Butter in the Classroom!

What an exciting week this has turned out to be!  On Monday morning's Scrum, we heard that a gifted grade 6 class in the Toronto area was interested in using Butter for a school project... We though "oh that's really cool!" and then continued hacking away on Popcorn and Butter blissfully for the rest of the day.

Tuesday came along and Scott Downe and I were asked to step into Dave Humphrey's office.  He let us know that the project with the kids was going forward, and that they wanted us to bring a usable version of butter to show the kids on Thursday.  No problem!

Wednesday was spent hacking madly away on Butter tickets in order for us to bring a usable version of butter with us on Thursday.  I must honestly say that it must have been one of the most productive days we've had with butter.  It went from being almost unusable to being much more usable and interactive.  The new track interface was implemented, YouTube support was implemented and support for universal subtitles was added.  Bob Richter was instrumental in the process, being responsible for merging everything together.  Can't thank him enough for the amazing work he did!

On the big day we (Bob Richter, Scott Downe, and myself) spent 4 hours before the meeting working out some last minute app killing bugs, sorting out a majority of them. Thanks goes out to Dave Seifried, who assisted us in this task!  By the time we had to leave, butter was in a state that was looking really slick, had really cool interactive features, but still wasn't as stable as we'd like.

for those interested, here is the experimental version we put together (be gentle :( )

We arrived at the school at around 1 PM and signed in at the office.  Kimberly Mercer, who teaches the class, met us in the office and accompanied us to her classroom. The kids were just finishing up their French lessons, but we could already tell they were all VERY, VERY excited to have us in the classroom.  Once we were all set up and had everyone's attention, we introduced ourselves.  The first thing we talked with the kids about was Mozilla and what Mozilla was about.  When asked if anyone knew what Mozilla was we heard things like "An Internet Engine" and "They make money from advertising". I would say the most accurate description was "Mozilla wants to make the Internet better foe people".

We touched lightly on what open-source software was, and how anyone even the kids themselves, could get the source code to modify and improve and contribute to projects.  Bob even took a stab at explaining that JavaScript was a programmers way of speaking with computers, to tell them what we want them to do.  I think more time would have to be spent to help the kids more completely understand the concepts of programming languages.

I noticed that several student in the class were better informed about the topics we spoke about, and it was clear that these children likely spent their own time investigating and learning for themselves... perhaps the next generation isn't a complete loss after all! (no thanks to bad pop music haha)

We dove into butter, and familiarized the kids with the interface and processes involved in creating a project and editing events on the time-line.  When we hit a bug, we explained to the kids that these are the kinds of things we want to hear about, because it will help us to make butter even better.  The kids all went out for recess and we laid out a game plan for the rest of our time there.

After recess, to help the kids understand the power of Popcorn, we showed them the planetarium demo.  Bob emphasized the fact that Popcorn was a powerful way to remix media on the web, which I think stuck in the kids heads.  We heard that the kids would be subtitling their videos, so we showed them the Universal Subtitles page and told them how it worked, as well as how Universal Subtitle data can be pulled into Butter to create subtitle tracks.

What happened next was probably the most exciting part of the day, because the kids all got out their net books and started messing around with Butter.  some were really enthusiastic about it, but, there were a couple who got sidetracked on YouTube :/ not surprising, we all know kids will be kids! for those who were using Butter, we spent time walking among them helping them figure things out and troubleshooting when things broke. and things broke often!  especially with 15-20 kids fooling around with barely tested software.  The whole exercise was wonderful, because it showed everyone in the room the importance of communication between the class and us (the developers) to work together to make butter better and better!  the fact that hat they were doing made them contributors to butter, I think really excited most of the kids. What kid wouldn't like being involved in real world things!

Our time eventually came to and end and the kids had to run to catch their buses.  This didn't stop several of them from swarming Bob with questions about his "Boss" hair (I kid you not) one young girl even asked how the screen-saver on his laptop worked.  It was a really, really great day; being involved in getting the next generation excited about the open web was a fulfilling experience!  I can't wait to work further with the children as they start sending us bug reports and feature requests!

Kids + Open Web === Epic Win!