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Re: [school-discuss] Interviews with Maddog Hall and John Selmys; Coming Up--Doc Searls and Richard Stallman
Jeff Waddell wrote:
I do know the alot of the barriers to FOSS at the ground level. And am struggling to find
ways around and through them.
Now, I know I must sound like I'm beating the same drum over and over(clip) It's not going to come from the top, since even though
again the last few weeks, but as Maddog was talking about the
grassroots kind of assimilation that the FOSS world hopes for into the
classroom, and John S. was talking about the top-level decision-making
that is precluding FOSS from getting to the classroom,
the cost savings and the openness of FOSS would have value to the
school or district, the existing proprietary vendors have a financial
interest in keeping their programs in use.
From our experience, we discovered the following:
1. You cannot convince high level IT decision makers for all the
reasons quoted in the full email referenced above unless they're already
on the path to FOSS. No number of presentations (believe me I tried).
They're just too stuck in current thinking and have too many vendors
whispering in their ears.
2. You can convince the ground level (teachers, principals, parents) by
showing them. Do a lab, classroom, grade level, Media center, whatever
it takes, assuring them you can undo it if they decide it doesn't give
them what they want (all the old PCs can always reboot off of their hard
drive instead of the network). Classroom server model and hard code IP
addresses to MAC addresses to make it squeaky clean.
3. Show them how to use it and they will. You don't have to show the
4. Once you get the ground level buzz going, and have the principal
firmly on your side, then attack political and other powers that be
above the level of IT leadership, who are more interested in improving
academic performance and getting more votes or bonuses than sticking
with a particular technology. In the US, the No Child Left Behind laws
include the formation of school councils, often including business
leaders who are likely plugged in at higher levels (i.e., mayor, school
superintendent, etc.) and the school board must listen to the school
council recommendations. Include a teacher whose room/lab you did to
come to the council meeting and tell them how wonderful it's been.
We were lucky in that we had a brave principal, stubborn parents, enough
PTA funding to develop demos and initial deployments, buy-in from second
echelon district IT leadership, and political leadership connections in
the city. I'm convinced the latter was the most critical to finally
cracking the barrier open. But by then we had a story and improved test
scores, something very hard to ignore for many.
I wish schools had to have a technical advisory board formed of parents,
community business leaders, etc. like many high tech companies. It's
where they find out what the rest of the world is doing and get out of
the box. Members would have to work for either non profits, or if
for-profit, have no connection to any current products/vendors used by
the schools, of course...
President and CEO
Georgia Open Source Education Foundation