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[Fsfe-uk] RE: Call for education help

From: Chris Puttick
Subject: [Fsfe-uk] RE: Call for education help
Date: Wed, 24 Apr 2002 10:19:41 +0100

I was more hoping for someone to write some articles - part of the education Linux branding process.

However, BECTa have changed their tune, and have postive open source commentary: see http://www.becta.org.uk/technology/infosheets/index.html under open source, and try a search for Linux. The govt have also made positive noises regarding open source, commissioning a report from QinetiQ on the subject, which made the positive recommendation to fund open source pilot projects in the areas of education and health. (I've been trying for official funding in the former for some time)

It is still possible to undertake a computer studies GCSE, which involves programming and such, but very few schools offer it as it requires a technically knowledgeable staff member to run it successfully. The press think maths and science teachers are hard to find...

I would argue strongly against making a schools distro. The shiny packaging of the big distros, and the nominal price tag associated with them is *much* more persuasive than a CD in jewel case that costs less. The big distros also carry the branding with them. In SuSE's case, the recent partnership with IBM will make it even easier to place them into schools.

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Smedley
To: Chris Puttick
Cc: 'address@hidden '
Sent: 23/04/2002 17:23
Subject: Call for education help [was Re:Fwd: [Fsfe-uk] Hello]]

> 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
> 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
> 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
> of connectivity, or dire connnectivity. And hence their addiction to
> brand names.
> And that leads me to a solution... Make Open Source and Linux a big
> 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
> 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
> 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
> let the more technically able have a go with alternatives. But to
> 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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