An Open Letter to the Ubuntu-au Members

dave kempe dave at
Fri May 5 22:34:15 BST 2006

Steven Tucker wrote:
> Come on, really. If it fails at this most basic level, why is this 
> discussion even an issue?

I agree entirely.

> Who wants to help??

me. lets do it. actions speak louder than words.

I am impressed as to your energy, and I see it as great testimony as to 
the inspiration great Free Software like Ubuntu can create.

As to your actual problem, there is no better answer, but to get started:

Some things I would hope to highlight when talking about Ubuntu to 
schools: (the first few things might apply to many Linuxes)
1) Its Free. Totally. This might seem obvious, but is still a hard 
concept for the average consumer to grasp. At your average school, 
parents and teachers will have a very joe public understanding of the 
wonders of Free Software. Its important to emphasise the Freedom.

2) Its Open. You can't beat this from and educational standpoint. 
Imagine the students getting to the point of looking under the hood? 
What do they find, but more freedom! Open Source means an education is 
but a download away.

3) The range of software available under the above terms is simply 
massive, and constantly growing. Reference Freshmeat, etc. There are 
also specialist education sites and other specialist tools. (others 
might chime in with some links etc)

Now onto Ubuntu in particular:
4) High polished desktop distro, with the legacy of Debian to back it 
up. You will need to give some history of where Ubuntu came from and why 
Mark created it. I also like to tell something about Mark - hes a 
character that is interesting, and thats important to get them remembering.

5) Ubuntu has a whole fork Edubuntu, just for the education sector. Its 
great, got features for school principals down to kindergarten. Did I 
mention it didn't cost anything? Also reference SchoolTool and Moodle 
(you might need to look these up)

6) Ubuntu has great free support. Check out the activity on the forums 
and the wiki. These are two other open mediums, where there is a real 
path forward for schools to get help, and also to contribute and 
colloborate. Many schools feel alone with their computers, and often the 
teachers lack direction from the curriculum as to what to do with them. 
Ubuntu also has great paid for support if they are desperate, but I 
would suggest they can get away without it, and make sure you emphasise 
that millions of people and organisations manage without paying a cent 
for anything (licenses or support). You can point them at the Ubuntu 
marketplace or OSIA for paid support if they need it.

7) Ubuntu is great from the server room to the desktop. I always try 
convert the server room first. Its easier and I am more comfortable 
there. Then start the desktop in a 'pilot' deployment, maybe in the 
library, then establish a crude way to measure the success of the pilot, 
then convince the powers that be for a phased deployment. (thats the 
briefest plan i have ever seen, but you get the idea) Samba with ldap 
and LAM or phpldapadmin gives teachers control over basic administration 
tasks. phpldapadmin can be fairly easily coaxed into providing email 
addresses and other stuff on account creation.

8) You will find that most schools have a few technical people, maybe 
teachers or parents, who have at least a basic level of technical 
understanding and skill. Its important to identify these people early. 
They are often 'stakeholders' in the decision making process, so 
converting these people to your point of view, firstly and seperatly 
might be a better way to go. Give em cds to try out, and special 
attention, probably before you even try talk to a more general 
population. Its also important to identify other stakeholders in 
decisions. I have found they lurk in the most unusual places. You need 
to identify them subtly and figure out what it is they need. An example 
might be the school receptionist, who is friends with the principal. 
They may be a stakeholder because of their influence, and their motive 
may be that they had to organise 200 sausage sizzle to pay for the 
computers and licenses, and they'll be damned it anyone else has any 
control over them. This area is going to be the hardest to conquer I 
reckon. Once you win all the stakeholders, a decision is natural, 
everyone thinks the whole thing was their idea, and it all just falls 
into place. never mind about the dept of education, or the nsw govt, 
they are often too far away from the local politics even in Sydney 
schools to be involved. Although in NSW schools at least there is a 
regional computer coordinator who may be involved, depending on the person.

Well thats 8 things to help you out. I am sure others can contribute the 
other few points you need for 10things to know when converting a school 
to Ubuntu :)



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