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Re: [school-discuss] Forcing software down the Schools throats is a Serious Blunder!

Knut Yrvin wrote:
søndag 06 mars 2005, 20:28, skrev Michael Dean:
My point is that a new process must take place before schools, other
than computer science departments of universities, will take Open
Source seriously. Yes, some school admins have arbitrarily forced it
down their teachers and students throats, but adaptation comes from
pull not push forces in our society.

The unbiased question should be: How does some school admins force 
software down their teachers and students throats? Adaption of software 
comes both from push and pull forces in our society. An example of push 
forces is in Norway where national exams is done by a web-application, 
and is mandatory by the Directorate for Primary and Secondary Education 
and the Ministry of The Ministry and Education and Research. An other 
example is the pull forces that introduce Skolelinux as an voluntary 
activity in a lot of schools in Europe. 


if you look at what is happening in U.S. about the only push force out there is the cost of proprietary software to cash strapped schools.  National standards for educational computing are nuetral to either proprietary or open source programs.  Bureaucratically, I don't believe, either in the public school systems, or parochial systems, would "volunteer" use of open source be allowed.  In my son's grade school, they were on a 3 year migration path to Linux, which has stalled by the resignation of the Principal and by a core group of parents who believe that the kids would not receive as good a set of transferable skills as with Microsoft.  We even have retired Microsoft execs boldly pushing the Microsoft TCO stuff..  In addition, there are a core of parents who are strongly opposed to any increase in computers in school.  The teachers as well are resistant to the use of computers in the classroom, with most work done in a computer lab.
You did not answer my questions: 

question #1
Why do you believe that the education is based on a minimalist, 
and goal driven philosophy? 

Sorry I missed that question.  I espouse a minimalist, purpose driven open source collection that aligns itself with the goals of objectives of the particular school and each grade or grouping in that school.  At the server level, the ROI of open source servers is obvious.  In this aspect, minimalist means those servers only include those programs necessary to complete its work effectively.  I mean the absence of older legacy exploitive software such as FTP, and the use of only the best practice software -- some distros include Apache 1.39 and Apache 2.0 --  I think the efficacy of Apache 2. is proven and would only include that.  In addition, there is no need for graphics at the server level.  Minimalist means making choices from proliferating alternatives based on the designed use of the system.  I would standardize on a single database -- postgreesql, etc. -- etc. 

In U.S. minimal curricular goals are suggested nationally, regionally and for each individual diocese or school district.  In my perception, there really is no time, desire or money for exploration of alternative software packages at the K-8 level by teachers or students in most parts of the US.  Basic things such as sports, libraries, music, band, foreign language are being excised from the curricula.   How can open source help that?  In California, the student body speaks a dozen or so culturally distinct languages, not just Spanish and English.  A high proportion of students are learning in English as a second language, and there is a multi-cultural mix of norms and  ways of doing things this means teaching is to the mean.  Goals and objectives must be clearly spelled out, and without a lot of money, those goals must be accomplished in the most concise fashion possible.  In a homogeneous society such as Norway, where schools are controlled nationally, issues are really simplified, hence enrichment is possible, volunteer exploration is possible.

It doesn't help that American school districts are gerrymanded, with districts clearly following rich and poor and cultural housing patterns. Many of the poorer districts are highly corrupt, and have drained money for teaching into other areas.  In the Richmond California School District, without checking the dmographics, my perceptions is thatabout 95% of the student body are afro-American, Hispanic or Asian.  Hence Richmond has old schools with leaky roofs, rats running in the corridors, gun battles surround some schools and gangs are rampant.   Richmond has one of the highest per capita murder rates in North America.  Teachers are paid about 50% of rich districts, and to get teachers Richmond has had to import hundreds of Philippine nationals, who take one look at their teaching conditions and move on.  They have a few experienced teachers, but not enough  It is a disgrace.  It is the reality of American public schools now.

question #2
Which programs gives a learning effect in the classroom, and 
how should the programs be used in the learning process to 
accomplish learning?

This is a very good question, and I will take more time to respond in greater detail later.  I will assum you mean computer programs?  As opposed to science discovery projects?  If so, I am a proponent of teachers, and don't really believe that computer programs have much of a learning effect or place in K-8 classrooms.  There are some nice things, along the lines of Tux Paint, astronomy, and moon/Mars lander stuff that seem to work.  Using the computer to project graphics on a TV (about the level of in class computer use, in my mind is deprecative when compared with actual movies or multimedia. In addition, use of the Internet is in many ways counter-productive for learning.  When you see topic papers quoting URL's and oblivious of the meaning of primary documents, you begin to wonder!  As I mentioned earlier, using the computer for structured drill and practice, as an additive to the teacher, does work, and that has been known in scientific circles fo
r 35 years.  Using the computer to impart content I don't believe works better at K-8 and probably much worse than an average teacher.  And, like the experience we all have in business, adoption of computers increases FTE requirements, it does not reduce them.  
- Knut

thanks for your input.  I would be glad to keep our correspondence going offlist, since I seem to be getting some boos. Michael

fn:Michael Dean