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2003/01/20 - Bruno Coudoin


An interview conducted by Alain Buret
Alain Buret - First and traditionnal question : please present yourself

Bruno Coudoin - My name is Bruno Coudoin, I am French and I live in Toulouse. I am maried and have 2 children 6 and 9 years old.

Alain Buret - Can you explain us the birth of GCompris ?

Bruno Coudoin - I wanted to provide my children some activities under Linux but about 2 years ago there wasn't a lot of application for them. At that time, the hype was on the japanese pocket monster and I wrote a small application were pocket monsters was falling and the goal was to click on them with the mouse. Of course, for the first release, I replaced the monster with a less hyped but more copyright free content with a set of animal pictures. You can still find this activity in gcompris under the the 'click on the fish' activity. After the first release, I got some possitive feedback which encouraged me to continue.
In order to implement new activities, I wanted to make it as easy and open as possible, so I decided to use a plugin aproach. Doing so, I separated the gcompris engine and the activities code so that the activity code are loaded dynamically. On its side, each activity code can also load data as text or xml that defines the activity content.
With this approach, we now have a powerfull engine that makes it easy for developpers to add content. In the concept, it is similar to the separation between the 3D game engines and their data.

Alain Buret - How many different boards are now available ? Do you include or reject new boards ?

Bruno Coudoin - Today there is about 40 different activities. That's important for us to provide a large range of activities, the number of activity is important but it's more important for us to create a place where kids can go and discover new things.
In the process of selecting activities, we are very open but we want to limit gcompris to the age target 3 to 10. Also it is important not to include in gcompris a too complex or deep subject. For example, you can type words in gcompris but is you want to go deeper, you should use a typing tutor.
Also, I don't want to include too school specific exercice because I believe a software should not and cannot replace a teacher. I hope that with gcompris, the teachers can use it to achieve the same goals but by different means. If a kid do not understand on paper, he will not understand better if we just create a software that does the same thing on the computer. We have to inovate and really use the dynamic feature of the computer.

Alain Buret - Are there similar free projects ?

Bruno Coudoin - To my knowledge, the KDE edu teem target the same kind of activity than gcompris but they lack the engine and each activity is a separate application which makes it harder I believe to maintain on the developers side and to install for the teacher/parent side.
Recently I discovered the project childsplay with define itself as a gcompris clone but based on python and the pygames library. I found the concept interresting and I agree that my initial choice of using the gnome canvas and the C language for the core of gcompris is not perfect. Anyway, you cannot satisfy everybody with a toolkit choice and making gcompris 'toolkit agnostic' is too much work for too few potential benefits.
Le Terrier from the Abuledu team has developped several activity in TCK/TK. There work is very school oriented and tend to mimic the exercices that the teachers used to provide on paper.

Alain Buret - You are member of the Ofset project. Can you talk a bit about this ?

Bruno Coudoin - Hilaire the founder of Ofset could talk better about it. For me I feel that we would be stronger if we could put our effort together. We share the same value in free software and the same goal in pushing it to the schools.
Ofset is a valuable tool for gcompris, we share a unified web site and our software is better represented this way.

Alain Buret - Last question : what do you expect of your FOSDEM presentation ?

Bruno Coudoin - I expect to show that we are ready to go to school ;)
We now have the bare minimum application type and numbers that make GNU/Linux a good choice and oportunity for us and for the education system.
I would like to tell to the people that have kids responsability one way or another to go and talk to their school system administrator and teachers to promote our free software solution.


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