Thursday, February 25, 2010

Open Source Mini-conference at Ateneo de Davao

In hindsight, I realize I took a gamble when I decided to organize an open source mini-conference at Ateneo de Davao. The way I envisioned it, the students from my CS312 Advanced Topics class -- whom I had been guiding through various open source technologies -- would be the ones to run the sessions. I would be strictly hands off.

They came up with all sorts of interesting topics, too: ELGG social networking software, site management with Joomla and Drupal, application development with CakePHP, Android, and Google App Engine with integration to Facebook. I also shanghaied two students from my operating systems class to talk about Ubuntu, and three students from last summer to talk about osCommerce, Synfig, and Blender.

I had a daring plan, too, one probably never been tried in Ateneo before: we would be running parallel sessions. That meant four rooms, with at least two sessions each.

But a day before the event, all sorts of worries plagued me, foremost among them: would anyone show up? That worry continued right until 5 minutes before we actually started.

Well, I guess I needn't have worried. We were flooded with participants from all year levels of the Computer Studies Division. Though I asked my guys to keep the sessions at under twenty people, all controls went out the window and we had some rooms packed with students.


My other big worry was the lack of active participation from the attendees. From my experience, Filipino workshops are notorious for their passive audience. But yesterday, we broke through those cultural barriers as several people posted questions to the speakers. It wasn't quite the lively exchange I was hoping for (some were still quite passive), but I felt it was a breakthrough nonetheless.


Several students came to get ideas for their upcoming theses projects. Perhaps the most heartening sight was a pair of third year students approaching my fourth year students for technical advice post-session. This was just the connectivity I was hoping for.


Our division chief Rey AliƱo also sat in one of the sessions. He seemed pretty happy about the whole affair. He said it might have even been better if we had run these sessions much earlier. That opened up all sorts of ideas for future semesters.


Before I forget: a big shoutout to my co-teacher Michelle Banawan for encouraging her students to attend the mini-conference.


I should have brought a better camera, though.

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