The role of Computer Science, and Free and Open Source Software, in Education.

Computers and software are becoming pervasive, and are having directly or indirectly a significant impact on almost all aspects of our modern life: it comes as no surprise that computer and software have an impact on education too.

When discussing computers and software in Education, It is important to make a distinction among computer and software used as tools for educating students in all disciplines, and computer and software as subject matter in a specific scientific discipline.

When we focus on this latter aspect, we face the issues related to teaching this scientific discipline, that may be called Computer Science, or Informatics.

Here, academia has an important role to play at several levels:

  • we need to educate the teachers that will teach Informatics to high-school students; in the near future, all high school students will need to know the basics of this science, as they have now become essential components of the cultural baggage of any citizen, no less then mathematics, history, physics, literature and biology
  • we need to teach all university students about how to properly use Free and Open Source Software: no matter if they are specialising in medecine, liberal arts, physics or Computer Science, they all need to learn how to report errors and feature requests effectively, how to participate to the communities that work on the roadmap of collaborative projets, how to find, or even write properly documentation
  • we need to teach IT students how to work in an environment that is becoming dominated by Free and Open Source software, helping them to understand how to design, code, organise, deploy, modify, maintain, and distribute software that is developed collaboratively

According to the level we consider, the relevant activities are use, participate, understand, modify, and design: we are now quite a few academics to firmly believe that Free and Open Source software is instrumental in each of these activities.

In the Education track of Fossa 2010, we will try to advance the debate on all these levels, by bringing together people that have first hand experience gained during early experiments in the past years, as well as people working to improve on what is currently done.