There is something that I’ve tossed around in my brain the last couple of days.  It’s not something I really have time to pursue, but I figured a blog post might inspire others.

My employer has an education group.  They travel around and give classes.  This not only helps build a stronger user and developer ecosystem, but it (presumably) is a source of revenue.

So what if Gnome got into the education business?  I don’t think there’s much room for user training (though I may be wrong), but developers are another story.  An education program could generate income for the Foundation (caveat: I have no idea about the legalities of income and non-profits.)  But it’s not just income.  It’s income as a happy side effect of something that can really push our platform.

So there are a number of ways an education program could be approached, and they’re not at all mutually exclusive.  One option is simple training courses.  We’d prepare materials for a certain pre-defined set of classes.  Educators would travel and give on-site courses.  We could probably pursue means of doing remote classes through the tubes.  Courses would be day-long affairs.  Perhaps some would be multi-day, but still short.  Developers would get a cutesy little diploma saying they completed the course.

The training course approach would suit a lot of people.  And it’s probably the least-effort first-start approach.  Another education possibility is a real certification program.  A cutesy little diploma from a single course is a gimmick.  You don’t do it for the diploma; you do it because your employer thinks their employees should get some training.  You don’t put it on your résumé.  A certification program, on the other hand, would involve more extensive study.  It would’t be done in a classroom environment, but we’d need to provide the study materials.  At the end, you need to pass some tests to get an honest-to-goodness certification.  With some good PR, employers might actually care about our certification.

Yet another option is to do education through educators.  I was recently pointed to teachingopensourc.com, a community of educators and enthusiasts who talk about using open source in education.  Perhaps there’s room for our platform in the actual classroom.  One could imagine a class on user interface programming being taught using Gnome.  For that to take off, it would seriously rock to have a textbook, which is a wholly different beast than a tutorial or reference manual.

These are far from fully fleshed-out ideas.  They’re things that I’m very interested in, and are near to my position as “the documentation guy”.  But for them to be anything more than random thoughts on my blog, somebody would have to really drive them home.