Archive for the ‘Open Education’ Category

Codeathon Bounties

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

A compelling case study: At Bay Area Drupal last year, I met Sean Larkin  of ThinkShout who reported his work for a Drupal Distribution, Watershed Now, ( which he made for a group of nonprofits. To develop the program, $16,000 was needed. Whereas nonprofits are often cash-strapped, especially in the current economy, by pooling resources, they were able to develop software that none of them could afford individually, and each nonprofit received a $20,000 Drupal product for a fraction. In addition to the cost savings to a larger group of users, Sean noted that by coordinating necessary specs between the  users  he ended up with a much more complete product description than working with a single customer.  As a result, the end product was more widely useful to a larger group of nonprofits than it would have been if it were built solely on the wishlist of a single user. This particular case  is a win for the Free Open Source Software movement because it provides a generalized model for cost-effective collaboration for nonprofit organizations.

I want to explore this scenario further to illustrate how it could work in a codeathon. Representatives of the nonprofits can proactively form a consortium which will create specs RFP-style and release them as a project with a bounty. At the codeathon event itself, programmers will write the code and test the software. At the end of the process, the representatives of the NPOs will review the demos and act as a jury who award the bounty. It is preferable if the programmers coordinate their efforts–we don’t want multiple versions of the same basic code–but in some cases, the same tool can be created in different programming languages or for alternative platforms. The jury will reward the tool which best suits their needs. Despite the judging, the codeathon is not about competition, rather its purpose is to create the best and most utilitarian Free Open Source Software. The codeathon is at heart a collaborative process which encourages organizations to pool resources effectively and to develop more widely applicable specs and products.

The panel could include more than representatives of the NPOs—for instance, design experts. What are your thoughts about a jury panel for a codeathon? How can the bounty process be made more collaborative?  Please share them below in the comments.


Making education Fun

Friday, February 10th, 2012

The game I am co founder of Tune Hopper Just received an awesome review on Appolicious!

My favorite part
Jessica Daily says, “Ah, why isn’t all education so enjoyable? While aimed at kids there’s no reason someone new to music or trying to learn an instrument couldn’t use this to start learning music theory.”


on gamification and repetitive learning

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Since I am working on an educational game for teaching children different aspects of music theory, I feel like I need to address this issue of gamification.

It’s so sad to see the word “gamification” become so abused because, honestly, it could be used to express the idea of applying the best concepts of game theory and education to learning and interaction.  Instead, most implementations of “gamification” are (pondering how to be nice and failing) LAME, boring, annoying or even worse EVIL.

Gaming is not just about points, badges, levels, leader boards, rewards, and missions.  Gaming is more than the mechanics.  Some of those mechanics are highly useful both for monitoring, encouraging certain behaviors, and creating visibility, but is it a game? Does the end product contain all the pieces that make a game sustainable?  Does it achieve flow – that special mind state that we humans find enjoyable and learn faster when experiencing?

And for me – does the tactic of gamification add value to the world?   I used to work in the gaming industry, but I was tired of making addictive games that did not benefit society. We purposely created games that were as addictive as possible.

Sadly enough I was so anti-gaming at one point (a divorce where game addiction is a factor will do that to you) that I didn’t consider what I learned from game theory valuable.  I saw gaming’s ability to encourage addictive behavior as a dangerous tool and to be avoided and I dropped out of the gaming scene.  My discussions with Jane McGonial, at foocamp and her whole hearted displays of physical and personal interaction melted my hardened heart.  Thank you Jane!

“My own personal metaphor is that gamification is the high fructose corn syrup of engagement. Ultimately, very unhealthy for all but the repetitive, dull, boring tasks for which there never WILL be intrinsic rewards. There IS great value in that… It is when gamification is applied to stuff that does (or could) have potential for intrinsic value (like, say, READING) where the damage lives.”

I would instead like to look to gamification and addiction as a way to help people get over the difficulty of repetitive learning.  For example, our game TuneHopper appears to be a fun little game while, slyly in the background, it is training your musical ear.  It is also slowly introducing scales and notes so that unconsciously you begin to gain a better understanding.  In the next version of the game, I want people to actually sing the notes into the mic instead of pushing buttons.  They’ll truly learns what E sharp sounds like.  I also want a composer app where players learn the notes and the sounds while creating their own songs to share.

I have hopes.  I like that Greg (our little green dude in tunehopper) purrs and giggles when you do things right and cries when you don’t and that inspires my nieces and nephews to work hard to feed Greg and make him happy. I like that teenagers at my family christmas party were challenging each other to see who could get a higher score and, as musicians, saw it as a reflection of their musical prowess.  I believe we can make learning more fun and gamification is a way to achieve this!