When we first created BlueJ (now well over than 10 years ago), I was
quite naïve. I thought if we developed good software that can do
interesting things, and we put it out there, then people would take it
and use it and do exciting things with it.
That was true for some people, but not to an extent anywhere near the
full potential of BlueJ. What led to this naïve view was my lack of
understanding of teaching in any practical context.
I learned over the next few years that having good software is not
enough. It is, in fact, the availability of good, easily accessible and
high quality teaching material that drives the adoption of teaching
software. Once adopted, it is the existence of a community of peers to
have discussions, ask questions and share experiences that makes the use
enjoyable and enables teachers at all levels to improve their teaching,
get new ideas and pass on what they have learned.
This is what the Blueroom tries to address. By providing a platform for
discussion, we can ask questions, discuss ideas and get help. By
providing a means to share resources, we can share material.
Sharing material – or getting other people to share their material – is
What we found is this: The problem is not so much that people are overly
protective of their material – in fact most are very happy to share –
but many people are not confident that their material is "good enough"
or "worthy" to be published.
When I talk to teachers who have developed interesting resources, they
are almost always very happy to share them in principle, but very
reluctant to do this right now. Their material, they feel, was good
enough to use in their own classroom, but to be shared publicly it would
need some more work, some polishing, some completing of lose ends here
and there. In short: It was not quite ready (in its current state).
And then, of course, there are time pressures. The time to sit down and
finish polishing the worksheets never comes, and many good ideas are
This is an intrinsic problem that we should not ignore. It is just fact
that producing well-developed, polished material takes a lot of time,
and that many of us just do not get that time.
The way we try to address this here is by creating a resource model for
the Blueroom where resources are not owned by a single person, but by
the community as a whole. Anyone can freely edit any resource. This
model is based on trust and assumes a community of like-minded
The benefit, we hope, is that people can see value in uploading
resources that are unfinished, containing just the starting point for a
resource that we - as a community - may want to develop further. Maybe
it's an unfinished worksheet, maybe just a single idea.
Believe me: Your colleagues and peers are very happy to see your
material, even if it is not perfect. Seeing a good idea, even in
imperfect form, is way better than finding nothing.
As a community, we have some people who have great new ideas. We have
people who have the time to test, improve, complete and polish. But not
many people have time to do it all. By working together, each
contributing a little, our hope is that we can develop - jointly, over
time - a collection of valuable material.
For us as a community this means:
If you have material, post it.
Don't be shy about posting unfinished material that
does not yet "look good".
The goal is to build material as a community - you
do not have to do it all yourself.
Any small contribution you can make - a correction,
an addition, a comment - is valuable.
The sum of the contributions is what makes a
difference, not the size of any single contribution.
The community is more than the sum of its members.
Whether this can work or not is an open question. It is a question of
culture, not of technology. So please, come in, take part, contribute in
whichever way you can.
Michael Kölling, May 2011