Ditching the 3-Step Process in Favor of FOSS

Source: http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/learmount/Ditching.jpg

Often, we are called upon to come up with solutions for sharing ideas and information with a wide audience. In the past the process for these solutions was to do the following:

1) Identify a need.
2) Do some research on the tools available, especially considering the cost of the software or service.
3) Present a proposal outlining the best tool for the job, if such a tool existed. And, if the proposal was approved, figure out what budget code to pay for the tool.

This 3-step process might also involve presentations to stakeholders, including upper administration. After all, with any significant purchase, administration has to be involved.

Then, free, open source software (FOSS) came into the picture. While many of us are familiar with FOSS by our experience with Firefox, LibreOffice (f.k.a. OpenOffice)--a popular alternative to MS Office--and the GIMP as an alternative to Adobe Photoshop/Fireworks, we often forget that server-based solutions abound as well.

While the process can remain the same, you can focus on the solution rather than the cost of working with a vendor. This came save time and increase productivity. When I consider all the different solutions in place that are working and saving money, I'm in awe at the creative genius of the FOSS community of developers:

  • Wordpress - powerful, yet simple, blogging platform
  • Moodle - course management system that make it easy to create virtual classrooms.
  • Wikis - a wide variety of wiki solutions that make web sites easy to edit collaboratively. My favorites include PMWiki, Dokuwiki, and MediaWiki.
  • And lots of other desktop apps across Windows and Mac platforms
  • And, some solutions used in the past but not much anymore:
    •  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - phpMyFAQ - http://www.phpmyfaq.de/
      Managing a web page of frequently asked questions can get tiresome. Create an RSS-feed subscribable, database-backed web site that people can access via Bloglines.com/NetVibes or some other RSS aggregator, as well as search via the web interface.
    • Online Survey Tool - UCCASS - http://www.bigredspark.com/survey.html
      While some use SurveyMonkey and other web tools, you can easily set up your own web survey tool on your computer. This gives you control over data submitted.
    • http://www.phpmyfaq.de/
    • Online Radio – Icecast – http://icecast.org
      Set up your own Internet radio station, broadcasting a variety of content encoded as MP3/OGG formatted sound files. You can set up a playlist of previously recorded content, and then share it as an audio stream that people can listen to using iTunes, Windows Media Player, or the free VLC media player. Imagine the possibilities! You could take existing podcasts and stream them, or make district specific announcements. Imagine a few words from your superintendent, teachers in the field sharing their ideas about digital storytelling, etc.

How are you leveraging free, open source tools in your K-12 environment?


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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