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Call for education help [was Re:Fwd: [Fsfe-uk] Hello]]

From: Richard Smedley
Subject: Call for education help [was Re:Fwd: [Fsfe-uk] Hello]]
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2002 17:23:05 +0100

> Chris Puttick wrote:

> From the outside, with no commercial interest, no connection with the
> school? Very difficult. Positive articles published in TES and the
> Guardian equivalent, access to approved training, persuading the DfES,
> helping BECTa to understand the benefits; all these would be useful.

Do you (or anyone on this list) have the names 
of the journalists who have published these
Links to online copies?

Has anyone been in contact with Becta since they
were told that they couldn't "promote open source"
and Malcolm Herbert left them to join Red Hat?

Does anyone know anything about the DfES (or whatever
they're calling themselves nowadays)?

> But... (and there's always a but) the ones who've adopted the common
> attitude of using senior teachers to manage their IT (normally using the
> term ICT, thanks to DfES), you'll have problem.

I presume ICT here means teaching Excel and MS Word :-(
When I did computer studies at school (20plus years ago)
they actually taught us how a computer worked and how
to program - a bit difficult now that you can't see the
source code for most of the apps that schools use.

In the 1980's the uk gov paid for the development of free
(as in gratis) software for schools on the BBC model B.
This could perhaps be used for an example of precedence.

> Similar situation in industry a few years back, where the IT
> Manager/Director was a manager before they became IT, and the only
> abbreviation they knew and understood was CYA and any big brand name was
> automatically a good solution (quote "no one was ever fired for buying
> <insert big brand name here>"), or at worst a defensible solution.

So we make it "no one was ever fired for buying Linux" ;-)

> Schools in the UK are a few steps behind industry, hence the common lack
> of connectivity, or dire connnectivity. And hence their addiction to big
> brand names.
> And that leads me to a solution... Make Open Source and Linux a big brand
> name. I understand strictly we're talking about Free Software and
> GNU/Linux, but at risk of flames, keeping it simple and understandable
> will get the cause a lot further.

The Free/Open debate has featured here (and elsewhere) a 
number of times, with always the same conclusion:
Open has become such a bastardised term (applied to 
everything from GNU to WindowsCE), with no guarantee
of freedom, that it is far easier to speak of Free - 
and to then just take a moment at the outset to explain
that "we speak about freedom" and give a couple of
appropriate examples of the advantages of that
freedom (not that difficult for education ;0)

> And try to avoid the free word without
> explaining who it has cost. Give them small things that work well first
> e.g. we have a remote shutdown utility for Windows 9x/NT and a program

Interesting example. The control that LTSP can
give a busy admin makes it quite the "killer app."

> that dynamically changes the Win desktop settings (9x/NT/2k) to improve
> access for visually impaired children.

What sort of legislation is there in this country to
make computers accessible to all pupils? GNOME2 has
an extremely good accessibility toolkit - and of course
would save schools a lot of money over third-party
proprietary accessibility apps/tools on top of
MS Windows.

> StarOffice implementation makes moving to Linux easier. Dual boot setups
> let the more technically able have a go with alternatives. But to persuade
> them, branding will be everything.

It would be relatively trivial to make a schools
GNU/Linux distro (2 years ago ICDC only asked for
10,000 GBP from becta to pilot this). Something 
along the lines of the debian-based "Linex" used in

A follow on release with a Hurd "kernel" would
be a great teaching tool 8-)

- Richard


Richard Smedley
Production Editor, Linux Format

Telephone +44 (0) 1225 442244 ext 5038

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