Toontastic, a creative animation tool for kids, has partnered with MinecraftEDU in a contest called Toon Academy: Minecraft. Using Toontastic, kids create animated “How Toons” explaining to other kids how to play Minecraft, focusing on their favorite things to do in the game and why other kids might enjoy them, too. The contest excites me not just because it brings together two tools that can really spark kids’ creative abilities, but because it’s about kids teaching other kids, a marvelous way to learn. We are not yet a Minecraft household, but my daughter has shown an interest in it. When I showed her the videos kids have uploaded so far, she sat and watched a dozen of them. I think she might be ready.
The contest runs through October 17th, and winners will receive a prize package from Launchpad Toys and MinecraftEDU. Teachers can also get a lesson plan to do this in the classroom. Check out details on the Launchpad Toys blog.
Thought about changing to Linux but have some Windows application you just can’t live without? Today’s a good day for you. CrossOver, a for-pay, supported version of Wine that usually costs $59.95, is available free today only. It includes one year’s worth of support and upgrades. Visit CodeWeavers’ Flock The Vote site to download CrossOver starting at midnight Central Time (+6 GMT).
CrossOver (and likewise, Wine) allow you to run Windows programs on a Linux system (or Mac). You can check the compatability of a specific piece of software by searching here. Want to play games–FPS or RPG? Or do you need something for school? There’s even embroidery software in their list of 10,454 compatibile applications.
For Linux, you need an x86 system running a current version of Debian, Fedora, Mint, openSUSE, or Ubuntu. For Mac, you should be running Leopard (10.5) or later.
The Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) celebrates its tenth year with a new feature, called SCALE: The Next Generation. The free and open source community of today is reaching out to their future leaders by hosting this mini-event for kids within the larger Linux conference.
Mimi Cafiero and Malakai Wade, eighth graders already with backgrounds in open source software, will kick off the event with their presentation on “Ultimate Randomness 2.0.” Kids can also learn about youth-friendly software like Tux Paint and how to get started working on open source software projects, even while they’re still young.
SCALE will be held January 20-22 at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel with more than 100 seminars and presentation sessions. SCALE: The Next Generation will be held Saturday, January 21, beginning at 10 a.m. Admission for SCALE: The Next Generation is free with an accompanying adult–you can register here. (And if you do decide to come by, both you and the kids are welcome at my newbie-friendly talk on Sunday, “The Pop Culture Guide to Open Source.”)
I spent last weekend in Tempe, Arizona, at FUDCon, the Fedora Users and Developers Conference. For the less technically adventurous among our GeekMom friends, Fedora is a distribution of Linux, the open source operating system. If you’re not familiar, you can learn more at fedoraproject.org.
A BarCamp-style unconference
FUDCon is an unconference, BarCamp-style. In this meeting method, attendees suggest sessions (they in general are also volunteering to lead them). They give quick pitches for their talks, and everyone votes on which sessions they’d like to go to. The winners are compiled into an agenda. You can get an idea of how the FUDCon sessions were put together through the conference wiki.
You might think at a conference with “developer” in the title that everything is very technically focused. But FUDCon has sessions even for beginners and contributors who couldn’t write a single line of code–projects like Fedora need designers, documentation writers, marketing, etc. So here are some highlights from a few of the non-technical sessions I dropped in on.
The anthropology of open source communities
There are certain talks that you see over and over again when you go to open source conferences, but this was (refreshingly) a new one on me. As a part of her anthropology master’s degree in 2009 and 2010, Diana Harrelson did a study on the Fedora community over the course of two releases. She was interested in the motivations of Fedora contributors, the foundations of an open source community, and in making recommendations on how to sustain and grow that community.
You can read more about the study in my short summary or in detail on Diana’s blog, where she writes about the anthropology of gaming, blogging, social networking, and online communities.
Open source in education
This session was a great example of how things can turn out in a unconference. Four people had thrown out ideas for education-related talks. In the final conference schedule, they were combined into one session. On the up side, you get to hear a lot in an hour. On the down side, someone who might have prepared to talk for 45 minutes now has to cram that content into 10-20. The good news is that they were all from people whose work is well documented online, making it easy to share with you:
This won’t be a surprise for any of you in the tech industry, but I think there’s a good chance that I was the only one at FUDCon who would qualify as a GeekMom, and it’s not for a lack of geeks. Out of nearly 200 attendees, I counted ten women.
A lot of other people in a lot of places have debated the lack of women in open source and in technology in general, so I won’t go down that rabbit hole here. But I will say that there’s definitely room for you in the community, and that you are welcome. You don’t have to know how to hack code. Software communities need non-programmers too. If you’re interested in getting involved, from any point of view, here are a few links to get you started: