Rik is the kind of passionate teacher I wish I had in high school. An innovative thinker who isn't afraid to step outside the box to challenge his students to achieve more.
We wanted everyone to get to know Rik better, so we interviewed him for this blog post.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Rik Goldman. I am primarily a high school English teacher at Chelsea School in Silver Spring. In addition to teaching English 11, I also teach our advanced technology courses, Information Systems 1 and 2 (a third year has just been added). Prior to this year, Info Systems were based on A+ certification standards; however, this year I introduced Ubuntu, and the students soon demanded that we shift to a Linux+ curriculum.
Our school predominantly serves students with language-based learning disabilities that can have profound effects on reading comprehension, writing fluency, and syntax and mechanics.
Before teaching high school, I taught University and College literature and composition classes. My formal training from undergrad through ABD is literature. However, I've always been involved in technology. First web development (1994), then database development (95-98), then system administration (Solaris and Irix), and then finally I found myself as an instructional technologist rather than a professor. This is where I lost my tolerance for proprietary, closed software in education.
How did you hear about TurnKey Linux?
I had been using virtual machines in my IT classes for some time; ultimately I explored some of the appliances VMWare steered me to. This brought me to Jumpbox, which seemed to open a lot of possibilities. Until I learned more about their business model. Trolling around brought me to TurnKey Linux, which provided all the solutions I was looking for at the time: Joomla, Lamp, Mediawiki, all ready to roll. I started using them and still depend on them.
Is this your first time contributing to an open source project?
For my students and I, our contributions to TKL are our first contributions to an open source project. Simultaneous to this is our contribution to Ampache. This is not without having made a strong effort (on my part): I've pursued writing docs for various projects, but either no one followed through or the projects fell apart. Now I feel a part of the TKL community as well as the Ampache community, to whom I hope to submit documentation over the summer. I've tried to contribute to TKLPatch docs as well.
What were the main challenges in getting involved with the project? How did you overcome them?
The main challenge to some degree was a lack of prior knowledge on my part. I overcame that quickly, and the next hurdle became working through the TKLPatch docs. I had difficulty following along with them; I spent about half a week on a minor patch to no avail. I overcame the difficulty by looking at example patches. I knew bash well enough to make sense of the patches, and from there I was able to establish a framework from which to build my patch. Upcoming hurdle will be understanding the post-install hooks. One other minor hurdle - and this one applies to any culture you're trying to get acclimated to - understanding the culture and the TKL community. What questions could be asked, how should they be asked, where to post what, etc.
What did you learn that surprised you the most?
What surprised my the most was how quickly the students picked up setting up a patch environment and laying out the skeleton. Given a conf script with no comments, they were able to make insightful annotations. That was the starting point for building their own conf scripts. What really surprised me the most is how supporting the open source community has been: #ampache has answered any and every question we've tossed their way, no matter what project we worked on.
What are your plans for the future?
Revising the IT curriculum to cater to students interested in A+ at the same time as serving the interests of students interested in Linux+. At the same time as doing that, I intend to teach light coding or scripting - prolly bash, python, and php is what it looks like at this point.
Bottom line, what would you like other educators in similar positions to take away from your experience?
Teach with authentic assessments in mind. Drilling students on how to access the device manager on XP serves a purpose, but giving them a meaningful task, hopefully one they have some ownership and stake in, can mean students producing resources that can be put to use by a real-world audience. This gives technology students the opportunity to understand the relationship between a technology and the community it serves. Our example: the students built an Ampache streaming media server. Not for entertainment purposes, but to stream audio texts to other students in need of text-to-speech accommodations.