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2008 Feb 13 13:22

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[vox] [fwd] Re: [school-discuss] License Flipping
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[vox] [fwd] Re: [school-discuss] License Flipping

Some thoughts 'from the trenches' on moving open source software into schools
when people are worried about still being able to use their Windows
applications.  (To sum it up: rather than try to find Linux alternatives,
or run Windows simulators, simply move to web-based apps, which are more
reliable and accessible _to being with_, then Linux as the desktop OS can't
really be argued against, since web apps (usually) don't care what OS their
browser is running on.)


----- Forwarded message from Daniel Howard -----

Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2008 09:52:10 -0500
From: Daniel Howard
Subject: Re: [school-discuss] License Flipping

knowtree[...] wrote:
>I suggest we look around and identify as many of these sacred cows as
>possible, and pool the results here. Then we can all contribute ideas for
>alternative FOSS solutions.

A keystone of our success strategy at Brandon Elementary and thence 
Atlanta Public Schools was the movement towards web-based delivery of 
educational applications, which means schools can still spend money on 
applications (as they seem to prefer...), but by being web-based, the 
apps are more reliable (as long as the Internet feed is reliable and 
adequate), and more importantly can be extended to the home.  Two great 
examples we used was Accelerated Reader and First-In-Math: by switching 
to Web delivery of these educational applications, the requirement for a 
Windows OS was removed, and that was critical to making the transition 
in school.  By extending them to the home (although we did decide later 
to disallow Accel. Reader from home, too many parents were helping the 
students take the reading tests...), we had kids spending a lot more 
time doing enjoyable math and reading activities, and saw our academic 
performance go up as a result.

Given the entrenchment, I'd therefore recommend looking initially for 
web-based alternatives to the sacred cows than can be delivered to any 
OS or web browser, making sure that FOSS browsers work well with them. 
That takes the discussion away from "we want to replace all the software 
in which you invested" to "here's a better way to deliver those apps for 
the long run, that extends them into the home, puts them on any computer 
w/o having to install software over and over, and gets teachers away 
from using CD ROMs that tend not to be very reliable in classroom 
settings.  Then, as we found at Brandon, you can argue that everything 
you want to do currently can still be done in FOSS, only more reliably 
and cheaper over time.

Another school district here in the Atlanta area considered moving to 
Linux thin clients after watching APS, but initially doomed the 
adventure because some folks insisted that every Windows app they 
currently use must also be supported.  Later, I gave their senior 
leadership in IT and in Instruction a briefing on how to make the 
change, and one of my bullet points on a final slide on "How to kill a 
pilot effort" was to insist that all current Windows apps be supported. 
 Rather I argued, moving to web-based apps would free them to choose 
any OS (Linux, MAC, or Windows) as the preferred OS in the future, 
wherever the industry went.  That notion apparently sunk in, as they're 
doing a pilot of Linux thin clients as we speak.

Small, enabling steps are my two-cents recommendation.

Best, Daniel

Daniel Howard
President and CEO
Georgia Open Source Education Foundation

----- End forwarded message -----

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