[ubuntu-uk] EDM179

James Tait james.tait at wyrddreams.org
Fri Dec 29 12:16:29 GMT 2006

Hi All,

There's been quite a lot of discussion about this while I've been away
over the Xmas period, and since I've been so vocal on the subject in the
past (I'm like a dog with a bone!) I'd like to offer my tuppence worth
on the subject.

Beginning with the article from Computer Active, I agree that it starts
off sounding very positive before trundling off into the
already-discussed Becta press statement, but I'll believe it when I see
it.  It's no secret that this country has a pretty appalling record when
it comes to Government-led IT projects and I wouldn't expect a wholesale
switch to FLOSS in education to be any different.  If it does go ahead,
we can only hope that we are able to help make it a raging success, or
risk tarnishing the image of our community terribly.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see Government policy change to make
FLOSS the preferred solution except where not reasonably practical.  I
just think that with the history of Government IT cock-ups, this might
just become another one, and FLOSS could end up being a very useful

Jonathan Lees wrote:
> I'm an IT manager at a secondary grammar school, I use Ubuntu at work
>  for a DHCP/NTP/Proxy/Filter server and at home for other activities.
>  Our Desktops at school are XP Pro, they have various bits of Open 
> source software such as Firefox, Audacity, The Gimp, OO, 7zip & NVU.

Personally, I think this is a good start.  As the saying goes, Rome
wasn't built in a day, so exposing people to FLOSS in an evironment in
which they're familiar allows them to build confidence in, and raise
awareness of the software.  Once that confidence is established, the
software makes its way onto machines at home, then other FLOSS hopefully

It also gives us the opportunity to get a "reference implementation"
going, so that we can approach other schools and colleges with a
proposal and say "we did it here and it worked well."  Are there any
details of the projects at the Open University and other colleges
mentioned in the EDM?  If we can get implementation details shared it
gives everyone a base from which to start, rather than re-inventing the
wheel in every school and college across the country.

> OO is offered as an alternative to MS Office, it sees about 2% usage
>  from students that have it at home. Our IT teachers will not touch
> it as it involves rewriting worksheets for students which have all
> been based on MS Office. However whilst Writer and Spreadsheet
> does'nt cause problems, the database package does.

How much work would be involved in re-writing the worksheets to be
applicable to "generic" office suites rather than MS Office specifically
(Phil Bull already suggested this)?  Would a community effort to re-work
them help, or even be possible?

> If resources or books were available then this would help greatly. On
>  the teach-ict resources website (www.teach-ict.com/) there are no 
> Open Office materials, which is a shame as the idea in school is to 
> teach transferrable skills and at the moment with the database 
> program it is unclear how to use it.

Again, maybe a community effort could be set up to either re-work the
existing resources to be applicable to a range of office suites, or
alternatives offered that focus on OpenOffice.  I'd prefer the former,
as it promotes transferable skills rather than specific application
knowledge, but then I'm not the teacher.

> Our school cannot afford to dump all the training materials and money
>  invested in resources that are geared up to MS Office and of course
>  the money invested in the licences.

Understood, I expect there'd be uproar if it was presented to the public
as the school having shelled out a load of money for software which is
being dumped even though it's still usable.

> The problem will never be resolved if non teachers can't see it from 
> the teachers point of view, managing a class of 31 students all with 
> different abilities working at different paces and keeping to 
> government guidelines as to what they should be taught and get them 
> through SATS tests in ICT too. With no OO resources for teachers how 
> can they be expected to teach it?

Well Jonathan, I guess you're our man on the inside then.  It would be
nice if we could get some kind of co-ordinated effort going for teachers
to feed back into the FLOSS community to help us get these things right
and provide the resources and information required.

To address the point of students with different abilities, maybe the
curriculum should be changed to a split model, with a core set of
transferable skills which, if demonstrably mastered, would result in a
"pass" grade, with extra credit awarded for demonstrating more advanced
knowledge acquired by personal study?

I think that's all from me for now.


James Tait, BSc                        |    xmpp:jayteeuk at wyrddreams.org
Programmer and Free Software advocate  |      Mobile: +44 (0)7779 337596

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