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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)".