This a post chock-full of happy excited announcements. Woo!

Endless summer finalist

First of all, I'm a finalist in the Endless Summer competition, which (by providing round trip airfare anywhere plus $1000 to donate once I get there) would put me one step closer to that 'round-the-world engineering education trip I'm working on. Vote for me here. (Voting closes July 13.) If you think someone else should go, by all means vote for them! I especially like Dawn's entry.

Now, I can't do the research trip on a single round-trip ticket. I'd also need a place to live, food to eat, that kind of thing. So if I win, here's what I'll be doing.

Running an Education Jam in the Philippines

Remember the OLPC Game Jam we did at Olin? (If not, the Boston Globe and Needham Channel article/video-clip here can quickly explain things). Well, we're doing an OLPC Curriculum Jam in the fall in several simultaneous international locations. Teachers and high-school/college students interested in education will spend a weekend developing open-content learning materials; after ~2.5 days they swap their curricula with a group in another country (so a teacher in Vancouver might make materials for a teacher in New York to use, and vice versa) and then proceed to teach their partner group's lessons to a group of younger local kids that very afternoon.

Instant feedback. Content creation, community building. And everything that's designed that weekend is automatically guaranteed to be sustainably flexible - usable by teachers in different countries with little to no support from the content's original creators.

Problem: Right now we have groups in the US and Canada. Not a very representative sample of folks from the developing world.

Solution: Go to the Philippines to run one in Manila. My family's there (read: free food and housing for the Mel). My parents went to school there and some of my cousins still do, so contacts (especially young student-testers from a broad range of socioeconomic backgrounds) would be easier for me to find on short notice than most other places. Most people speak English, making communication barriers with OLPC headquarters minimal. We can mobilize the open-content community there, get something for the local userbase to nucleate around. $1000 goes a long way in Manila; I think we could do the entire Jam on that budget.

That's what I'd do with the grand prize. It's a win-win-win; starts a snowball of education goodness that ripples through a community my family once called home, jump-starts content development and a local community for OLPC, lets me visit and work within an educational system very different to the American one I'm used to. Also, I can (finally) visit my grandmother!

(By the way, if you're interested in running an OLPC Jam in your location or helping out with one in Manila, Vancouver, New York, Boston, or Chicago, give me a ping.)

And a few other things I should explain...

Astute readers of my Endless Summer entry may note some things I've forgotten to mention here.

  1. I'm learning how to talk! That is, I'm going to do aural rehabilitation, which is apparently code for "speech therapy for deaf people." If I'm going to teach and speak, I can't do that from behind a keyboard all the time. The catch is that the student-teachers at Northwestern are out for the summer, so I've got at least 2 months to do things on my own like learn about the musculature of the throat, learn IPA and go through lists of words people have heard me mispronounce, that kind of thing (if you have any ideas for fun things to do with this, please let me know; I'm totally making things up right now).
  2. I'm learning jazz piano. Okay, I'm slacking off on this and playing swing sheet music instead (my "how to play jazz piano" books are in Chicago) but I'm also starting to break away from sheet music and improvise around songs, even starting to bang out complete ones of my own instead of just aimlessly playing "things that kinda sound good." It's probably not jazz, but it's something.

Summer of Content

And then something you probably haven't heard because it hasn't been announced... until now. For those of you who are familiar with Google's Summer of Code, we bring you the Summer of Content. Basically, we're paying students to work with mentors from open content organizations to make... anything they want. Textbook, music, movies, photographs - want to make it? Propose it!

We're running a 5-week pilot at the end of this month (all students eligible), a Southern Hemisphere one in the Winter, and another in parallel with next year's Summer of Code. The program is still under construction, but it's moving forward fast. Interested in mentoring a project? Interested in doing a project? Know someone who would be? Please forward and ask questions!

Right-o. Thanks for reading. I just had two mugs of Golden Monkey tea, so I'm super-hyper tonight, and proportionally more shameless.