Open Source in Education
The very limited use of FOSS in the UK’s education sector has long been a source of much puzzlement and even anger – from this side of the IT divide at least.
In the last year or so we have, happily, seen a rise in the background noise level, and more recently with BECTA’s activities and the award of the approved supplier status to Sirius IT as signs that things are finally changing.
Open Source Schools is an initiative to inform schools about Open Source Software (OSS). A number of schools are already realising the benefits of OSS within their ICT strategy. This project will work to share their experiences with the wider community of educational practitioners.
The project will support a community of practice that engages those who are currently using OSS and welcomes and supports new members. Our aim is to create an educationally focused project driven by the needs of the community – giving them the means to become confident users of OSS.
A great idea Ian and I hope it gets wide publicity. It was a very timely post considering a couple of conversations I had yesterday at the Woking Business Expo where we were exhibiting…
The first discussion was with a parent and school Governor who has really started to understand FOSS and the benefits it brings from several meetings we have had with him over the last few months on a more professional basis. He dropped by yesterday to say hi and was very keen to introduce the concepts and ideals of FOSS into his school and LEA. We will help him in this as much as possible. Dave, let’s arrange that beer!
The second, and far more worrying conversation, just shows what a total travesty it is that we continue to teach our children not how to use a computer as a tool, but instead teach our kids how to open and create a Microsoft Word or Excel document. Another visitor to our stand (and parent) was discussing the experience of a colleague whose child came home from school with some homework only to find he couldn’t open the files on his home PC as they were created in Office 2007! The family couldn’t afford to buy it – and why the hell should they frankly? This was obviously very distressing for the family and child concerned.
Our our schools now a sales channel for Microsoft I wonder?
The result of this kind of upgrade-treadmill that MS would love us all to live on permanently, is to create a two-tier system of education for our children: those whose parents can afford to buy expensive commercial software and those who cant.
The UK Government, even more so now they have just spanked £500bn propping up the banking system, must start to act and reduce the outrageous and completely wasteful expenditure on proprietary software. Why oh why don’t we just do a nation-wide roll out of OpenOffice.org to EVERY computer in the public sector and especially in Education? It would be a good start, and then we can get rid of that festering boil called Windows later.
- No more extortionate upgrade costs,
- no more public documents created in binary, patent encumbered formats,
- an end to the single vendor lock-in and monopoly,
- no more two-tier children…
We can always dream I guess.