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Re: [school-discuss] Korea brings homegrown open source to schools

On Thursday 23 June 2005 12:36 pm, Alec Couros wrote:
> Steve Hargadon wrote:
> >On 6/23/05, Daniel Howard <daniel@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> >>Great article Doug, I forwarded this to another parent who doesn't like
> >> the idea of his child's elementary school moving to Linux because
> >> "Microsoft Office is what they'll be using when they grow up".  Along
> >> with the article, I noted that when I was in elementary school, we
> >> watched TV on US-made TVs and listened to vinyl records on US-made
> >> record players, neither of which exist anymore...
> >
> >I love this argument!  It's the same one I hear:  won't the children
> >be confused if they use Linux at school and Windows at home?  How many
> >of our children already are using Macs in schools, and nobody seems to
> >complain about that!  And the kids do just fine...
> My only concern about instituting Linux into all these schools is that
> you are mandating now what teachers are expected to use. I think it's
> great that South Korea has gone ahead and discovered the economic and
> technical benefits of Linux, and I think this will be really interesting
> to see local support economies benefit from this as well. Still, when
> technologies are mandated or institutionalized, innovation and
> flexibility can be be hindered.  What happens when the alternative
> becomes the mandated, dominant force and the ONLY choice?

It is arguable that South Korea remains on the advanced side of many curves of 
technological diffusion precisely because of Government mandates like this.  
Given that an OS is simply a commodity, this kind of requirement has little 
effect on innovation and learning.  We see similar involvement by the 
Government in Malaysia and China while Japan seems to have formed more 
private/public consortiums.

If one follows the political philosophy espoused by Peter Sellers in Being 
There, it is sensible for the Government to seed the private sector with such 
initiatives.  In Hawaii we have worked to move the adoption curve forward by 
building awareness, seeding a future workforce, and institutionalizing the 
limits of Free.  Interestingly, it is the lack of perceived Private Sector 
demand that is slowing the adoption in education, hence the 'my kid will use 
X, so...' argument.

Meanwhile, we find that a lot of service providers in the islands don't 
promote gnu/linux FOSS alternatives.  They make the case that there is no 
customer demand.  We meet many SMBs interested in this whole Linux thing, but 
they are wary that support is not a commodity.

Tragically, we hear from companies servicing the schools here that there is no 
demand for FOSS.  Even if this were true, the underlying problem is that the 
schools currently count on the private sector for innovation, and the private 
sector bounces it back by saying that without demand, they cannot risk 
change.  The basic argument is that 'they are not demanding innovation, so we 
give them what we make money on.'

In the United States, change is often championed by three examples in this 
thread.  You have Steve, an entrepreneur who is providing solutions for 
schools built around the value and self-reliance of distros such as the 
K12LTSP.  This eliminates the case that there is no one to pay and yell at 
over support and to turn to for training.  The thread has Daniel who 
exemplifies the kind of expert parental involvement districts crave in order 
to learn about alternatives.  This demonstrates the fact that local 
communities know best and that an involved PTA can make things happen.  
HOSEF's work here is to provide donated labs, computers, and training 
primarily by involving the community.  This has consistently created 
proof-positive and ubiquitous examples that there is now and will continue to 
be a FOSS aware workforce more technically savvy than previously realized.

It would all be much easier if consumers as large as our government entities 
decided to become users and customers of FOSS solutions.  In the mean time, 
my K12 days with BASIC, tape drives, Commodores, and TRS-80s are serving me 
well enough.