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[school-discuss] Creating the "Killer App"
Hello, I am a new person to this list. My Name is Paul Querna, and I am
currently in 11th Grade at Mead High School ( http://mhs.mead.k12.wa.us ).
Technology at my School and District ( http://www.mead.k12.wa.us ) is based
entirely around Windows 9X clients and Novell Based Servers. Last Fall, our
school tried somthing new for technology, they had the students work on it.
So, for one period a day, me and about 7 others work on various technology
issues at the school. I already knew quite a large ammount of PHP and Perl
before this, and as such wanted to use my skills to create a fulley dynamic
high school website. What then insued was a large struggle to get a Linux
based server installed so we could even use PHP (There is Perl for Novell,
but no PHP). After getting our server an external IP, it took another month
to get the domain name right, and another month to get SMTP unfiltered. To
say the least, we are still having difficulties coordinating with the
District Admins. :-)
For our website, I created the MyPHPSchool Project (
http://www.sf.net/projects/myphpschool/ ). It does a few nice things like
calendars, Web based Grades, Custom Teacher Home Pages (Teachers can edit
links.. add stuff, etc...). However, this past month I have more or less
stopped developing all new features for MyPHPSchool. Our District, as part
of Washington School Information Processing Cooperative (WSIPC)(
http://www.wsipc.org/ ), is moving to Skyward ( http://www.skyward.com ) for
everything this comming fall (See
http://www.skyward.com/News/Archive/Q201.shtml for more info ). My simple
system cannot compete on the level of somthing like Skyward, so it would be
pointless for me to continue development.
This brings me to my biggest surprise. There is no open source competitor
that is anywhere near competitive with the commerical products in this arena.
Browsing the Google Administration and School Management Directory (
) you can see that almost all of the programs are commercial programs(Not a
_bad_ thing, just disapointing, not like I am a GPL/Linux Zealot or anything
What I see, is that in years previous, school adminstration software was
specialized, ie one system for student schedules, another for Transportation,
another for attendence, and yet another for Grading. What we are seeing now,
is the combining of all these into one product. Open Source Programs are not
competitive with these one system products because it would take tweaking of
each to make them all work as one, which is somthing that most Administrators
do not have the time to do. So they go for the more costly in upfront costs
in order to save time.
So where does that put us? I think this is where open source *could* be the
most successful, in creating a one product solutioin, that can still
interface with anything else via various methods. I have read the mailing
list archive on ZIS/SIF and EduML, and think that these could very well be
the key people need to bring open source to education (on the server side at
least) at levels never seen before.
What I would like to help with is the very top level of this interface. They
way I see it, the best way is to create a PHP, or Perl web based system, that
is _extremely_ data source abstracted. So that it can pull its information
from anything, from a traditional database like mySQL, pgSQL, and Orcale, or
from one of the new XML based systems still under development(Perhaps even
have modules for both ZIS/SIF and EduML). The system should be able to do
every aspect of data movment the school will ever need, this means exstensive
output and input filters. The one last thing I think that is most inportant,
is flexiability. The system needs to be able to run on Windows, or Linux,
run in Frecnh, German or English as examples. That is the key to widespread
adoption. And that is how you create the Killer App, that will bring Open
Source to Education. Create somthing so wonderfull, that is does
_everything_ a school needs to use the computers adminstration wise, make it
flexiable, and make it free.
--- Sorry for the long rant ---
- Paul Querna.
P.S. One more thing. I volunteer to help do this "crazy idea(tm)".