Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Monday, January 28, 2008

We're in for a hard time

Economic oversteering is the latest Mark Shuttleworth post. He does a great job of explaining the current economic climate and it is clear that the next few years are going to be painful. This is a time of finding ways to improve productivity and reduce expenditure.

With the issues around Vista (instability and resource requirements) and Office 2007 (interoperability) there are many saying that the effort to roll out these products is not worth it. Pain without gain. In this article "Windows Vista, Office 2007 Expelled From British Schools" they report
The agency said U.K. schools can consider using Vista or Office 2007 software only when they are buying new batches of PCs. Even then, however, they're advised to take a long looked at alternatives based on Linux and other open source products, such as the OpenOffice.org desktop package.
Makes sense.

At the end of 2006 the following report was published, commissioned by the EU as I understand it. Study on the: Economic impact of open source software on innovation and the competitiveness of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector in the EU

It is 287 pages long. The main recommendation relating to education is found on page 216.
9.5.5. Education: avoid lifetime vendor lock-in for students
The reason it seems desirable to promote the use of FLOSS in education (ICT education and more generally all educational activities that have a bearing on the cultural relationship with information technology) is threefold:

1. It is obviously likely to have a strong impact on the future usage of FLOSS products and the build-up of the related skills.

2. It builds up essential ICT skills rather than the knowledge of specific applications from specific vendors (leading to the current locked-in-for-life situation, where vendor lock-in applies not only to organisations but to individuals who have typically not chosen their software but been provided it for free by schools).

3. It is likely to install an attitude towards information technology that favours the ability to create and actively participate rather than just consume – i.e. the scenarios under which FLOSS is most likely to deliver a strong positive economic and societal impact, by encouraging collaborative prosumer usage and a reflexive attitude on usage and the technology that supports it.
There are some specific references to productivity gains here. "It is likely to install an attitude towards information technology that favours the ability to create and actively participate rather than just consume" is clearly one of those. The technology on its own will not do this IMHO but we are talking about a creative attitude, a thinking process of can do and how can we make this work. Is it my hobby horse of hacker thinking?

There are short term and long term economic advantages. The short term is that schools spend less on software. As the students use this software and leave school, the long term advantages are seen in businesses around the country.

So there we have it. Economic and productivity improvements possible for Australian Schools - doing our bit to reduce the hard time ahead.

All the best for Linux.conf.au starting today in Melbourne. I am sure that the Education Mini.conf happening today will be talking about openness in education not only in terms of software but more broadly in terms of content and collaboration.

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