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TEDxCharlotteEd

TEDxCharlotteEd
About a month ago a friend of mine named Jason Fararooei told me I should submit a session to the TEDxCharlotteEd event here in Charlotte. I had no idea what this event was about so I took a look at the site. TEDxCharlotteEd’s web site describes the event as “an event that highlights innovative partnerships that are strengthening our community and enriching the lives of students in the Charlotte area.” The web site had a “Call for Speakers” section where they asked speakers from the community to submit their ideas & topics for sessions at the event.
 
Jason had previously worked with me on a video where I spoke in a local high school to some computer programming and web design classes about Microsoft’s Open Source web platform DotNetNuke. He knew that I was passionate about both technology and education so he encouraged me to enter a submission to the event. 
 
Below is the video of me speaking to the high school class

 
 
I thought about Jason’s suggestion for a while and decided to submit a topic. I submitted a topic titled “Open Source + Education = Brighter Future”. Upon submitting my idea I viewed the source code for the site and noticed that TEDxCharlotteEd’s site was running on an open source web platform… perfectly ironic.
 
   TEDxCharlotteEd - Twitter announcement of speakers via tweetingTEDxCharlotteEd - Twitter Announcment of speakers via
  Following the link I guess this tweet means I didn't get picked
I’ve posted this blog because I wanted to share my idea even though I didn’t get selected to be a presenter… at least I don’t think I got selected. I got an email saying that my submission was received and being reviewed, but I did not get one saying that I had or had not been selected. Though, given a twitter update from the TEDxCharlotteEd Twitter account announcing the event speakers I didn’t see my name listed and figured it was ok to share the idea here on my blog. I already had the idea conceptualized in my mind so I'm just blogging it instead.
 
Education
I should probably back up and say that I grew up with parents who were both educators and later administrators in school systems in South Carolina. Today I have several close friends who are teachers and administrators in schools in the greater Charlotte community and one friend who is a former principal who now mentors principals in Charlotte.  I also had a brief stint teaching at Weddington High School in 2005-2006. Growing up in an educational environment, having previously taught, still helping coach my old high school football team, and having friends who are active within the education system makes me familiar with some of the challenges faced in education.  I know that there isn’t a ton of money to throw around and there aren’t a lot of resources available for school districts to utilize. Teachers are held to high standards and are compensated with low wages. To make it worse, recent budget cuts have forced many great teachers out of the profession as well as made it difficult for students to use cutting edge technologies simply because the school systems can’t afford them along with the materials needed to teach. Our school systems need help in a lot of different forms...one of which is our community.
 
The Web, Open Source, & DotNetNuke
Along with growing up with an educational background I grew up with a passion for the web. I can remember first surfing the internet back in the 90’s on a 56k modem and loving it. The web was a catalyst to my imagination and it still keeps the gears in my mind turning. 
 
As I learned more and more about web design and development I quickly realized that the tools one uses to build web sites can quickly become expensive. To build anything of significance a web designer has to have the right tools (software & hardware) and a good deal of knowledge. This sometimes brought on road blocks for me. I never had a ton of money to throw at software and computers and I also didn’t have a wealth of knowledge. 
 
DotNetNuke LogoOne day I accidentally bumped into DotNetNuke while looking into some style sheets while on my job which was, at that time, Queens University of Charlotte.  I became interested in the technology and decided to further investigate the platform.  
 
A week or two later I had the “aha” moment where I realized that somewhere, somebody was putting out a whole content management system (CMS) for free on the net. In my mind these people (whoever they were) were crazy to put this stuff out there for free.  With little cash and little knowledge this was like a dream come true for me. I could leverage the power of this system without creating it! It was a moment that changed my life.  Now days every time I use the system I know that I’m essentially standing on the shoulders of knowledge of many different developers from around the world.
 
Since researching and learning more I’ve become really enthusiastic about open source technologies, particularly DotNetNuke. Let me describe DotNetNuke a little more… DotNetNuke is a platform that allows for rapid creation of web sites and web applications. It’s very flexible, scalable, easy to learn, and most importantly it’s free! If you don’t speak “tech” lingo then you should research what open source means. In short, open source means that anyone can download the source code for the application, edit it, modify it, contribute to it, use it, etc. 
 
DotNetNuke an agile platform   
DotNetNuke helps businesses be agile  
After getting involved with DotNetNuke and interacting with the global community behind the platform I realized that my initial reaction of “these people are crazy” was very wrong. Turns out, these people are brilliant. By being open sourced, DotNetNuke taps into creativity and innovation from a vast audience of web designers and developers in a unique way. Many high level developers enjoy freely giving their code contributions to the greater good of the platform because they know that through the contributions of the greater body will stem a greater platform. This model touches on some levels of Systems Theory. This level of synergy is tough to find in a typical for-profit organization where people work because they have to rather than because they want to. I know this statement doesn't apply to every single organization, but I would say it applies to the majority.
 
Developers from all around the world come together to create the greater DotNetNuke Community.  The community is part of an ecosystem that helps push the platform forward. The ecosystem consists of many entities such as user groups, hosting companies, the corporation that formed around DotNetNuke, vendors, consultants, designers, developers, and integrators.  The result of the ecosystem's synergy is an awesome Content Management System and web application framework.  There’s a reason why DotNetNuke is the #1 open source CMS for .NET technologies.  Did I mention we have a thriving DotNetNuke user group here in Charlotte?
 
Education + Open Source
Why is all of this important to the education system in the greater Charlotte area or in any school system open to change? Simply put, business is changing, technology is changing, and the way we interact with technology is changing the world. Everyone is reacting to the impetus of change and school systems should too! How will our students compete with the global workforce of competition that awaits them upon graduation? The resources for learning cutting edge technologies (such as DotNetNuke) are available and are at the finger tips of our students. The only thing standing between the students and these resources is the school systems reacting to the change that’s going on around them and adjusting course. It can be done and it isn’t expensive.
 
With the growth of the web and web technologies, Microsoft started offering “Express” versions of their software. These “Express” versions of their software are free.  What this means is that all the software needed to develop a DotNetNuke site locally is completely free!  By “locally” I mean on a computer sitting in a classroom in any school… no networking or school system servers needed for students to learn and create their own web sites.  
 
Most schools already have computer labs on which these softwares can run. Check out SQL Server Express, Visual Studio Express, WebMatrix, & DotNetNuke and see if you can’t get any or all of those up and running for free within a day.  All of this software and technology is sitting out there available to anyone with the motivation to use it. If school systems got motivated and embraced these open source technologies students would benefit in the long run and hopefully the technology sector in Charlotte (or any city) would too. Decisions that administrators make surrounding curriculum today could directly affect the economy of Charlotte tomorrow, if not sooner.
 
I mentioned that we have a thriving DotNetNuke User Group here in Charlotte.  We meet once a month at Microsoft Charlotte and our group would love to have any and all interested students join us once a month to learn more about the framework. We bring in guest speakers, have free food, and free prizes as well. As technologies change so does the platform so there is always more to learn and relationships to be built.  Surely students in our region can learn from people who use the technology on a daily basis.
 
Charlotte is also home to at least 3 DotNetNuke specific web firms (that I know of) and guess what…those web firms come to our user group to connect and sometimes they hire talent that shows up at our user group.  It’s happened before and it can happen again. If a student was motivated enough to learn DotNetNuke and got a good handle on it then I feel sure they could find somewhere to get plugged in, utilize their skills, and get some extra gas money… that is if they didn’t decide to create a web firm while they’re still in school.  If the student continued to learn and grow with the platform you never know what they might create in the future that could potentially change our city or the world in some way.
 
TEDxCharlotteEd
 
TEDxCharlotteEd sought “innovative partnership that could strengthen our community” and I feel that for education a partnership or simply embracing open source technologies could achieve this. Being fair I should mention that there are other open source technologies out there, but I know that there is a strong DotNetNuke presence in the Charlotte area that could assist and partner with the school systems in the movement.  
 
Many of the training resources and ancillary materials that are being cut out of budgets within education are free and available online, you just have to know where to look and be motivated about it.  Need training materials for your teacher’s lesson plans or for students who want to know more? There’s a whole free video library full of them in DotNetNuke’s online video library.  Have a question that you can’t answer? Just use the hashtag #DotNetNuke on Twitter or make a post in the DotNetNuke Forums or Community Exchange and you’ll find help sooner than later. From an educational perspective these resources are like "live tutors" offering real-time assistance. Need a professional web developer to speak on real life applications of DotNetNuke to your students? We’ve got a whole user group full of them who would love to present.  Want your students to learn from reputable developers from around the globe? Have them attend our user group as homework… if they can’t make it they can join the online stream. There are a great number of resources out there available for learning DotNetNuke in Charlotte and beyond. 
 
In sum, if the school systems in the Charlotte area, or any area for that matter, incorporated open source technologies such as DotNetNuke into their curriculum then software costs would most likely be lessened, students would benefit from utilizing cutting edge technologies, students would be better equipped for college or employment, and students and teachers alike could tap into a global community of innovation that’s all free of charge.  Embracing these technologies could greatly benefit the students and Charlotte in the long-run.  Why can’t Charlotte be a hot-bed for technology startups in the future? Take a look at Packard Place... it’s already starting a little. The decision to adjust course and embrace change could be the difference.
 
If you agree that Open Source + Education = A Brighter Future (and that this is an idea worth spreading) then give this page a tweet!
 
Regards,
 
 
Clint
 
 



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