Outlook on use of OSS in school Print
Tuesday, 11 September 2007 09:53

Italian schools are becoming increasingly interested in OSS. Actual use is however limited to some exemplary cases concentrated mainly in technical or vocational institutes where computer science is taught. These experiences are the result of specific or local factors of excellence, such as the presence of a teacher particularly convinced of the validity of the OSS paradigm or where there is a centre of technological excellence in the area giving support, providing solutions and training, and testing out innovative approaches. These practices are difficult to scale up and apply to the basic educational curriculum.

Generally speaking, if no account is taken of the field of use and the know-how needed to use OSS, the opportunities may become problems that undermine any potential benefits. The main difficulties facing the open source paradigm are, firstly, to convince users to change from the existing standards imposed by the home-computing market and, secondly, the shortage of releases of some common applications on OSS platforms. These difficulties are exacerbated by the lack of professional human resources in school, both in terms of skills and number of people available. If a school has only one teacher with the right skills, the risk that this person might leave is a serious problem. Today, not only there is still an insufficient number of IT administrators (both for proprietary and non-proprietary systems) but, moreover, even fewer of them are skilled in OSS systems.

The integration of the various proprietary and open source platforms is another critical point.
This is an unavoidable problem, especially at the elementary and middle school level, where the coexistence of Microsoft platforms and Mac environments are already creating difficulties. Schools interested in the open source paradigm will have to choose whether to make a radical change or to opt for mixed solutions.

Last but not least is the increasing and unavoidable need to exchange data and documents between schools and local and central government. This aspect is linked to the need to adopt measures encouraging the use of open formats.

Some of the critical points listed here do not derive from the introduction of OSS as such. The problems concern school organisation and resources. Open source software can in some cases give ideas to solve these problems, but internal, organisational, decision-making and operating processes must be considered evaluating feasibility and effectiveness.

Italian schools are becoming increasingly interested in OSS. Actual use is however limited to some exemplary cases concentrated mainly in technical or vocational institutes where computer science is taught. These experiences are the result of specific or local factors of excellence, such as the presence of a teacher particularly convinced of the validity of the OSS paradigm or where there is a centre of technological excellence in the area giving support, providing solutions and training, and testing out innovative approaches. These practices are difficult to scale up and apply to the basic educational curriculum.

Generally speaking, if no account is taken of the field of use and the know-how needed to use OSS, the opportunities may become problems that undermine any potential benefits. The main difficulties facing the open source paradigm are, firstly, to convince users to change from the existing standards imposed by the home-computing market and, secondly, the shortage of releases of some common applications on OSS platforms. These difficulties are exacerbated by the lack of professional human resources in school, both in terms of skills and number of people available. If a school has only one teacher with the right skills, the risk that this person might leave is a serious problem. Today, not only there is still an insufficient number of IT administrators (both for proprietary and non-proprietary systems) but, moreover, even fewer of them are skilled in OSS systems.

The integration of the various proprietary and open source platforms is another critical point.
This is an unavoidable problem, especially at the elementary and middle school level, where the coexistence of Microsoft platforms and Mac environments are already creating difficulties. Schools interested in the open source paradigm will have to choose whether to make a radical change or to opt for mixed solutions.

Last but not least is the increasing and unavoidable need to exchange data and documents between schools and local and central government. This aspect is linked to the need to adopt measures encouraging the use of open formats.

Some of the critical points listed here do not derive from the introduction of OSS as such. The problems concern school organisation and resources. Open source software can in some cases give ideas to solve these problems, but internal, organisational, decision-making and operating processes must be considered evaluating feasibility and effectiveness.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 09:53