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Blue Skies Thread, Open Source Schools' Miles Berry offers a radical response to the ICT funding cuts in General; As an occasional contributor to these pages who rarely finds favour with other contributors I read the responses to Miles' ...
  1. #136

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    miles is right

    As an occasional contributor to these pages who rarely finds favour with other contributors I read the responses to Miles' paper (ok post) with interest.

    Same old edugeek responses I am afraid to say.

    The existing ICT in schools is maintained (often very competently indeed) by you guys (and it is nearly 100% male) but the suspicion is that the incumbent technical professionals have so much invested in the monster that they helped find its current form that any change is seen as a threat.

    Miles' suggestions are not even radical (sorry Miles you will never be a radical) but they elicit the usual sucking through teeth, pipe in hand, brown coated response.

    Think Wapping...if you are too young ask your Dad, he was probably a typesetter.

    Miles is right and not radical so why dont you thinks so?

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    Quote Originally Posted by spannerman2 View Post
    Miles is right and not radical so why dont you thinks so?
    Some of his ideas do have merit and have in fact been partially implemented in some places but some of the stuff just has no basis in reality. The idea of freely shared curriculum specific material, activities that everyone shares and adds to is a noble one but it not met by reality. Different palces have different curricula and stuff needs to be tailored to each area. The reason teachers and schools buy resources is to lower the amount of prep work the teachers have to do themselves as they just use the pre-prepped activities rather than having to make their own. The above system would require a switch back to many teachers doing their own activities and offering these for free when they can just as easily sell them for a profit.

    The idea of everyone pitching in for support is also another train wreck waiting to happen, how do you maintain security on the data when everyone has the passwords to access it in order to fix it. What is to stop random parent number three from taking a peek at the student database while fixing it or grabbing and selling the data to a mass mailer or something. How are you going to run police checks on all of those people and how are you going to keep procedures in place to make sure that certain things get done in the right way each time when the system is being fixed/changed by a dozen or so people.

    As I said above and before in this thread (I think) is that although the ideas do have some merit but the options that they prescribe don't take into account the realities of how things actually work.

    There may be places where this would work in its entirety but I don't know of any gated physical open source communities with their own school system.

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  4. #138

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    Quote Originally Posted by SYNACK View Post

    As I said above and before in this thread (I think) is that although the ideas do have some merit but the options that they prescribe don't take into account the realities of how things actually work.
    .
    Hi SYNACK,

    my point is it is the reality of how things work 'now' that is the problem. I'm not just having a go (well ok just a bit), you are completely right in saying just that. The 'reality of now' however is not a reality in the sense that it is an immutability, even for the sort-medium term.

    If I was in Soviet Union c 1975 the 'reality' of the situation would be overwhelming and it would be futile and dangerous to suggest doing stuff a different way..gulag beckons.

    But the reality of the current ICT model that so restricts us is that not only is it very very new but very fragile too.

    Miles is saying that this quasi reality should change

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    Quote Originally Posted by spannerman2 View Post
    If I was in Soviet Union c 1975 the 'reality' of the situation would be overwhelming and it would be futile and dangerous to suggest doing stuff a different way..gulag beckons.
    Concern over allowing administrative access to the network or data for a group of unknown parents who may, or may not be ethical enough not to take advantage of the access it grants them is ever so slightly different from a totalitarian communist state.

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    [QUOTE=jamesb;555968 .. allowing administrative access to the network or data for a group of unknown parents who may, or may not be ethical enough not to take advantage of the access it grants them .[/QUOTE]

    Ok, still have not go my point across...admin access to your precious network is not the point..I don't want anyone to have this..I don't want your precious network to get in the way of education, that's the point..it's not necessary...it's for admin droids only

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    Quote Originally Posted by spannerman2 View Post
    Ok, still have not go my point across...admin access to your precious network is not the point..I don't want anyone to have this..I don't want your precious network to get in the way of education, that's the point..it's not necessary...it's for admin droids only
    I'm with you, kind of. It's about de-restricting (dismantling) the current setup that most schools offer. provide a non-intrusive infrastructure to which students, teachers, parents can connect their own devices, unencumbered by passwords, logins, licensing etc and give teachers the responsibility (my god, they are paid enough for it) to safeguard private information about pupils. Whilst also making the individuals (the teacher, student, parent) accountable in terms of legality/licensing. I can see some laws would need to be changed, but thats the essence of something radical.

  8. #142

    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    People have already seen my take on some of Miles' points.

    On the whole I work in a world of today, having to deal with today's contracts, with today's laws and legislation, and with today's needs. I also have to point out that as much as people are talking about the future and what we need to work towards, we are not in a position where we have reached and met all of today's needs.

    The idea of technology being mainstream and just something about picking things up of the shelf in Tesco's (other supermarkets available) and then anyone just connecting to a school network with it is wonderful ... and falls down on a number of issues. Technology is wonderful but we also have to realise that if we go back to cars as an analogy (networks = roads, etc ... as we all tend to fall back to) then yes, we have been through the stage when cars were a specialist thing, when cars could be serviced by yourself (changing brake pads, etc) and now we are back to the place where, for quite a number of run-of-the-mill cars, we have to rely on specialists to do a large number of jobs.

    I am all for change ... but not for change's sake. I also like to plan change. If we know where we are going to, we can plan to get there without too many bumps in the road. When it comes to sharing resources between teachers, then yes ... it is wonderful to do so (just have a look at the success of TeachMeets), but at a recent meeting when it was raised about sharing resources between schools. I asked how many schools have a Head of ICT who prescribes the curriculum that *all* their department have to follow ... and quite a few nodded their heads and wryly smiled ... accepting that this was quite the case and also happened in other subjects too. So how the heck can we have schools sharing resources when schools don't even allow their staff the flexibility of deciding their own resources? It comes down to needing SLT and Middle leaders to change.

    Back to present day though ... we are almost getting back to the part of where we need 2 networks again. One for staff and admin use ... secure and controlled, giving access to things which require an audit trail, that require special consideration ... and then one which is more flexible for student use for personal devices (if they can be afforded of course).

    Of course, this will then lead into the discussion about how innovative and experimental student may bring devices into schools which will snoop networks ... grab passwords ... you know how it works. And whilst this is going to be a very small minority can anyone suggest how this problem going to be solved?

    I can suggest a lot of things about how things can go forward, but suggesting things blindly and shouting others down for having to work to the present guidelines / regulations is a tad poor to be honest. Things like DPA are not to be trifled with. Some folk might be happy to relax everything and accept the risk themselves, but I am not and I would strongly recommend against increasing the risk.

  9. #143

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    @spannerman2, CyberNerd
    that kind of environment it may well work, just need to do a few small things to get there though. Negotiate the extra roles and training with all the teachers contracts despite fighting to explicitly remove those roles. Negotiate the additional pay for all of these teachers to cover these roles, that shouldn't be to expencive, the teachers unions are known for their rationality and selflesness. Training and testing all of those teachers on the fundamentals of data safety.

    Then it is just a case of changing the laws regarding data security and pupil/child safeguarding and actually enforcing the laws against teachers if required. You would also need to refocus the current set of laws to individual responsibility rather than organisational responsibility.

    Sounds simple enough, should be able to bash that out by next tuesday, Paying all the teachers extra for their new roles along with the cost of the training and the costs involved with changing the laws should also be totally cheap enough to be covered by all of those lazy imperialist IT Administrators who have nothing to do but waste time and money making life hard for the poor underprivilaged teachers.

    You may have noticed a slight note of sarcasim above as I reitterate the feasibility of this solution in the real world environment rather than the imaginary one. In order to actually follow this many things beyond the control of Network Managers and even schools would need to change. If this kind of system was demanded then the fundimentals would need to be handled by the govenment unless a school wanted to continuously and blatently break the law putting itself and its staff at risk.

    On a personal note I'm not sure how people are supposed to feel when their jobs are called worthless and obstructionary let alone when they all get put out of work by "some utopian idea". Of course people will try to defend their value to society and the value of what they do. Is paying the teachers more and having more unemployeed people really a good idea.

    This again resonates with my probably unjust view of Open Source evangalists, how is anyone in the computer field supposted to generate an income when they demand that everything computer related be done freely on a hobby basis. Should people just not go into anything related to computers or should all people in the field just have a primary job stocking shelves and do the same amount of work for free on within the computing area.

    I have nothing against open source itself, use some of the software it produces and have released code publicly for anyone to use or modify. My issue is when this is taken to extremes and it somehow becomes immoral to be paid for that effort if you want/need to be. How exactly do these hardliners survive without being hypocritical.
    Last edited by SYNACK; 31st August 2010 at 11:04 PM.

  10. #144

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    Quote Originally Posted by SYNACK View Post
    @spannerman2, CyberNerd I reitterate the feasibility of this solution in the real world environment rather than the imaginary one.

    I'm not sure how people are supposed to feel when their jobs are called worthless and obstructionary let alone when they all get put out of work by "some utopian idea". Of course people will try to defend their value to society and the value of what they do. Is paying the teachers more and having more unemployeed people really a good idea.
    .
    In the real world we have fundamental truths:

    1) Schools exist for the purpose of teaching and learning

    The teachers are the principle vectors for this process and thus all non-teaching staff are there to solely to facilitate this process.

    2) The quality of teaching and learning of Computer and ICT related subjects is at an all time low resulting in the UK producing the fewest computer graduates in Europe.

    Ergo, something is really badly going wrong.

    In my opinion the fundamental mistake was to mix the business-admin component of IT which has all of the associated security and legal constraints with the business of teaching.

    A Windows network is so fragile in every sense that no sane admin would ever encourage kids or teachers or parents to explore or experiment with it.

    Unfortunately the very nature of the teaching business is that both teachers and learners have to do just that if any high level of attainment are to be achieved.

    The 'network' has effectively bitten off the hand that fed it in the first place.

    It's not really an issue of Open Source or proprietary software its one of freedom. Not much of that in Stalag Network and you guys are the camp guards.

  11. #145

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    Quote Originally Posted by spannerman2 View Post
    In the real world we have fundamental truths:

    1) Schools exist for the purpose of teaching and learning

    The teachers are the principle vectors for this process and thus all non-teaching staff are there to solely to facilitate this process.

    2) The quality of teaching and learning of Computer and ICT related subjects is at an all time low resulting in the UK producing the fewest computer graduates in Europe.

    Ergo, something is really badly going wrong.

    In my opinion the fundamental mistake was to mix the business-admin component of IT which has all of the associated security and legal constraints with the business of teaching.

    A Windows network is so fragile in every sense that no sane admin would ever encourage kids or teachers or parents to explore or experiment with it.

    Unfortunately the very nature of the teaching business is that both teachers and learners have to do just that if any high level of attainment are to be achieved.

    The 'network' has effectively bitten off the hand that fed it in the first place.

    It's not really an issue of Open Source or proprietary software its one of freedom. Not much of that in Stalag Network and you guys are the camp guards.
    My word you don't off spout some drivel. Do you actually know the legal obligations of a network? Do you understand the requirements on it? Do you realise that things like allowing access to school MIS systems over a 2 network system increases hassle for teachers? ie. instead of just having one computer, they have 2?

    What about the fact that if data is compromised due to a teacher being dumb, nothing happens to them, but instead a requirement is made on the network admin staff to counter that stupidity? eg. a teacher leaves SIMS open on their computer and walk away without locking it. Rather than that teacher being told off for it, and given training to ensure they don't do it again, and to ensure they know WHY they shouldn't do it. Instead, we'd be asked to put a timeout on the machine to lock the screen or something similar - ignoring the underlying issue.

    You talk a lot of ideals but give no practical ways of doing it.

    Let me ask you - do you have any training in managing a network? You come across as a teacher who feels that the IT staff are getting in the way of teaching, when in fact they're the ones facilitating it via maintaining a very complicated beast.

  12. #146

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    Back to present day though ... we are almost getting back to the part of where we need 2 networks again. One for staff and admin use ... secure and controlled, giving access to things which require an audit trail, that require special consideration ... and then one which is more flexible for student use for personal devices (if they can be afforded of course).

    Of course, this will then lead into the discussion about how innovative and experimental student may bring devices into schools which will snoop networks ... grab passwords ... you know how it works. And whilst this is going to be a very small minority can anyone suggest how this problem going to be solved?
    Don't know that I have the answers but I can tell you some of what we do that might help.

    If you bring your own personal laptop into Imperial and plug it into a socket you'll get connected to our "pre-registration" network - the only thing you can do at this point is go to an internal website where you need to register your machine (needs username and password).

    Once you've done that, you're connected to a different vlan and you have access to a range of resources (the internet, internal file servers and mail servers, for example)

    If you have a machine which is owned by College then it's registered in a slightly different way and it's on a different vlan; this time you have access to more resources (but, critically, not to the one for non-College equipment)

    The system is much more complex than this - for example I've used the term "vlan" when actually I mean "set of vlans" but the idea is the same. I've also left out wireless networks (we have several - one for members of College, another for academic visitors, one which is just the commercial Cloud network and so on)

    All of this took some setting up (we have some very, very clever people in networks and security) but it now works pretty smoothly. Some of the problems are not technical (we have a network for connecting what we think of as "insecure" machines; this upsets the people who work for the US Navy and have machines certified at their highest level but we tell them that they're "insecure" :-))

    This is the kind of thing which is needed in every school (probably on a simpler level) but will probably never happen while we have every school doing its own thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spannerman2 View Post
    <SNIP>
    1) Schools exist for the purpose of teaching and learning

    The teachers are the principle vectors for this process and thus all non-teaching staff are there to solely to facilitate this process.

    2) The quality of teaching and learning of Computer and ICT related subjects is at an all time low resulting in the UK producing the fewest computer graduates in Europe.

    Ergo, something is really badly going wrong.
    <SNIP>
    Reading your comment would make me believe that if there is something going wrong it would be with the teachers who teach the subject NOT the facilities used to teach.

    You have also mentioned that us "tech guys" see change as a threat. I dont really think you understand the job properly if you truely believe this. Our chosen career means by the very nature we work in sees constant change in the facilities we use. It is quite often the people who use these facilities who are the most reluctant to change(ie other staff). Our role can often be seen as obstructive simply because we think of things that could be a problem, and quite often this is not a tech issue but a reluctant user issue which has a knock on effect on how we do our job.

    loclzuk has given an example where a tech solution is implented instead of looking the the underlying cause (the user and lack of knowledge/consideration) but this is not an isolated incedent. Dont look at us tech guys as being fearful of change, but rather doing our job, which is to investigate the best solution for all parties with consideration of any problems that may arise.

  14. #148


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    Quote Originally Posted by spannerman2 View Post
    In the real world we have fundamental truths:

    1) Schools exist for the purpose of teaching and learning

    The teachers are the principle vectors for this process and thus all non-teaching staff are there to solely to facilitate this process.
    Agreed. Now it'd just be nice if people could let us get on with that.

    2) The quality of teaching and learning of Computer and ICT related subjects is at an all time low resulting in the UK producing the fewest computer graduates in Europe.

    Ergo, something is really badly going wrong.

    In my opinion the fundamental mistake was to mix the business-admin component of IT which has all of the associated security and legal constraints with the business of teaching.
    I'd argue a far greater problem is when kids are taught by people with no qualifications, interest or enthusiasm for the subject matter.

    Then there's the government shifting the goalposts every five minutes. Just recently we've gone from "Think of the Children, protect at all costs" paranoia where giving kids access to Facebook was seen as tantamount to blood sacrifice in the playground to "Actually teach them about what's out there and how to use it safely".

    No doubt Nick and Dave will give the pendulum a kick for good measure.

    A Windows network is so fragile in every sense that no sane admin would ever encourage kids or teachers or parents to explore or experiment with it.
    Rubbish - there's loads of different tools (free and pay-for) that can give you a Windows/Unix lab that flushes back to default on reboot - hundreds of universities around the world and many schools manage it. We can multiboot if need be, run a vm locally or provide a vm instances on a server to play about with if there's a need for persistence of data.

    That way they can mess around, reboot at the end of the lesson and Y8 French can use the same room to language lab with $random_school in France without the previous lesson affecting them.

    I've offered to do the above and we do it on a small scale, but take-up is low - the training / knowledge (or having a project that can use / stretch the available resources) isn't there. I'd love it if they were teaching a lab on how to do interesting things with computers instead of churning out powerpoint-afflicted office drones.

    We do have a separate Admin and Curriculum network. There's no real reason (assuming restoration on reboot time fits into the 10 minutes between lessons) we couldn't make Curriculum a sacrifical playground if they'd use it.

    It's not really an issue of Open Source or proprietary software its one of freedom. Not much of that in Stalag Network and you guys are the camp guards.
    You're really cementing that troll hat with your appeals to Godwin y'know?

  15. #149

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    its one of freedom
    Can't say I recall "freedom" being used in anything much besides marketing for a long while (too cheesy for anything else).

    You come across as a teacher
    That too. So Spannerman2, what's the day job then? Ex-teacher working for some org that makes it's money from consultancy/mangelment/services based around open source? Or am I way out?

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    @PiqueABoo Retired teacher 25 years: Chem, Biol, ICT, Computing: 6 Years Sys Admin (Windows and Linux-Samba_windows); 5 years with FOSS consultancy...now freelance bolshy pundit. so you were close!

    @pete the 'bootable playground' for teaching IT is exactly what is needed. After that we need the quality tecahers and a sane study guide but nothin can happen until that network room is liberated!! Thanks

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