Tuesday, October 5, 2010

'Open source will save schools millions' - new report

Great report...I like the 3 points made about saving money in 3 areas that are not unlike what appears in Texas (and U.S.) schools.

Hello, world!? Anyone listening?

Why are public schools in the U.S.--especially in Texas, where we are facing $18-$20 billion dollar deficit with at least 10% cuts to education funding--persisting in buying expensive licensing for tools like MS Office when OpenOffice, Googleapps for Education are available at no recurring license fee or initial entry point? The support costs (e.g. training) are less expensive over the long-haul than the old tools.

The reason is simply that our comfort level as educators, as technology support is for the old, expensive tools that give us the illusion of "the best." It's time we re-defined what we consider the best tools for education and learn the tools that are most available to our students.


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Home ICT Policy Open source 'Open source will save schools millions' - new report
'Open source will save schools millions' - new report
Friday, 17 September 2010 13:24 Merlin John
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Learning platforms and Microsoft 'Office' targeted for schools ICT savings
Gary Clawson

Gary Clawson
A local authority with 20 secondary and 120 primary schools could save up to £1.4 million a year by implementing a policy of open source software and content, and local authorities could cut their ICT costs by between 25 and 35 per cent according to Gary Clawson, chief executive of the North West Learning Grid.

His new report, 'Open Services – Sustainable ICT for UK Schools', which includes contributions from John Bidder (Bolton Metropolitan Council), Mark Ellis (Wirral Borough Council) and Andrew Wild (Manchester City Council), reckons that the average secondary school can save £35,020 a year, and a primary school £6,300.

They could do this by targeting three areas: learning platforms and digital resources (£15,500 secondary, £3,100 primary; desktop software/hardware (£11,520 secondary, £1,700 primary); administration systems (£8,000 secondary, £1,500 primary). (Sums are based on school funding data from the British Educational Suppliers Association.)

The action plan he suggests is a technology audit that specifically targets commercial learning platforms (to be replaced by Moodle and the National Digital Resources Bank) and Microsoft's Office ('you do not need it on the curriculum desktop, most of your students use Open Office at home') and would replace existing desktop software with Edubuntu.
Capital grants for ICT over 13 years have 'distorted' service provision

The report claims that years of state support has skewed relationships between schools and suppliers, and that cutbacks will require a radical rethink. Its executive summary states: 'With reductions in the Harnessing Technology Grant, local authorities and schools will need to rapidly reduce the cost of ICT provision. The use of capital grants for the last 13 years has led to a distortion of how services are provided and a distortion in the way UK suppliers provide services to exploit the availability of these ICT grants. Through the use of licence-free applications, local authorities and schools can redress the current financial issues and enable the establishment of sustainable ICT development in schools.

'The implementation of open source and open content can provide immediate cost savings of around 25 per cent with relative ease. An additional 30-35 per cent savings will require re-modelling how ICT is implemented and supported but can be achieved by utilising current support staff, consequently reducing the levels of redundancy at local authority level. Overall UK schools will have the most flexible ICT services at the lowest possible cost, mirroring the extensive use of open source that has been undertaken in many other countries.'

The report identifies the following benefits of open source:

* 'It enables cost reductions of more than 50 per cent on existing ICT delivery methods;
* 'It delivers the same applications to clusters of schools aiding transition and mobility;
* 'Software applications and digital learning resources are available to every student at home as licence-free applications;
* 'It puts the local support provider at the heart of delivery, enabling them to freely modify, develop and localise applications and digital resources;
* 'It enables schools to freely move services across providers with no issues regarding removal of products should support contracts finish.
* 'It enables the development of an overall education community who can share and develop common applications and products with no licence restrictions and no barriers to sharing developed applications and digital learning resources.'

Gary Clawson's report says that the savings he outlines are contingent on creating an open-source culture across schools and local authorities. And he concedes that the £1.4 million a year savings 'are not immediately achievable across a typical local authority region'.
'You will release schools ICT from the shackles of commercial licensing'


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1 comment:

Jerram Froese said...

Irving ISD has been using Open Office on Student 1-to-1 laptops instead of licensing MS Office for the past two years. Teachers still have MS, but it is a step. Defining 'success' of an open source implementation seems to be a little different. Success with Open Office has meant finding work arounds (like clipart of all things) and being able to function through issues like random file corruption. Sometimes functioning means giving teachers the option of using web2.0 instead - as long as there is an option for those that have to deal with the very real frustrations of Open Source that pop up on a larger scale. All-in-all, it is definitely worthwhile, saves money and prepares our students just as well. Like any good tech implementation, though, it isn't just a walk in the park.

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