Posts Tagged ‘linux in schools’

U.S. Schools: Not Ready For Linux

March 8, 2009 17 comments

US schools are not yet ready for Linux. Yes sad to say, it is not because they can’t do Linux or don’t need a feasible, safe and renewable source for technology. US schools are not ready to accept Linux because they don’t feel the need.

1. Teachers Resistant to Change
You may be shocked to know that most teachers really look at technology as an evil requirement. Teachers feel overburdened with creating lesson plans, managing ever increasing problems with students, left with little energy or desire to learn new technology. Even proposing the idea of Linux will be met with heavy resistance just because it means change.

2. Teachers are Not Accountable for Technology
Teachers must be held accountable for their implementation of technology into the classroom curriculum. Just because you take kids to a computer lab it does not mean that they learned anything from that time. Teachers must have a clearly outlined requirement for what they are responsible to teach to students in technology. Many school districts have technology goals but the teachers are not really held accountable to achieve the goals. Goals need to be measured on a regular basis. You can argue their are Federal mandates for technology but all that is talk because on the local school system level…no one checks if teachers are doing anything worth while in technology. In reality, most teachers are not doing anything new in technology so how could you ever suggest Linux.

3. School Boards are Technology Clueless
In fact, if you look at schools systems closely you will find that many school boards have people on them that are completely unqualified, especially in technology. I have been to countless school board meetings trying to explain and demonstrate technology goals especially as they relate to Linux. I understand that school board positions are thankless and most people would not even consider it but if you want technology and Linux in schools you must get people on school boards who have an understanding of the technology needs and how Linux can meet those goals.

4. Change the Grant Process
Grants are the worst thing that could ever happen for a school district. First, almost all grants are directly tied to Microsoft software. Second, most school districts use grants to purchase technology they cannot sustain. So that, they have a surge of technology and in a few years they are back to total junk. If school districts see technology as important they need to budget for training and equipment. I have never seen a grant for Linux! Each time I have written a grant and suggested Linux it has been challenged, challenged by individuals who really have no idea about Linux or technology. If you want to see Linux in schools create some Linux grants.

5. Create a Technology Plan
Schools need 5 year technology plans that they are forced to implement and be accountable for. Sure, ERATE requires a technology plan for schools but most teachers have never seen the plan and no one implements the plan. And once again there is no accountability for the plan. The school slaps together a plan and submits it to the state and it is given a rubber stamp. Here in Montana the schools send the technology plans to the state and it was discovered that the state did not even read the plans…just approved them.

Water runs down hill and sad to say that describes the US school system. Until we as Americans can individually and as a country demand more out of schools and educators, Linux is only a remote option.


America’s Schools: Held Hostage by Microsoft

October 14, 2008 18 comments

Schools in America are held hostage by Microsoft and are being choked one school at a time. We have allowed Microsoft and our State and Federal governments to force us into financing cycles that schools cannot afford.

I have lived in Montana most of my life and worked with schools to get technology funding for 14 years now. The districts I work with use Linux on 75% of the Desktops and all of the servers. I have pushed Open Source applications and operating systems in schools for a long time and there is some progress. However, Microsoft has a serious choke hold on schools. Here is how the choke works.

1. Unlicensed Software Installs
One way schools get in trouble is when they feel they do not have enough money so instead of purchasing licenses they install more products without the proper license. To Microsoft, this is piracy and theft. I agree with Microsoft here, if they have a product and a price you either pay or do something else. I am amazed when I hear schools that steal software from Microsoft but then tell kids there are rules and ethics that they must follow. Schools that cheat on licenses are placing themselves at the mercy of Microsoft.

2. Software Updates
Software purchases must always be made with the recognition and the funding that the software must be updated both in terms of license and hardware. Here is how this works. A school gets a grant for technology and purchases Library software in year one. Not only must the school continue to purchase Library software updates each year, they must also purchase the Microsoft license that allows you to run the software. Oh…and also you must purchase the hardware that runs the software for Microsoft. This is called the Domino effect…one purchase forces the next purchase and schools are locked into these scenarios where they cannot get out. Microsoft controls the software, the cycle and the cost of schools teaching students.

3. State and Federal Requirements
One of the most damaging trends for schools in America is the demand that they purchase Microsoft products in order to report to Federal and State authorities. The State of Montana requires that you provide information from the school to an online sources for the state.  The Office of Public Instruction says that they are creating an online interface for schools that is easy to use and will facilitate all operating systems.  Well,only if your operating system is Windows (at least Windows 2000) and Internet Explorer 6-7. If you use Linux you cannot report to the state.

Schools and Libraries is a site used by the Federal government to provides funding so schools can get Internet access and help with technology. However, you cannot apply for this Federal funding, provided especially for poor schools, unless you have Internet Explorer 6-7.

What is worse is that each year the requirements for school reporting are tied to State and Federal funding outside of technology and the technical requirements to make those reports is tied to the updated versions of Windows and Word or Excel. I talk with people involved in schools in Europe on a weekly basis and they always talk about the freedom that the government allows in terms of which operating system and applications are used in schools.

What’s up with the U.S.? Why are schools locked into these strangle holds?

Long live Open Source!