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[school-discuss] What would you do with a blank slate?

Hello everyone.

It's been a while since I've been active here, though I've been
subscribed for years. I am the co-founder of the Linux Professional
Institute and active in my FOSS communities at both a local and
regional level. I have, at various times over the last dozen years,
been very involved in the convergence of education and FOSS.

I now find myself in a rather exciting situation. I am working with an
organization that is considering launching an education-targeted,
Linux-based netbook system. One major difference between this and
most existing offerings is that we will be delivering not only hardware
and software, but also support and training infrastructure. There will
be some other unique features -- which make them more useful in
school, library and shared-use environments -- that I'm not yet at
liberty to broadcast.

The systems are initially being targeted at developing-world
governments and agencies -- the biggest traction so far is with
those who consider OLPC/Sugar too radical but may be OK with a
conventional (and easy to use) Linux desktop. We're also finding that
some don't like the fact that the OLPC is targeted _only_ at children
in developing economies where the adults also have IT needs. Some
buyers want a system from which the whole family might benefit,
using a computer loaded with conventional tools such as OpenOffice
and Pidgin as well as educational applications.

I am now in the situation of helping to choose the software to be run
on these systems. So far we are looking at Ubuntu as the core OS --
given the large user base and the tools for customization available.
Neither KDE nor GNOME is likely to be our long-term desktop -- just
too bloated and complex for our needs; smaller systems such as XFCE
and LXDE are being evaluated. I'm certainly open to looking at Sugar
as an alternative interface for us, especially now that it's decoupled
from the OLPC project. However, our netbooks will not have 802.11s
hardware built in (at least to start) and -- to be blunt -- absolutely
nobody yet consulted -- prospects or advisors -- has indicated an

Anyway, I am looking for a decent suite of educational and fun
software -- for student, parent and teacher -- that might be bundled with
such a system. I've had a look at the apps included with Edubuntu and
have generally not been overwhelmed. Obviously software that can easily
translated would be of benefit, given than English won't even be a
second language for many of the intended recipients. I've looked at
the schoolforge site and seen many packages, but I would certainly
appreciate the guidance of anyone interested in helping this
project take root as an alternative to the Windows/Classmate combo.

Any and all advice regarding desktops, applications and infrastructure
(or anything else related) will be gratefully absorbed. Nothing is set in
stone yet. Eventually I want to help build a community around these
netbooks but the timing isn't quite there yet.

Thanks for your attention,

Evan Leibovitch
Email: evan at telly dot org
Skype: evanleibovitch