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FSFE Local Group Zurich receives DINAcon Award


In 2019, the FSFE's local group Zurich has launched the "Learn like the pros" campaign. Goal of the campaign is to present solutions for the use of Free Software in education. Recently, the campaign was awarded the DINACon Award. On this behalf we interviewed the coordinators Ralf Hersel and Gian-Maria Daffré.

Unfortunately, non-Free Software is still increasingly used in the educational environment. Proprietary software however does not offer students and teachers the opportunity to study and adapt the functionality and principles of the software in use. In order to promote the digital maturity and sovereignty of the students as well as the teaching staff, Free Software should be consistently used in education instead. In order to get one step closer to this goal, the FSFE local group Zurich has picked up the topic with its own campaign called "Lernen wie die Profis" (German for "Learning like the pros"). The content of the campaign includes arguments and background information about the use of Free Software in the educational environment - combined with concrete solution and software proposals.

Recently the campaign won the DINAcon Special Award 2020. This is an award for the campaign, but also for the local engagement and commitment of the FSFE local group Zurich. We took this award as an opportunity to introduce the campaign through an interview with the local Zurich coordinators Ralf Hersel and Gian-Maria Daffré ('Giammi').

Ralf Hersel has been involved since 2015, when the Tuxeros group merged with FSFE's Zurich local group. Since 2020 he is the coordinator of the group.

Gian-Maria Daffré ('Giammi') has also been a member of the local group in Zurich since 2015, where he is vice-coordinator. Giammi is also coordinator of the Swiss team.

FSFE: 2020 is a year in which e-learning and remote digital learning has increased in use and distribution worldwide. Is this a development to be welcomed and to what extent have these developments influenced the individual digital sovereignty of students?

Ralf and Giammi: 'Welcomed' is probably the wrong word for the circumstances, which have been caused by the pandemic. We would rather see it as a necessity introduced by reality. E-learning already existed before, but not to the extent that we currently see. Due to the deferral from physical to digital space the significance of digital sovereignty has increased enormously. Both, students and teachers, are confronted with a situation for which they were not prepared; neither mentally nor technically.

"Our task is to help understand digital sovereignty as an essential criteria for self-determined decisions and to establish action accordingly."

The concept and meaning of 'digital sovereignty' is still far from being consciously adopted by those affected. Unfortunately, the popularity of proprietary applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams just proves that. Our task is to help understand digital sovereignty as an essential criteria for self-determined decisions and to establish action accordingly.

In this light, the FSFE's Zurich local group has launched the campaign "Learning how the Professionals", "to promote the use of Free Software in schools and universities". What exactly does the concept of "Learning for the professionals" include?

The 'Learn like the pros' campaign has three goals:

  1. Inform about the importance of digital sovereignty at educational institutions.
  2. To show concrete solutions for the use of Free Software systems in education.
  3. Cite positive examples where schools and universities have taken up the challenge and successfully completed a transformation towards Free Software.

Is the campaign specifically tailored towards the Swiss audience or is the collected knowledge of universal validity?

At the FSFE local group Zurich we think both, locally and globally. The concrete alignments however depend on the target audience. For example, one of our campaigns, 'Freedomvote', is targeting the political process in Switzerland. Also our Participation in Swiss events - such as Informatiktage Zürich, Open Education Day, DINAcon or our training series 'Selfhosting' at DigiComp - focus on the Swiss market. The campaigns 'Fotobuch' and 'Lernen wie die Profis', and the news channel 'GNU/Linux.ch' however are targeting to the European, respectively German society.

"The team and all involved were convinced by the positive power of the of the name."

How did you come up with the campaign, was there an initial spark and how did the implementation work?

The idea of addressing educational institutions has been fermenting for some years now in our heads. Different ideas were discussed, tried out and discarded. An important milestone was CERN's decision to withdraw from Microsoft and to rely more on Free Software. This event gave Ralf the idea to develop a campaign and give it the name 'Learning like the pros' (#LwdP). We coordinated this in the team and all invovled were convinced by the positive power of the of the name. 'Learning like the pros' attracts the curios mind of research among female and male students. When professionals use Free Software, students will do alike.

The FSFE local group Zurich recently won the DINAcon award for campaign. What does this award mean for you and for the project?

picture of DINACon Special Award 2020

Since there was only one nomination in the award category 'Open Education', we have been very pleased that DINAcon created a new category especially for us, the 'Special Award'. We are very happy about this award, because it is the first one ever and because it means that we have an appreciation and support which we can use as a reward for our work. It is a great motivation for the past and future efforts in this FSFE campaign.

Ralf Hersel, Coordinator of the FSFE lokal group Zürich on behalf of the DINACon Special Award 2020. (in German)

Are there experiences and learnings you would like to share with others? Maybe with a view to other local groups of the FSFE who might plan a similar project?

There are many experiences and lessons that we can learn from this project. On the one hand, we got to know many like-minded initiatives, such as Digitalcourage's commitment to Free Software in schools. Especially with regard to the current developments in Baden-Württemberg, we were astonished by the commitment of civil society actors towards digital sovereignty in schools.

On the news portal GNU/Linux.ch, which is maintained by Ralf and Lioh, there were many helpful discussions and ideas on this topic. Besides the many positive experiences we can also draw a worrying conclusion from the FSFE campaign work. The metaphor of the few and tired Free Software developers, also applies to this project work.

Background: The FSFE local group Zurich exists since 2010. Current coordinators are Ralf Hersel with Gian-Maria Daffré as vice-coordinator. Prior to the "Learn like the pros" campaign presented in this article, the group has already launched the campaign Freedomvote. The group meets every second Thursday of the month. Usually at the digital agency Liip in Zurich, currently online via Big Blue Button. If you feel like joining the group now, just drop by.

If you don't live in Zurich and now feel like getting actively involved in a local FSFE group, then see if there is a group in your city. Or join our German language mailing list. And please support our association with a small donation.