Building on the last post, I welcome the opportunity to share some of my experiences with deploying Linux in schools. It is a very broad topic however I will stay with the previous outline. First of all, it is a matter of migrating schools to Linux, not selling them. Second, the approach is different based on whether the school in located in a developing country, the EU or North America.
Before I speak to the suggested list of considerations, which I have reordered based on feedback from my deployments and numerous other sources,I want to say that’ the single most factor for any migration plan to be successful is to is to manage the ‘human factor’ of resistance to change. Effective training and support are critical while technical and functional problems are marginal’ This is where FUD (fear, uncertainty & doubt) comes into play and is heavily leveraged by proponents of proprietary software.
- What would be the Incentive?
- How Cost Effective would it be?
- How quickly could new users Adapt?
- What Software would be pre-installed?
- What Distro would be used?
While we initially leverage the ‘free cost’ aspect of Open Source, IT managers have as a first priority, the smooth efficient running of their IT infrastructure as well as any possible productivity loss.
Cost cannot be the only driving factor for the adoption of OSS. What is needed is a ‘mixed’ argument summarizing the benefits of OSS, of which ‘no cost’ is an important one.
Factors which acted as drivers for adoption included security, adaptability, and avoidance of restrictive software licensing schemes.
However, on a social level, to quote Richard Stallman;
“What schools should refuse to do is teach dependence. Those corporations offer free samples to schools for the same reason tobacco companies distribute free cigarettes to minors: to get children addicted. They will not give discounts to these students once they’ve grown up and graduated. “ http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/schools.html
When looking to migrate a school to Linux, here is one of the biggest stumbling blocks, when mainly pitching the zero cost aspect to administration. They are hooked by MS licensing requirements.
MS Educational Licensing Overview
- Microsoft licensing can be complex, and schools have two main options if they wish to license Microsoft products. They can acquire perpetual licences, giving the school the right to use the software permanently.
- Microsoft also offers schools a subscription licensing option (the School Agreement Subscription) which gives them the right to “rent” Microsoft software for a fixed period of time (eg for 1 year or 3 years). At the end of the rental period, if the school still wishes to use the rented Microsoft software it has the ability to extend the rental period or convert to a perpetual licence via a buyout payment. The buyout payment can be substantial.
All or Nothing Approach for Computer Real Estate
- While subscription licensing usually has the lowest cost of entry of the various Microsoft licensing options, it is an “all or nothing” approach which can have the effect of requiring schools to pay Microsoft licences fees for computers that aren’t actually running any of Microsoft’s software. This is because the subscription licensing cost is based on the total number of computers in the school. This has meant that if a school is using Microsoft’s subscription licensing, fees need to be paid to Microsoft for Apple Mac or Linux computers, and indeed those computers running OpenOffice.org.
- Additionally, even when many of the school’s computers could not run Microsoft Vista schools would still have been required to include those systems in their Microsoft licence count and pay the appropriate licence fees
As mentioned in the comments in the previous post (J.S), there are costs related to migrating and training, which can still be substantially lower in cost compared to software licenses if approached in a coordinated manner which includes hands on training, a good knowledge base, and easy to use manuals.
There are several cost-effective ways for schools to leverage their existing hardware with Linux including LTSP and desktop virtualization
Again, this comes down to a properly managed migration. To leave on Friday with Windows on your desktop and return Monday to discover that the IT department has loaded Linux can be a shock. Instead a gradual introduction of key open source alternatives such as Open Office, Thunderbird, and Firefox or Chrome can help overcome the resistance to change. Taking a software inventory of required or currently used software and then finding open source equivalents or methods of running the software (virtualbox) is one of the first steps in the migration process.
Once the user becomes comfortable with the new features of say Open Office (the PDF function is usually very popular) they will soon realize that the OS is like the transmission in a car and it doesn’t matter so much, as long as you can drive the car or perform your work. Providing easy to use reference guides such as http://www.cluesheets.com or a manual that outlines standard tasks in Ubuntu such as printing, network connections, sound devices, CD burning, file management etc will take the edge of the uncertainty of a new operating system.
This will depend on the grade level you are working with and their needs. There are many good resources to find, download and test open source programs, including the previously mentioned http://schoolforge.net or http://opensourceschools.org.uk/ ( I like their software directory).
The Ministry of Education may also have requirements for curriculum which will dictate required software or access to online portals. Applications such as Google Earth being requested more often.
As well, there are a host of applications available for staff and administration, such as iTALC (my personal favorite), OpenAdmin, or School Tool
The ability for students and staff to make copies of the software and take it home to freely use on their own PC’s reflects another indirect cost savings.
The required software may also dictate the choice of Linux operating system.
In my personal experience there are 2 distros that stand out in the Educational sector. Edubuntu and KDE I have deployed these 2 distros globally with great success.
Edubuntu’s motto is “Linux for Young Human Beings” It is a complete operating system that includes an office suite, web browser, many educational applications, and much more. http://edubuntu.org/
KDE’s primary focus is on schoolchildren aged 3 to 18, and the specialized user interface needs of young users. However, it also has programs to aid teachers in planning lessons, and others that are of interest to university students and anyone else with a desire to learn! http://edu.kde.org/
Here is an example of Brazil’s custom Linux Educational, which is based on KDE and deployed on close to 1 million workstations in 5,560 school districts. A combination of Linux and desktop virtualization has helped with providing access to ICT to all students, both rural and urban. http://bit.ly/9oPMKJ
On a final note, I wanted to share a few photos of Ubuntu/Edubuntu in use around the globe http://bit.ly/9MOX2Q….the photo album is a work in progress….however once we have true government commitment to the adoption of open source, it allow countries to contribute towards technology development rather than just remain mere users of technology produced by others. To hear interesting interviews with people around the globe who are using open source to make a difference, visit http://opentechexchange.org
May I just say a thank you to my new friend Darlene Parker for her amazing guest post! Thanks Darlene