Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Software For Schools

I can't help but think that the NZ Ministry of Education are missing out on some great opportunities. While they're busy with their "Single Sign On" initiative they seem to be ignoring the opportunity that Free/Libre/Open Source Software provides.

Take the Manaiakalani image. I think I might have mentioned in this blog before that I don't think Ubuntu is suitable in schools out of the box. Ubuntu makes assumptions which I don't think are appropriate.

  1. Social networking integrated on the desktop - sounds like a great idea until you have a look at the terms of service. The age, almost always above primary school age, makes it a bit of a minefield.
  2. Social networking integrated into various applications such as shotwell.
  3. The lack of controls on the install system. Classically, this wouldn't be a problem. Open source software is great for users having control over their own systems. It would be even better though if you could "blacklist" applications - i.e. remove the ability to install applications like dopewars or pornview (though this program isn't at all offensive - it's named just for a single joke. In slideshow mode it can be operated hands free).
Furthermore, there's the opportunity to customize the desktop to various different audiences. So your younger kids could get a more colourful desktop. Slightly older, something more learning (in those measurable areas that the National government like so much) orientated (I mention "measurable" as I just watched a TED video last night where the outcomes look less measurable but all the more real).

And then there's various infrastructure things. Take Plumi for example. It's basically an opensource youtube like infrastructure. Why would you need to run a separate service? Youtube has this really bad habit of advertising other videos after watching one of their videos - a lot of which don't take into age and suitability. So a lot of schools don't actually use youtube.

Plumi could be a really good solution - for storing New Zealand specific content for example. What does it lack? Currently it has no age classifications. Imagine if you could create class login's and define what videos those users can view? So a high school and primary school can't currently use the same server. While I'm not a big fan of walled gardens i.e. I would prefer if all of the content were open, I think this sort of server has it's place. Content isn't an issue any more (not for schools - content is still an issue for the Internet but I'll talk about that some other time). You can find the various bits you need. But even better, what if the students became the teachers? What if they produced the content instead? It wouldn't have to be made public - it could be made available within certain contexts - to kids in a particular class, kids over a certain age within the school, to the whole school, or, even possibly, to the whole world.

I think the MOE could have a role here - in helping customizing these tools to make them not only viable, but useful in New Zealand classrooms. Companies could then offer support on top of these things. Development wouldn't be huge but the effect it'd have would be massive.


  1. Really like how well this blog has been set out, it has even given me some ideas for my blog. Good job.

    Account software for schools

    1. I rather thought it was set out in the most god awful simplistic way possible (much like my web page design - though that look is on purpose. I don't want to be known as a web page designer and I'm obsessed with the lack of standards) ;)

      You've advertised a business site (which mentions DOS?!? There's a comment to be made if you're setting your standard of comparison to DOS based software), but not included a link to the afore mentioned blog...