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General Chat Thread, Open source in schools in General; I think open source software has now truely come of age. Its no longer a 'geek' or 'anorak' thing to ...
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    Open source in schools

    I think open source software has now truely come of age. Its no longer a 'geek' or 'anorak' thing to install and use.

    Many software producers are at least considering it as an alternative revenue system (charging for support and training, or packaged distributions, giving the software away for free). Sun, Google, Apple to name but a few, already use this approach.

    In the school environment, Open source software certainly has a place. As mentioned previously, Linux boxes are great for file storage, dhcp, dns and email & web hosting. They can compliment or replace Windows or Mac Servers, if you have sufficient technical support resource available. I'd also argue that the level of support required to maintain open source systems is about the same as that to support non open source systems.

    What I think is more important to schools is 'What does it do' rather than 'how does it do it?'. Does it matter to the child producing a report what kind of filing system or OS the server is using, probably not. Does it matter they can open this document at home on their system, propably yes.

    Everyone wants a cost effective, low maintenance system; open source can provide this. The only problem comes when people perceive open source to mean 'free'. As your mother used to say, nothing in life is free. Open source software still requires support, staff training and maintenance. People wishing to get a school network for free (well the software) are on to a loser.

    I've also heard about schools helping their students out by burning Open Office 2.0 onto CD's and giving them away for the cost of the media (couple of pence). This is great for families who don't have Microsoft Office but want to be able to create or open documents from school.

    On the usuability side, Open Office is practically identical to Microsoft Office. The dialog boxes for mail merge and more advanced features may be slightly different, but come on, its not that difficult to do.

    -Kev

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    ajbritton's Avatar
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    Re: Open source in schools


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    Re: Open source in schools

    @kevinmcaleer: Already had the debate and comments at http://edugeek.net/index.php?name=Fo...iewtopic&t=960

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    Re: Open source in schools

    Quote Originally Posted by ajbritton
    I read the article last week, at the same time my head of ICT had been to a meeting where OO2 had been mentioned and she wondered if I'd heard of it. I've got it installed on my machine, so she had a quick scan through, especially its database and presentation applications (the equivalent of access and publisher) and what she saw impressed her. It's also fair to say that she navigated through the interfaces easily, finding almost all she wanted without too much searching. I feel it would be true to say that OO2 doesn't offer all the advanced options of Office 2003, but from her first view she though it covered all the bases required for 11 - 16 year olds in school.
    Incidentally, I was shown a screen grab of the Vista version of Word recently, and the whole interface seems to have changed, while OO2 looks uncannily like Office 2003. I'm sure M$ will have an option to give Office Vista it's "retro look".
    beeswax

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    Re: Open source in schools

    The trouble is that I find just the mention of open source and people tend to immediately think linux appliance type installations.

    We had some LEA advisors to a meeting where our ICT Consultant demoed moodle which I have running on a windows server 2003 box their first comment was one relating to epxertise needed to manage linux. Unfortunately I was off sick so couldn't attend the meeting to put them right on this point.

    Just an observation.

    Ben

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    beeswax's Avatar
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    Re: Open source in schools

    what I forgot to mention is that several staff have been in recently to ask for Office 2003 to be put on their personal laptops, or to burn off a disk do that they could take it home for their pc. when told that we can't do that, but we can offer them OO2, they first ask what's the catch, then we briefly show them the inteface, and finally they take a copy home on their pen drives. we've had no complaints yet.
    beeswax

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    mark's Avatar
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    Re: Open source in schools

    Yes that's the main plus here too beeswax. I'm not stunned into embarrassing silence anymore after having to tell people that it's illegal and I can't do it. Instead I can entheuse about OO and hand them a copy of OpenCD with a version they can even try out before installing using the bundled live Ubuntu.

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    Re: Open source in schools

    Open software is a good idea and it is been proven, but what i find is th tmost of the open source software does tie (i know i'm gonna get few comments here on this ) to the specific platforms. What i mean about this is most open software is gered towards linux OS (LAMP etc) and while this is good it does not really answer the question i have about open source i.e. if a software is open source then why don't they develop it for other OS as well, e.g. MAC, Windows etc. Don't get me wrong there are software that is available on various platforms but they are software that is not the core softwas as i call it i.e. firewall, dhcp, backup etc.

    Word processors and other things may be available for various platforms but some mostly itis geared towards linux OS. One reason for this may be that ppl who develeop these are very keen on linux and hate other os i.e. windows so much that they don't bother or it takes too much time to test etc.

    Again i could be completely wrong but this is some of the views of our IT dept. who have done may searches on net to find example of open software that is compatible on both linux and windows and without much luck.

    I think the idea of using linux is good and it has its place but from a training point of view many IT guys are more trained and knowledable about windows and macs than linux, although this is change now due to linux growing in popularity.

    Ashok.

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    Re: Open source in schools

    Lots of things do get developed for Windows and Mac OS, but because of the model they may go out as shareware rather than FLOSS.

    I would love some stuff that is on Macs to be on Linux and Windows ... but I know it won't happen yet. Hopefully the move to Intel will mean that this will change (in fact in the Apple Developer Connection this is a strong undercurrent)

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    Re: Open source in schools

    I do sometimes feel as if pupils are simply being taught how to use M$ products, rather than ICT. M$ has such a stranglehold on school software that I often wonder why they don't let us have it for free.
    I know....
    Dear Santa,
    I've been a good boy this year.....

    beeswax

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    Re: Open source in schools

    I agree beeswax- there is a vast difference between being taught "ICT" and being actually told how to do things in Office! All I see in ICT is the passing on of information based on Office- how to format documents, how to manipulate data in Excel; perhaps how to record a macro or two. There's some basic "what is a LAN" type of thing, but it is really basic.

    There is also a difference between "word processing" and Office! Office has a word processor, but you could as easily teach the principles of word processing without using a WYSIWYG word processor. A simple document mark-up language would be a good first step, followed by OO or Office.

    I think there has been a lot of business pressure on schools to teach the skills they need using the tools business uses- and of course most businesses use MS Office for document production and other things. It's wrong, but that (at the moment) is the situation. There is a fantastic current of open source software making inroads into schools so that we find ourselves with a lot more choice than perhaps has been the case. My experience with Linux hasn't been as good as most here, but my experience with open source software has been excellent (and I'm talking applications here such as open office). I would have no problem offering the school the alternatives as far as applications are concerned, but when talking servers I still believe (at the moment) that it would have to be Mac OS X or Windows 2003.

    Let's remember, that because software is proprietary does not mean it is necessarily "bad". Or even because software has to be paid for! Microsoft and Apple both make proprietary software, and I don't see either moving their own offering further into an open field without extreme pressure and good business timing to do so. And that won't happen just now. I too am encouraged by Apple's willingness to push further into OSS- but would caution on the excitement that this would mean their offering OSS versions of their applications. I just don't think that will happen any time soon.

    Good discussion!

    Paul

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    Re: Open source in schools

    stupid, I know, but I think I've contradicted myself in various posts. I've argued at school, and mentioned on Edugeek, that pupils going in for the DiDA qualifications should be using the industry standard in web design, which is Dreamweaver, and yet moving away from the industry standard, M$, in other disciplines.
    OK, time to hit the fall-back position, "Would you like fries with that Sir?"

    beeswax

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    Re: Open source in schools

    I had a situation the other day which shows how it (unfortunately) isn't always so simple...

    We had a member of staff come in asking for us to go and put MS Office onto a laptop which had been provided by the council for a child with tunnel vision. The local visual impairment adviser was in school and was going to show the child how to use MSOffice with their particular disability. They had no MSOffice license/boxed copy.

    I explained to them the terms of our licensing and that it wasn't legal to just shove it on without paying for it. We didn't get as far as discussions of whether we would be willing to buy it and put it on another day as that wasn't an immediate fix.

    I then went on to give a quick demo of OOo Writer and Calc to show what a remarkably coincidental doppelganger of MSOffice apps they were. The teacher seemed to absorb the information and went off. We then had another visit from an SEN-type which covered pretty much the same ground and were told that OOo was not an option because the adviser wanted to show the child Office's keyboard shortcuts and they would all be different in OOo (they were seemingly unwilling to spend the time verifying this).

    At one point, whilst demo'ing the near-identical-to-MSWord "Save/Save as..." procedure in Writer, I was asked "Do you know what tunnel vision is!?" - the implication being that tunnel vision is a disease which causes people to drop dead instantly when faced with a Save As dialog 2 pixels different from that of MS Word. Luckily she knew what a door handle was and used it before I clocked her one :x .


    End result:

    Teacher exits and bad-mouths our IT support dept to anyone that will listen.

    Visual impairment bod goes home after achieving nothing, presumably to return when MSOffice has been procured.

    Days later, laptop magically receives a copy of MSOffice from some outside (and I suspect not legal) source.

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    Re: Open source in schools

    Weigh up TCO and functionality, then pick your product. I find alot of people put open source in JUST because it's open source, they then spend 6 weeks trying to make it work. Even in education, time is money.

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    beeswax's Avatar
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    Re: Open source in schools

    Fortunately, it wasn't a school laptop so you're not responsible for that, but it's a big worry, especially if your school has a policy of allowing staff to be local admins on their laptops, so that if they need to access the internet from home they can install their own software. One member of staff, who only used his laptop at home for online banking, had 489 various bits of malware on his laptop.

    can't say I've had any problems so far with teachers and OO2 replacing M$Office, but most of it happened in the run up to christmas, and so they may have been too busy to work with it. Wait til January 3rd though when everyone's back and "rested".

    merry christmas,
    beeswax

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