FOSS4G2007 Education BOF minutes

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Notes from BOF session, OSGEO education cmte, FOSS4G2007 – September 25

  • Charlie Schweik starting us off
  • how many people following the OSGEO education wiki/listserve? - not that many

suggested course of action – agenda on screen


  • introductions around the room
  • getting educational content dev'd which is “connected” to OSGEO
  • collaborative platform? - need to settle this, some frustration with the wiki
  • marching orders? Goals for the next year?


  • apologies if we spelled someone's name wrong.
  • Charlie Schweik – U Mass – developing education content, wants to be able to contribute
  • Venka Raghawan – teach @ Osaka City U – much online material, in Japanese, also international training material
  • Martin Bunch – York U FES – teach GIS and coordinate GIS/RS cert – interested in the instutional support issues
  • Derek Reeve – School of Computing and Mathematics, University of Huddersfield, England. [1] - online learning, also introducing GIS FOSS4G modules – if introducing material on these software should give back training, possible conflict with individual universities' objectives/interests ?
  • Ari Jolma – faculty Helsinki U Tech (Finland) – develops OS software as well as teaching – interested in bigger pictures of teaching objectives – has some notes on this started in the wiki – planning course in GIS databases, one in programming (Java, Python)
  • Gavin Fleming – MINTEK - govt org in South Africa (conf chair next year) – next year's conf will have big educational component – lots of relevant activities going on in Africa – will need to get communication flowing – interesting projects, but paucity of educational resources – in SA, pre-university schools now have GIS in the curr – need materials
  • Jon Caris – Smith College in Massachusetts – new to open source community, but has developing content for GIS in general
  • Guillermo Martenias – PhD student U Arizona – teaching short courses in Latin America – interested in tools to improve quality of these courses
  • Helena Mitasova – member PSC GRASS – some of her interest in from project side – what kind of materials do we need to develop in the project to support education – also @ NCSU where work with graduate students, especially PhD education, a strong sense that the students need to distinguish themselves from those which only know the one big GIS player's software – there have support for OS – Redhat HQ on campus – but OS GIS projects really just her, limited capacity to support students, so interested in sharing experiences – also co-author of “the GRASS book” - lots of experience, feedback from users of previous editions of the book
  • David Percy – Portland State Geology – teach GIS courses – mostly ESRI because that's what the students design, but keep telling them that the OS stuff is out there, also teach webGIS using open source, and have teaching material in that which can be made avail – also works with K-12 material
  • Alex Mandel - ucdavis – Monday starting directed group study using OS GIS tools – python, SVN, Trak, do real projects to develop reusable code
  • Todd Schuble – U Chicago – interested in OS to reduce ESRI dependency and make more available for U and also for Chicago public schools curr developing and teacher training
  • Adena Schutzberg – Directions Magazine, and adjunct @ Penn State M GIS online program – will teach comparative GIS – make sure they get their hands on lots of other software, including OS; have one OS web mapping course already – director of the program wants to make as much of their content
  • Scott Mitchell – Carleton U – geomatics teaching, long-time GRASS user and on GRASS PSC
  • Massimiliano Cannata – architectural university GIS courses in Switzerland – teach GRASS, also certificate courses, using GRASS, chameleon, Mapserver – also in new Italian local chapter, which will contribute to educational content in English e Italiano – would love to have more materials and help developing
  • Marco Negretti – U Milano – teaches many systems, including mapserver, map guide, etc; use linux – harder to introduce new models where he works
  • Maria Brovelli – assoc prof polytech Milano & Zurich – teach digital cartography at all levels – have been using OS since 2000, so much experience, started with GRASS, also openJMP, mapserver, chameleon, etc – not all OS, but lots – use both prop and OS for student exposure and demand – also students need to develop complete solutions using OS solutions for those which choose her as their supervisor/tutorial – lots of material, but most in Italian – in last year Polytech of Milan has gone through internationalization process, so materials starting to become avail in English including some lecture and exercise and data
  • Ben Alden – grad student U Minn – TA GIS classes, concerned that soemone can go thru entire GIS track without even hearing that OS GIS SW exists, interested in how we may be able to provide a formalized infrastructure which would ease getting OS concepts into curriculum in large institutions wh resist change
  • Olivier Courtin – camptocamp – 2 yrs ago started working on training in GIS – now do a lot of GIS trainig on Mapserver, and others – mostly short intensive training sessions – want to have content wh is sharable, and more structured
  • Mark McCann – sysadmin @ college Geosci @ Texas A&M – starting a new program there wh will
  • Rob Braswell – UNH – res prof – teach some grad courses – have used OS himself for some time, only recently included some GDAL & Mapserver in one of his courses, very well received, want to include more in subsequent courses – also thinking of bring OS tools in to data analysis class – potential content developer
  • Raj Bose – postdoc @ u Edinburgh – geoinformatics – deisgning info systems to support Earth Sci, also infrastructure – how deal with archiving, geositing databases – new to the community, but interested in adjunct teaching – science students of all stripes will need to learn computing concepts and need to be able to communicate with DB managers and GIS
  • Clara Tattoni – U Trento – env sci degree, work with GIS and teach GIS to professional training courses – have developed training with GRASS in Italian, could translate – also Marco and Paulo from U Trento – much experience teaching GRASS courses, for professionals, and public admin, get ~40 people a year coming to 4 week course teaching GRASS, QGIS and other OS tools – have many materials, all in Italian, but think would be happy to contribute
  • Victor Olaya – U in Spain – member of the committee writing the Spanish free GIS book – 300 pages written – not about OS per se since is a GIS theory book – but it is free – collaborative authoring hosted by OSGEO – well structured road map for the coming years – so far one author (him) doing the writing – need more authors, despite language issue – how can we all contribute and move materials between the linguistic groups
  • Andreas Schild - Vienna – training centre for natural hazards... - training group for ISO working group 4 – interested in PPGIS, forester training, use of GIS
  • Drew Pilant – US EPA – res in RS, methods development to turn images into information layers for the public – create env decision support tools for env managers (often without budgets) so here to learn to contribute
  • Arnulf Christl – company providing training services – see, they set it up so there are some materials up there already – using this already, others can too – ID'd 3 kinds of needs – professionals who need it (will pay companies like them), universities, professionals who are interested but don't need it, so no paying customers

  • wonderful to see how people have shown up – most of us actually new as compared to mailing list membership – lots of people affiliated with education, some with software projects but need to develop these partnerships and see about tutorial contributions to education community
  • The “connected” issue - How does the concept of incubation, quality control, etc, apply to educational content? At least one potential content provider has had to move ahead without OSGEO label due to immaturity of our ability so far to figure out how to handle OSGEO labelling, review process, etc.
  • The platform issue – many possibilities – can we get consensus?
  • Marching orders – will we be able to report specific progress @ the SA mtg next year?
  • Venka proposes considering our Chairship, as current chair has not been able to come to meetings; suggests Charlie take on role; also need to push along book initiatives; (also commented on platform, Moodle CMS great, but some areas of world don't have internet access – so need materials that can be developed on paper, too)
  • Ari supports suggestion on considering Chairship. But process? Arnulf says the official process for any modifications / additions to official leadership is to go to mailing list, propose a change, discuss, vote with the +1, 0, -1 system – but he also notes that Puneet's inability to come here is financial, and should be seen as a failing of OSGEO to get him here
  • really what we need is someone (an “editor”?) to press us on our commitments – Puneet could be good on this?
  • dividing/sharing leadership roles between managing procedure and practical matters can be useful
  • clarification - we aren't looking to replace Chair, we're looking at possibility for co-coordinators – more than one set of shoulders to move things along
  • educom probably doesn't have as much need for official decision-making power as much as some other groups, so can proceed unofficially on many fronts, if need to make something more formal at some point, go through voting mechanism

  • as academics, identifying outlets for publications would be good
  • OSGEO journal wants to have a role in this
  • need to talk to Tyler et al re: sections that might be in the journal
  • they need more material – Helena will follow up on this with the journal people
  • content collaboration – get all people interested in a particular theme collaborating and avoiding re-inventions – start with inventory of what's out there, then work on improvements and converging
  • can use wiki right away to start documenting what's out there
  • can Moodle content be serialized and published to (e.g.) PDF ? Yes.
  • perhaps form a subcmte to look into platform possibilities and make recommendation
  • in Spanish book project have discussed this a lot – competing opinions re: wiki, LaTeX, etc... have opted for using LaTeX but not aiming for classical book – use LaTeX so end up with PDF but support it with multimedia materials; screencasts which are narrated; java applets to demonstrate concepts; still thinking achieve model which can do things like add “educational plugins” that add richness to the material down the road
  • many such materials could be language independent or at least re-usable?
  • What about participation? A few interested parties @ beginning, but now only him as author and a colleague working on broader efforts; arguments about how to do it turned people off and they withdrew, but is all set up on a collaborative platform so is ready for people to join in – and a derived structure can be used to allow new books in other languages to use their investment in the infrastructure
  • academics much more willing to contribute if can get a publication – open question to keep in mind: are the traditional GIS journals not the place for this work? - Helena: papers from 2002 had special issue of Trans GIS – was fully peer reviewed – a pain, because the reviews were negative – the people who wrote the papers weren't strong writers – they were strong developers but not writers – so would be nice to have OSGEO journal where people can use the peer review process to learn how to write – set up the peer review process to be strict and therefore good quality but give extra support for writing -also, the other journals tend to be on the science not the OS part of the work – so it's out there, but the focus is NOT on the OS issues;
  • Charlie: but we need a quality peer review process in place so can feel confident putting on OSGEO label ; Martin: also important for academic progress of individuals – OSGEO journal would be vehicle for us to contribute our educational contributions in a recognized peer review process; could also apply the incubation idea to courseware development

  • Arnulf shows us the Moodle content ( – note that the OSGEO logo is on this and can be applied to many things, isn't necessarily a “quality logo” - goal in the existing course was to be fully “restful” - no typing; links into a MediaWiki tutorial – all hyperlinked – can create accounts on the systems referred to in the tutorial and use them – good platform for some applications – all welcome to try it out – other systems possible too, just need people trying, GIVE FEEDBACK
  • what about new derivatives / sustainability when new versions come out ? Arnulf points out that it's similar to the same issue with every OS sw project; wiki has weaknesses since doesn't archive; need to look in to capabilities to associate versioning etc... Venka has been using it for a year – good for providing web content – but there's also a wiki within moodle which can help with the collaborative authoring of initial drafts which could then be “published” in moodle proper
  • need subcommittee to seriously take this on
  • see encyclopedia of earth project ( – similar to wikipedia but with much stronger peer review process * they use all wiki approach but a searchable structure – worth looking at too
  • Ari suggested WikiBooks
  • sourceforge version control system?
  • Dan Ames wrote on list re: lulu ( – you pay for the product, though – different kinds of content providers with different aims – Charlie suggests we should be inclusive of all models (but this is “step 3, we're at step 1” - but should be thinking ahead for what are options if aiming to high quality PDF etc.
  • Apache cocoon – xml serializer, publish how you like
  • one advantage of moodle is familiarity to those in edu comm used to it or other educational CMS such as webCT
  • MIT open courseware (whole course based), Rice U's (module based) – Charlie & team have done some trials @ – see concept there of 3-tiered lenses: endorsed lenses, affiliation lenses, member list lenses – could use the idea elsewhere, too
  • need to guard against evaluating forever, though – need progress – so let's try to do this evaluation in the coming month – Arnulf points out making a date target good, but also that there's nothing wrong with diversity

OSGEO label issue

  • Charlie: back to the label issue
  • Helena: the Rice university lens model sounds perfect – allows to be set up to aspire to more status without having to invite a whole incubation / peer review process right now which will have its own sustainability / membership issues – start with member contributions, can get to affiliation, and get to peer review and stronger endorsement when we're ready for that
  • Venka: agrees – don't be so worried right now about “officially approved” status -get things together
  • so let's start now with getting everything together, not worry about the sanctioning issue, don't hold up further progress
  • Helena – we could write up these things that should be officially decided in the OSGEO list process so that have full process and voting on list
  • so proposal is that we accept links to all kinds of content at this stage – start with inventory
  • just don't attach guarantees of quality – nothing wrong with branding, read the information on the logo and branding wiki page for conditions there, but there shouldn't be a problem


  • also will go through mailing list
  • how can we leverage our students to help with content generation, translation, etc to get them contributing back
  • but perhaps translation is “step 4” - it will emerge – will work well if material is gathered, and if modular – note moodle can handle this
  • remember platforms – make sure materials are prepared with clear guidelines about kind of system would be needed to run the software – maybe less important now, but has been issue, especially with things like grass5.4 tutorials
  • need to find who will take the editor/coordinator/taskmaster role in this group, and what is their task? This will help make it all happen – need responsible names and deadlines
  • Charlie is willing to agree to some of the responsibility now, but wants volunteers to provide mutual support – team approach – at least remind him to push people – Venka will help too

Marching orders

  • goals for next 6-12mos?
  • encourage posting of info re: what have been doing / your material to the wiki for now, possibly to be updated – probably will create a spot for this in the coming week, and will post to the list the details and put them in a visible place on the wiki
  • subscribe to the mailing list to keep informed
  • use BOF tomorrow to clean up existing wiki and start ball rolling
  • evaluate platforms: Ben Alden, Victor Olaya, Scott M, Venka, Charlie Schweik, Maria Brovelli
  • commitments on new modules coming out?
  • Perhaps 3 month commitment to getting lists of existing content – so everyone enter their information ASAP no matter what format, what maturity, etc (“level 1”) - Rob Braswell will help with making this happen
  • recruitment – need someone to contact the OSGEO projects to see if they have material to contribute – Arnulf suggests that is a co-chair's job – also email the incubation cmte since then get all the project leads, and tutorial/documentation is part of the incubation process so they need to pay attention to this
  • Google Summer of Code? At least link to it.
  • Helena will talk to journal people

Goals for next year

  • Vision:
  • content platform implemented with at least level 1 content, possibly higher level peer reviewed content;
  • 10 usable modules;
  • case study of materials that have gone through the process of discovery/initiation through peer review through to endorsed status with feedback from users/students;
  • connection to OSGEO journal;
  • connect to data committee (note Markus is already on both these committees and Helena is still actively involved with further development1) - this is a good example to showcase – need to communicate this need to the data committee
  • Charlie to follow up

  • Brief discussion ensued on slight tangent - Gavin Fleming interested in hearing what about topics/priorities in edu stream in next year's conference?
  • Travel funds for students?
  • Conference workshop tutorials on education wiki/whatever infrastructure we use, as at least an option; note that there will be a component of outreach training workshops at this conference as well, not just targetted at conference delegates
  • teach the teachers could be part of the outreach or even delegates (depends on people coming to the conference though)
  • (and some other discussion not necessarily education-related)

Thanks everyone!!!