Strengths are advantages we have that are internal to Free Geek and helpful to achieving the objective. (Good things we do.)
Weaknesses: Weaknesses are problems we have that are internal to Free Geek and harmful to achieving the objective. (Things we do poorly or not at all.)
(to Free Geek)
Opportunities: Opportunities are advantages we have that are external to Free Geek and helpful to achieving the objective. (Good things that will or could happen to us.)
Threats: Threats are problems we have that are external to Free Geek and harmful to achieving the objective. (Bad things that will or could happen to us.)