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[school-discuss] Educational Killer App for OpenSource (was: Ah . . . sorry . . . I did not mean that Drupal is the killer app)

After watching teachers and students use the K12LTSP system here in Atlanta, in detail in elementary and now middle school, my vote for the killer app/use case to make OpenSource become truly mainstream in education is...drum roll...

Netbooks capable of also running as thin clients over wireless LAN

Here's why: netbooks, especially when they get below $200, are designed for the key applications for education: web access, office suite (mainly word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet), and to a lesser extent, image manipulation. We set up a MAC lab in my daughter's middle school and while Garage Band, iVideo, etc. were big hits when a teacher was dedicated to running the lab, this year that teacher is doing a science classroom, so guess what the other teachers use the Mac lab for? Web access and word processing.

The only real thing holding netbooks back is the same thing holding back our initial thin client rollout, that of supporting video w/o choppy playout. But if the netbook has at least 250 MB RAM and can run the browser/decoder locally, that would solve that problem, and the far lower electricity requirements coupled with mobility and ability to run them as thin clients over a wireless network, that solves all the classroom wiring issues. And if HiVision ever makes good its claim to offer $98 netbooks, then a netbook would be on the order of the cost of a plotting calculator. For a classroom of say 30 kids, $100 netbooks and a classroom LTSP server would cost about the same as some of those expensive interactive whiteboards, less if the parents supply the netbooks like they often currently do the plotting calculators.

Which is why I want wireless thin client use as well: that opens up all the use cases that interactive whiteboards using applications like TeacherTool and iTalc would allow. Hence my vote for netbooks that can be used as wireless thin clients in addition to their normal standalone use at home. Heck, even the Economist recommends Linux on netbooks now:


Best, Daniel

Evan Leibovitch wrote:
Les R wrote:
Actually, Moodle is probably the killer app in this context, but really I am
talking about a need that only Open Source Software and Open Content can fill -
bringing affordable classes to kids.

I'm not so sure that this goal is best brought about by seeking to define a "killer app" anymore. The software world is so competitive and complex that it's hard to think that any single application would be compelling enough to make people change their operating systems and, indeed, their overall approach to computing.

Daniel Howard
President and CEO
Georgia Open Source Education Foundation