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MIS Systems Thread, Open Source software in UK schools in Technical; Because you say so... Absolutely. It might not be perfect but being quaint & old-fashioned, if I don't have a ...
  1. #61

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    Because you say so...
    Absolutely. It might not be perfect but being quaint & old-fashioned, if I don't have a very serious clue about something I don't speak in an authoritative manner, plus like some others of my era I suspect I know much more about this and those few bits of software you just mentioned than you might suspect. Whatever, consider what you've just done:

    Me: DG != ISA + [commercial category filtering]

    You: DG + blocklist subscription + clueful time ( I suspect is underestimated) = ISA + [commercial category filtering]

    That's a rebuttal? People who are trying to get this right are supposed to ignore that bit I just highlighted? One way or another the "blocklist subscription + clueful time" you have just inserted **costs money**. So how much and even with those additions are you really sure about your equation? [Doesn't work for me]

    Look, I'm perfectly happy to agree that given someone clueful with thumb-twiddling time that some org is paying for anyway, you can arrive at a reasonable filtering solution (whether it's a politically acceptable level/type of filtering is another ball-game - category DBs give you whitelists, blocklists miss stuff). What I don't see is a large proportion of sufficiently clueful techs in secondary schools, and in the primary model that I see cluefulness is a moot point because the techs don't have any time (schools can't afford to pay for it => use some RBC/LA default filter level).

    I think dansguardian is a credible option, esp for large scale RBC implementations.
    I do recall someone or other touting it around for that kind of purpose several years ago, so did it end up anywhere? Did it work? Did they have to bolt on anything that cost significant money like a category database for instance?
    Last edited by PiqueABoo; 24th September 2010 at 09:06 PM. Reason: white v. black lists

  2. #62

    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Dansguardian is indeed a credible option in a large scale operation as *part* of the solution, but will end up having some code being worked on, will have a custom UI instead of being CLI, will make use of subscribed blocklists, will have defined categories to make administration simple and useful (even people who know what they are doing like to use point and click ... it is called being efficient), will have a team to be able to provide support on both the software and the blocklists ...

    In fact you could point to Y&HGfL as an example (as Gary now has done) ... but that is strangely just like a bigger version of smoothwall ... still has costs associated with it and is not just a case of downloading DansGuardian, adding in an unchecked blacklist and then hoping for the best, based around any changes having to be done by the technical person (remembering that not everyone has immediate access to someone for that).

    So ... is Dansguardian an alternative to a Becta Accredited Filtering Service / solution? Still not, I am afraid.

  3. #63

    GREED's Avatar
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    An interesting read (and yes, shameful promoting!!!), and I know at least 3 schools now (all headed by ex colleagues or friends, in the IT dept certainly!) who in the main are using open source as their base of thinking, not just Open Office or the likes, but considering expanding into MIS and VLE.

  4. #64
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    [JOKE] We could just setup limited Whitelists and say tough [/JOKE]



    Wes

  5. #65
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    This thread is full of nonsense.

    Even outside of education, training is constantly cited as one of the main reasons why people don't move to new IT infrastructure. However, given the right support and a little extra time, it's amazing how quickly people can adapt to new systems, new layouts, new ideas and learn new things. It's good for the brain too, you know . Where there's a will there's a way (here that's saving money and often using better software) and I'd like to think a user, especially the 21st century teacher, is more adaptable than the image this thread seems to present. It seems to me that the enthusiasm some teachers have for teaching does a complete U-turn when they get in front of a computer.

    If teachers truly are coming out with lines like - "this is what I use and I'm not using anything else until I get proper 'training'" that says more about the work culture in general rather than anything software related per se. What happened to being exited about learning new things, expanding your mind with other viewpoints and in this case seeing over the hill beyond the Microsoft Office's of this world. Isn't that, after all, what teachers do on a daily basis in the classroom with their pupils? So why can't they apply the same logic to themselves.

    I believe most of the problem is the 'training mentality'. In other words, a complete lack of common sense. People want to be shown where to click rather than find out for themselves (and feel better for it). Microsoft products are like junk food. They're easy to eat and they taste good most of the time. But deep down you know it's bad for you and there's healthier, leaner and more nutritious food out there! Anyone working in IT today that doesn't at least partially agree is small minded and probably out to protect their own interests, financial or otherwise.

    I'm talking wider than just schools here. At the place where I previously worked, a large department store chain, we had a move from Windows Server 2003 to Linux on some front end till points. What happened? Well, the low level sales staff picked the new interface up fine and within a few weeks they had forgotten what the old one looked like. The managers? They demanded 'training'. And put endless barriers up to wider adoption, citing things like the colours of taskbars and slightly different device terminology. The board loved it. They saved thousands (tens of) and had a better performing system to boot. After six months the quarrels died down, once the managers realised things weren't going to go back to the safe and cosy system they new before.

    For schools, this must mean a top down approach. Even Churchill said democracy is the worst form of government. If a school is serious about saving money, get the hachetman in, bring in the new system with minimal training and let everyone get on with it. Sure, they'll be teething problems, and some staff will hate it, but after 6-12 months the only thing the school will be caring about is their new found 10,20 or 50k. The ones that still can't adapt to minor interface and workflow changes spend more time on, but the vast majority should help each other out and just get on with things. In the department store example, there were 3 groups of managers. Ones that liked it and were willing to give new ideas a go, ones that didn't particularly care what software they used, moaned a little, then got on with it, and those that were militant and aggressive about change. If you have those sort of people in an organisation I suggest their personalities have wider consequences than just the IT system. With a school, it's not the curriculum that needs to change, it's the NIMBY mentality of staff. ICT is ALWAYS changing.

    You only need to do a quick google to find case studies where FUD has been overcome, only for people to come out the other side and say 'well what was all the fuss about'.

    I'm not going to dig up the DansGuardian debate again, all I'll say is with the right sysadmin DansGuardian is perfectly capable. 'Becta Approved' makes me laugh because all that means is a piece of software has some bureaucratic rubber stamp - given, if I'm not mistaken, to the companies with the largest turnovers.

    Most open source software providers would be jumping over the moon to get a like for like discussion. The point is they never get that far. They're discredited at the first hurdle and the deck is stacked against them. MIS, VLE, filtering, office software, vnc, web browsers, network management, you name it - all the providers of open source software in these areas would leap at the chance to go toe to toe with their counterpart. Gary's paper did leave out a like for like discussion but I don't think that was the place for it. He's making the point there are alternatives, so just have a little peek at them. What we need now is a detailed in-depth like for like comparison of a school wide IT implementation, encompassing absolutely everything. I'd certainly like to participate in that. Any volunteers?

    There's one last point I'd like to make - the GPL under which most open source software is released is not intended to sent software developers cap in hand to the dole office. Making money, building a business and open source aren't mutually exclusive, it's just the philosophies that differ. Open source says "here, have a look at this, see what you think. If you like it, pay us a bit for it, or we'll modify it to do what you want". It's the philosophy that other people are quite knowledgeable too, and might offer some sage advice. Community spirit and all that. The idea that try before you buy makes everyone happier. You don't have to be a card carrying Communist to see the idea behind it (although it probably helps!). I find it funny when people say (and I've seen it on this forum too, you know who you are ): "Well, it's not all free is it?". That is ludicrous - as if the developer was in the wrong for releasing 90% of his hard work for free then charging for the remaining 10% and his expertise around the 90%. You wouldn't kick a free cars tyres, just because the windows were a bit dirty, would you? I think most of us would be pretty grateful that with a good polish up they had a shiny new car. There is no other sector where actually giving away stuff for the benefit of the community can come under such criticism. Give the developers a break, jees.


    Oh and one last thing - another one of the gripes about OSS is the 'total cost of ownership' or the 'total cost of implementation'. You'd think after reading half of the (biased) TCO studies around that it costs more to heat a server room powered by Linux than it does with Windows. So much dross and rubbish about. At first it's funny, but then it's just painful! Simply, put - the electricity bill isn't going to change but your going to wipe out the cost of licenses. All of them for every single piece of software, assuming a complete changeover is made of course. If something needs fixing, or modifying, a quick email to the developers might fix that. They're pretty friendly people. And you can be pretty sure your support call isn't going to be hanging around for weeks on end (Microsoft, SIMS anyone?). Finally, system administrators familiar with an open source or linux implementation are far more likely to have other skills they bring to the table than MS admins. All the smart guys branch out. Plus when you get it up and running, it needs less maintenance anyway because it won't fall over. You get 100% uptime because you don't have to restart servers when you install software. Simple stuff really. There's a reason why MS discount educational products. And it's not because they're nice.

    In short, proprietary software that encourages lock in and closed standards dictates a bleak future for the software industry. Here is an interesting old article that lays out the problem of closed standards and gives a few (very good) examples. ->> When is a standard not a standard?.

    There, rant over
    Last edited by scholarpack; 4th October 2010 at 11:59 PM.

  6. #66

    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    Not sure I can agree with half of what's being said here because people keep conveniently forgetting about the most important part of schools - the kids. It's all very well citing training or lackthereof for manglement and teachers, but the "just get used to it" attitudes don't just affect those. It affects those they are trying to teach. Put yourself in the place of a student in one of these situations, either primary or secondary, sit behind your desk and look up at the whiteboard as your teacher fumbles around with unfamiliar software, clearly not sure where he or she is going. The teacher may be mumbling obscenities under their breath, they may get where they want to go via intuition but all in the meantime you're sitting there thinking "He/she hasn't got a clue what he/she is talking about - time to switch off and draw moustaches on the sperms on page 43.."
    There needs to be a consistency, handover periods, direct comparisons, bedding in time. Especially mid-curriculum when kids have been using Access for the last 3 years then suddenly have to use Base for the last 2.

    Attitudes need to turn around as far as I can see. Stop putting the teachers first, because that's where the students should be.



    PS: For "kids" replace with pupils or students, I work in Primaries

  7. 2 Thanks to synaesthesia:

    GrumbleDook (5th October 2010), pcstru (5th October 2010)

  8. #67

    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scholarpack View Post
    For schools, this must mean a top down approach. Even Churchill said democracy is the worst form of government. If a school is serious about saving money, get the hachetman in, bring in the new system with minimal training and let everyone get on with it. Sure, they'll be teething problems, and some staff will hate it, but after 6-12 months the only thing the school will be caring about is their new found 10,20 or 50k. The ones that still can't adapt to minor interface and workflow changes spend more time on, but the vast majority should help each other out and just get on with things. In the department store example, there were 3 groups of managers. Ones that liked it and were willing to give new ideas a go, ones that didn't particularly care what software they used, moaned a little, then got on with it, and those that were militant and aggressive about change. If you have those sort of people in an organisation I suggest their personalities have wider consequences than just the IT system. With a school, it's not the curriculum that needs to change, it's the NIMBY mentality of staff. ICT is ALWAYS changing
    Part of me wants to clap my hands together ... in laughter at the naivety of the above. I will savour the above and point it out to show how schools get into serious problems for failing to plan, resulting in giving the pupils / students a poor deal.

    The request for training does not equal FUD. It is based on recognising that without it there is a very high risk of any change failing to have the desired effect. This is not just for IT but for pretty much every change. I work with the innovators out there. Even the most prolific and independently-minded educational technologist (eg John Davitt, Joe Dale, Tim Rylands, etc) recognise the need for training with change. I fully accept that training needs to be appropriate to the circumstance and the needs ... but 'managers' tend to have a wider view of things so when they are saying we need training it is frequently because there are other things they are trying to do at the same time. In the retail industry the move to different till systems usually has the training to include customer service training, testing of processes for moving money around the shop floor to the finance office (whether it is via box or via air tubes), it can be part of a manger's appraisal of staff ... so it is not always a closed-minded view on 'IT is everything'.

    A common failing of IT change in schools is the lack of training for teachers, leading to them struggling to use the technology to teach with or to help students use the technology to learn. This is from real-world examples and studies. Education is not the only sector where this happens, the failure to plan, but because of the rate of change in IT/ICT then you can find it quite easily where it goes wrong. there are many. many threads in EG about it if you take the time to look. In fact the whole industry recognised a while ago the need to plan properly ... otherwise things like PRINCE (and then PRINCE2) and ITIL would not have appeared. So ... tell me ... is training really FUD or are you not looking at the whole problem?

    And I am quite willing to give you a chance to explain yourself about 'curriculum not needing to change' since many open source folk would disagree with you there too.

  9. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post

    A common failing of IT change in schools is the lack of training for teachers, leading to them struggling to use the technology ...
    We always provide on-site training as part of the package with our product. The reason is that people (teachers, managers, techies) WILL NOT read the manual. Teachers, in particular (and I was one myself) need to be shown 'this is how it works and this is what it does and this is how you can best use in the classroom'. I also make a point of doing follow-up visits whenever I can, as I often find schools are either not using our product effectively or are not using key tools. The most common comment being, "Oh, I didn't know it did that". Really? Well RTFM!
    So while I agree very much with a lot of what Scholarpack is saying, I think Tony's point is very important.

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  11. #69
    scholarpack's Avatar
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    Grumbledook - I'm not saying training needs to be discounted, I'm saying the need for training is overstated on a regular basis. Manager's might have a wider view of things, they're also the ones with most power to lose when they release they have to adapt and change or be left behind. Of course training is important, no would disagree with that. But why not make the change, plan for a period of 4 weeks on and off intensive training (say 3 hours a week for most, more for teachers using the system more like IT/business) and just do it, making sure the support is there during the teething period. The cost benefits might not materialise in year 1, but after that....

    Failing to plan is planning to fail of course, but planning too much is just as bad. I'm sure PRINCE2 has it's place, it's just that all the PRINCE2 practicioners I've met have been obsessed with following correct procedural methods that they learnt in their textbooks. Passing a 3 hour open book exam doesn't make you a great project manager. I'd much rather listen to someone who instead of ITIL or PRINCE2 has CBS (common bloody sense). I've had the idea of offering some financial incentive based on the reduced costs of moving to an open source system. I'm pretty sure most staff would be more willing to give new things a try with a £300 bonus in their pay packet.

    Quote Originally Posted by grumbledook
    So ... tell me ... is training really FUD or are you not looking at the whole problem?
    Training isn't FUD. Citing training as a major barrier to adoption of new, cheaper and better IT systems is FUD.

    Quote Originally Posted by grumbledook
    And I am quite willing to give you a chance to explain yourself about 'curriculum not needing to change' since many open source folk would disagree with you there too.
    Why would a curriculum need huge change? The curriculum is laid down by the government and is a loose framework for study, not some shackles which say you must use X and Y application. The in-school methods of teaching might need to change a bit, but that goes with the training doesn't it. Also, some lessons rarely use IT anyway. I would suggest only 5 or 6 subjects would need medium adjustments to their programmes. What do the English department care what type of word processor they are using? Are you saying MS Office to Open Office requires a change in the curriculum? Sorry, I don't think so.

    You didn't say anything about my points regarding like for like comparison and TCO so I'll assume you agree with me there

  12. #70

    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scholarpack View Post
    You didn't say anything about my points regarding like for like comparison and TCO so I'll assume you agree with me there
    No ... still don't agree with most of that, but I do have work to do and I am also aware that a lengthier response takes time to structure without getting to wordy.

    Let's just say that there are many, many flaws in your points, ranging from swapping one set of shackles for another when it comes to allowing staff to be innovative (innovation often being a selling point for Open Source) through to the view that the accredited filtering is a rubber stamping exercise.

    I know this is going to sound a tad like a personal attack (it is not ... it is aimed at a number of folk who have had similar views on the lack of requirement for changing or seem to struggle with the idea of planning) but do you really understand what it is like in a basic, satisfactory grade school at primary and secondary level and the difficulties you hit when trying to work on whole school changes? Even in Good and Outstanding schools you hit brick walls ... and it is good to see *someone* over at Open Source Schools starting to look at how to strategically plan some, partial or complete migration to FOSS, including looking at the school requirements first rather than the tail wagging the dog.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    As for the comments here (and on my blog) about managers wanting to retain power ... I am glad you realise there is politics involved here. I'm happy to sit and talk about power struggles quite openly instead of trying to hide it behind some mouthy ethos that can miss some damn good bits of work. Most of the move to FOSS is a power struggle ... even Gary et al admit that. It is funny to see attacks on LAs and Managers though ... when the original report in question was written by a group of them which want to take the power and do something different with it ... but let's be open and say it is about power and politics.

    If that control is going to be handed over to schools from LAs and Central Govt, or within schools handed from SLT to individual teachers (as they both can and should be) then there is not a problem with that as long as it is done openly and with the target of making education better. Happy to do that and happy to support schools doing it.

    As for Prince2 and CBS ... been operating on CBS for some time now and it was actually fun to do the open book exam. I am happy to hold my hands up and say that CBS works most of the time ... but you will often find things a few years later (or a few months in some cases) which have been missed, the wheel getting re-invinted, etc. You also have to remember that those procedure-loving drones are sometimes only doing a job which has to be done because of previous mistakes when CBS hasn't worked. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could lose some of those procedures ... like being notified when a student or member of staff is about to join the school and needs things like user accounts, email access, laptop, etc ... oh, didn't we have a thread about that recently?

  14. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    No ... still don't agree with most of that, but I do have work to do and I am also aware that a lengthier response takes time to structure without getting to wordy.
    Should have guessed :/ I'm all for an open discussion about power struggles and politics, like for like comparisons, what have you...but I'm going to dig out the case study of a full OSS implementation in a local school now, maybe that will explain some of my points better ..

  15. #73

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    I'm saying the need for training is overstated on a regular basis.
    That would be me. It's what tends to happen in response to people ignoring it completely when making up numbers. I was working on the principle that if you shout about it loudly enough maybe, just maybe it will get through. Similarly for maintenance/manglement costs. Similarly for how you get all these (presumably) linux experts into the shoes of windows folk. Oh and completely ignoring (or worse making ignorant surreal guesses) about over 80% of the school systems in this country doesn't do anyone any favours whatsoever.

    I've refined Satre: Hell[tm] is other people for a pragmatist in this debate anywhere.

  16. #74

    webman's Avatar
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    Interesting article - Linux in Schools:

    Linux in Schools : Greg Laden's Blog

  17. #75
    scholarpack's Avatar
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    Pique - Sorry long day, I don't understand what you are saying and I've read it three times. 80% ? Which numbers did I make up?

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