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MIS Systems Thread, Open Source software in UK schools in Technical; Splitting it out a bit to discuss each point. Originally Posted by CyberNerd The curriculum isn't actually tied to any ...
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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Splitting it out a bit to discuss each point.

    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd View Post
    The curriculum isn't actually tied to any product, does anything need to change apart from the exam board internal rules?
    The curriculum is not just what is prescribed by Govt or Exam boards but the resources used to deliver it, the methods used and the styles of learning / teaching involved. Depending on how each school approaches this will define what the school gets out of it. You will see some resources (free or purchased) used in different schools getting different results. The school may have their curriculum set up in such a way that it gets seriously good results. Are there any case studies of examining the tops schools and how the changes from existing curriculum models have changed through the implimentation of open source at the desktop or open source as a providing of access to learning (eg using Moodle as the VLE). These changes might range from the number of years in a key stage, the amalgamation of subjects, the move to thematic strands of learning ... basically ... changing one thing (the technology) should be examine to see what else it forces to change or whether it promotes change (ie the adoption of mobile devices to eliminate paper resources is aided by the use of a VLE).
    Last edited by GrumbleDook; 17th September 2010 at 04:00 PM. Reason: fixing quote

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post

    The curriculum is not just what is prescribed by Govt or Exam boards but the resources used to deliver it, the methods used and the styles of learning / teaching involved. Depending on how each school approaches this will define what the school gets out of it. You will see some resources (free or purchased) used in different schools getting different results. The school may have their curriculum set up in such a way that it gets seriously good results. Are there any case studies of examining the tops schools and how the changes from existing curriculum models have changed through the implimentation of open source at the desktop or open source as a providing of access to learning (eg using Moodle as the VLE). These changes might range from the number of years in a key stage, the amalgamation of subjects, the move to thematic strands of learning ... basically ... changing one thing (the technology) should be examine to see what else it forces to change or whether it promotes change (ie the adoption of mobile devices to eliminate paper resources is aided by the use of a VLE).
    I think your getting a bit off-track from your original point - your now essentially talking about "educational requirements" as how any one teacher decides to deliver the curriculum, using any tools they choose. We'll never find evidence based upon this. Anecdotally I can show that our that our GSCE and ALevel results have improved year upon year by using Moode, Google Docs etc - but the results are largely meaningless. We've certainly not dropped grades by using OSS!

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    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd View Post
    IT always changes, and some institutions deal with the change better than others. Ultimately the costs of training are pretty much going to equal each other out. eg the cost of training 200 teachers in Office 2010 vs 200 teachers in Google/OpenOffice.
    If a school has already made the change to a new version of MS Office (as an example ... they could have done training in SIMS, CMIS, Serif packages, Apple software, 2SIMPLE, etc) then it has invested in training already. The move to a new system means there may be training costs (explicit or implicit) around this. It might be that this is time for the IT Staff to learn how to develop and deploy the systems, it might be for teaching staff to get their head around systems (both OS and Apps), it might be time, courses, conferences, events to learn how to prepare the best resources or work best with the students / pupils on the systems and apps. If an investment has already been made and then has to be made again then it is *not* a cost saving ... it is either bringing the cost forward from when you might next be changing major systems / apps (2-5 years in the future?) or you should consider it as an additional training cost (what? OSS can cost more money to move to?)

    Some of this training, in some schools, might be negigable ... it could be that the staff and students truly have transferable skills and the elusive CLUE ... it might be that they are actively involved in looking at other technologies that those you provide anyway (eg Google Apps, twitter, edmodo, etc) and this is mainly done in their own time ... and that can make it hidden from you and the school. Run a survey about how much time people spend ontheir own or the school's IT kit when outside of school to try and capture this. If you do it before you plan to move to more OSS then it can help identify pioneers or early adopters, as well as identifying the training requirements of the school in general.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd View Post
    I think your getting a bit off-track from your original point - your now essentially talking about "educational requirements" as how any one teacher decides to deliver the curriculum, using any tools they choose. We'll never find evidence based upon this. Anecdotally I can show that our that our GSCE and ALevel results have improved year upon year by using Moode, Google Docs etc - but the results are largely meaningless. We've certainly not dropped grades by using OSS!
    Are you saying the choice and application of technology should not be based on educational requirements and choosing the most appropriate to get the best results? And then balancing the cost of the technology against the impact / success it has? If it is the technology should force teh curriculum to be created and delivery and consumed in a particular manner then surely we are talking about the tail wagging the dog?

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    How exactly are Elgg and Mahara administration systems?

    Mahara is a reflective E-portfolio and Elgg is a social networking tool.

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    Re like for like
    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd View Post
    Sometimes it isn't appropriate to compare feature sets. Instead it is best to come up with a set of criteria that the product should fulfil that suits the needs of the business/course. The extra features that are rarely/never used are often the difference between a free product and a 5000 product.
    I'll start by keeping this to the example I gave of DansGuardian / Becta accredited filter.

    Dansguardian is good, but it is not as good as Smoothwall. It does not have the same functionality, the same support, the same results. I could have put Fortinet or Censornet in there instead of Smoothwall but I thought I would say Smoothwall to show a very direct comparison. The updates to the categories is not a rarely used extra ... but if you are going to knock Becta accredited filters (which some folk repeatedly do by saying that you should drop the provision you get from your LA / RBC or the commercial product you use) then you are also knocking Smoothwall. It might be that you choose to use Dansguardian as you also have other software to monitor and manage internet access ... perhaps RM Tutor (hmmm .. a cost there), AB Tutuor Control (a cost there too ... albeit a smaller one) ... it might be you use something like Securus, etc ... but from talking with a number of schools to see what impact using this has they point out that it is reactive due to the time it takes to go through the logs (I have seen 2 schools who have time set aside to actively monitor and use the information to better educate the students) and they still rely on their filters catching most stuff ... their regularily updated filters.

    So if I start asking to see at least like for like then I would expect a compromise coment on there too ... Dansguardian does not have as good a filter list as Smoothwall but it is free ... OpenOffice does not integrate with the existing MIS (which the school is under contract to use perhaps or would require a change in how the school logs and deals with assessement, etc ... no simple change) but it does with a variety of other systems / apps ... all those mitigating factors needs to be teased out to help a school make a truly well-rounded evaluation.

    Then we get to things like CC3 and CC4 ... for many schools it does exactly what they need. If a school is going to look to adopt a different OS (the same applies if the school wanted to go to mac of vamilla windows) then they have to consider if the administration will increase workload of staff in anyway, whether the productivity of staff and learners would change (it might be easy to do a particular task in the OSS equivalent but if it takes 5 mins more to do so than under the commercial package then this has to be considered ... and conversely if it *saves* time then that is a benefit to be spoken about).

    So ... although you do need to consider the wider options, like for like will always be the starting point from where negotiation will take place. Unless you are talking about wholescale change of the complete ethos of teh school on technology and education and we get back to teh educational needs should be looked at first and foremost to decide on teh technology most fit for purpose (as mentioned earlier).

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    Are you saying the choice and application of technology should not be based on educational requirements and choosing the most appropriate to get the best results? And then balancing the cost of the technology against the impact / success it has? If it is the technology should force teh curriculum to be created and delivery and consumed in a particular manner then surely we are talking about the tail wagging the dog?
    What I'm saying is that every teacher is going to want to do things differently, and sometimes teachers don't get what they want because the costs are prohibitive. The logical conclusion of your argument is to completely disassemble school ICT systems and allow teachers/students to run their own equipment and software, as they did in the early days of IT. We hit upon this in another thread, the view was widely dismissed because school ICT systems have become too large for this model. The fact remains that the (national) curriculum isn't dependant on commercial software solutions and that an individual teachers 'needs' can often be fulfilled using a substantially cheaper product. Finding real empirical evidence is going to be tricky, it will be subjective.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    (snip)

    So ... although you do need to consider the wider options, like for like will always be the starting point from where negotiation will take place. Unless you are talking about wholescale change of the complete ethos of teh school on technology and education and we get back to teh educational needs should be looked at first and foremost to decide on teh technology most fit for purpose (as mentioned earlier).
    The first point of any negotiation should be the requirements of the business/course. The course specification will detail this. I don't think like-for-like really needs to come into it because you end up paying for unnecessary features. If the requirements are outlined at the beginning then it maybe that a commercial product will be the only viable option - and sometimes it may be the cheapest. It's buying a Porche vs a Ford in some instances, still a 70mph road.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd View Post
    This is always very difficult to do. It will be different for each and every school. I can easily show on paper that we are spending 40,000 maintaining our SIMS system (including Microsoft licensing, staff costs - oh and that is subsidised by the LA). It makes an 'administrative system' saving of 8000 look quite an underestimate.
    I know that it is hard to show ... and whilst I may seem harsh to say that the figures are not that clear, but I would like to see the example given for secondary broken down further into specifics ... how much for the OS, how much for CALs, how much for the office suite, how much for video / audio editing, how much for image editing, etc. We have already seen that by swapping to Windows 7 there are examples of how this can keep some hardware going a bit longer and this is before we talk about the famous (infamous) lifespan of some Apple Macs (some ... yes I know some don't have this reputation), so if I ask for more detailed comparisons it is understandable. Again .. it also comes down to what technology has been chosen by the schools previously and whether we are talking about replacing it with stuff that will deliver the same.

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    The key point that I get from the document are that budgets aren't going up, and if IT Support staff can show cost savings by reducing licensing costs whilst maintaining a service, it may just save our jobs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd View Post
    The first point of any negotiation should be the requirements of the business/course. The course specification will detail this. I don't think like-for-like really needs to come into it because you end up paying for unnecessary features. If the requirements are outlined at the beginning then it maybe that a commercial product will be the only viable option - and sometimes it may be the cheapest. It's buying a Porche vs a Ford in some instances, still a 70mph road.
    If the school has chosen to use software to deliver the requirements of the curriculum then it is likely to have been done so against the existing requirements. There will always be a comparison in these case. If nothing else that is how procurements are run. If you already have a working system that delivers and you are making no changes to your requirements then the baseline will commonly be your existing setup. That doesn't mean that you don't compromise (as I gave examples) but the simplest way of doing this is via like for like ... remembering that not all of our schools will have the time or the expertise to run a full procurement or analysis ... a like-for-like comparison is the simplest way for them to make sure they do not disadvantage themselves and their students, rush into a decision or waste more money by changing and then having to change back. (this applies not just to looking at OSS but so many other things in schools).

    App 1 has U and App 2 has V ... we need U to do X, does V cover that? Yes? Good ... No? Is it close enough or can we work around it?

    Not many schools go in for a complete product-based planning setup to break down each of their requirements and needs ... believe it or not many teachers do things a bit on the hoof ... and not always planned. Whilst I would like to see a complete needs analysis for each and every aspect of the technology needed by the school, this is often easist (not always best) done when changes occur ... a new exam comes in, a change of SLT, National Curiciulum is scrapped, etc ... but this ties in with the whole aspect of planning, change management and gettign your requirements sorted. From the paper, the only requirement I can see is that you need to save money by swapping to OSS.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd View Post
    The key point that I get from the document are that budgets aren't going up, and if IT Support staff can show cost savings by reducing licensing costs whilst maintaining a service, it may just save our jobs.
    My gripe on this statement is that we may not be maintaining a service but changing it ... and this has to be based around educational needs, not solely on cash. If you change a service without the right planning, resources, training and/or because of changes to the curriculum, and the results go down ... no matter how much money you save the school it would not save your job. I am not saying this is soley the responsibility of the IT Manager in a school (remembering we are also talking about primary schools and the various sizes and shapes they come in so may have none or lots of IT support / expertise) but this report does not do the case enough justice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Butters View Post
    How exactly are Elgg and Mahara administration systems?

    Mahara is a reflective E-portfolio and Elgg is a social networking tool.
    Both can be linked in with assessment and monitoring, 2 key factors in administration and management of student information (eg progress, etc). Not exactly where I would stick them in teh grand scheme as they do overlap with the learning platform aspect of the model.

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    I want to scream.

    There's plenty of unobjectionable stuff in there, but it's the bible quoting, the blithely ignored (inconvenient?) real costs, the hey they have a fifth of the computers compared to Secondary so lets just divide the numbers by five to get the Primary number!!!!!, and most of all the extrapolation to the entire UK. I wouldn't have minded at all but for the latter, could just dismiss it as some opaque local experiment from the wrong side of the Pennines, but if you asked me about it in real-life you'd get to hear some colourful expletives.

    On my apparently very different planet, like most change, it would immediately incur additional cost not save 25% and it's very debatable how long it might take to recover those costs, assuming you ever do.

    Point this stuff at typical Primarys, yes Primarys those SHAMEFULLY overlooked schools that do exist and do have their very own non-trivial requirements, that are as much a part of this austerity deal as any others here, and I reckon it would be a disaster. The most pragmatic game in their town right now is about NOT changing .. can you get another year or two's warranty for that single server and thus carry on with the entire stable/settled/understood system.. do you really need to upgrade some app to the latest version with a trivially rearranged GUI and bunch of new bugs.. can you still get XP drivers for the couple of dead boxes you will have to replace, or the one that won't run a realistic Linux any better than XP (has Linux been confused with a 1995 version, NanoBSD or something?)

    PS: Is there something wrong with Office Live that's right about Google Docs?
    Last edited by PiqueABoo; 17th September 2010 at 10:40 PM.

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    To my mind, the move towards open source is more or less inevitable. I get around lots of schools in my job and I'm sensing an increasing dissatisfaction and frustration with the status quo. The stranglehold that a few major MIS providers have on the market is stifling innovation and inflating prices. Sooner or later someone is going to come up with a low cost, effective MIS with an OS API bundled with it. One of the biggest frustrations I come across is the inability of staff in school to interrogate their own MIS data because the provider does not permit access to the db. An open API would allow small providers, and indeed schools themselves, to construct a whole new range of bespoke tools for attendance, APP, behaviour or whatever. The effect of this would be to a) stimulate innovation b) reduce prices and c) improve the quality and effectiveness of software. I know there are OS MIS systems available at the moment, but really they don't come close to providing the functionality schools need.

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