[Lias] [Linux-aus] Open Letter to the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia

Sridhar Dhanapalan sridhar at dhanapalan.com
Sat Jul 5 23:46:40 EST 2008

On Wed, 2 Jul 2008 at 16:55, Donna Benjamin <donna at cc.com.au> wrote:
> This was just sent to the Deputy PM, Treasurer, Minister for finance and
> Senator Kate Lundy and was also CC'd to senior members of the Digital
> Education Revolution taskforce.
> ----------------------------------------------------------------
> Open Letter to Deputy Prime Minister calling for consideration of Free
> and Open Source Software in implementation of the Digital Education
> Revolution Policy for the National Secondary School Computer Fund.
> ----------------------------------------------------------------

Great work, Donna!

(I'm a signatory but Donna deserves much of the credit)

So the question arises: what next? We should have a plan to follow this up, or 
else the momentum will be lost.

My suggestion is for us to build a Web site focused on open education in 
Australia. We already have the perfect vehicle: http://openeducation.org.au. 
However, at present it's just a messy wiki more suitable for our own 
brainstorming than for being a public-facing resource.

The wiki should of course remain, but I propose that we build a proper, 
presentable Web site that is directly accessible via the 
http://openeducation.org.au address.

Why do this when we already have http://linux.org.au/education? Open Education 
is much bigger than Linux, and certainly should not be anchored to it. Here's 
a short list of what it can include:

* (GNU/)Linux OS - on servers
* (GNU/)Linux OS - on clients/desktops
* open standards
* open languages/libraries/APIs
* free content/culture
* open learning
* open curriculum

To be honest, I fear that we might be only hurting ourselves by tying open 
education to a completely Free computing environment. That might be a worthy 
aim, but few institutions are going to switch over all in one go. By offering 
a migration path (or paths), a school can migrate more comfortably at its own 
pace. We ought to be providing real choice, not just a binary 'with us or 
with the terrists'.

FOSS (Firefox, OpenOffice.org, Scribus, etc.) can run on operating systems 
other than Linux. To use the recent Education Expo as an example, we got a 
lot of buy-in through the OpenEducationDisc, a compilation of FOSS for 

Also note how I split Linux clients from servers. Linux's place in the server 
realm is very solid, but convincing an institution to accept a Linux client 
solution is tougher. And by 'client', I mean either traditional desktops or 
thin clients. The latter are often cost-effective and represent a real 
strength of Linux, but are often overlooked or even have regulations working 
against their adoption. On the server side, we have some great educational 
tools such as Moodle and LAMS.

Open standards obviously include things like file formats and protocols, which 
will become even more relevant as we see more applications (proprietary or 
otherwise) pick up standardised methods of information exchange such as ODF 
and PDF. This should also ease the integration of FOSS into pre-existing 
environments. It also can include languages and all things related. Why are 
schools still teaching Visual Basic when they could be teaching Python?

The final three points all link together. Most notably, they are not dependent 
upon technology at all. Your average teacher isn't a technologist, and 
shouldn't have to be. Knowledge can be shared and organised openly just like 
code. Wikipedia has proven that great things can be built if ordinary people 
are given easy to use tools.

Where to from this point? I suggest that we work towards getting a CMS running 
at openeducation.org.au. We'll have to agree upon a design and the message 
that we want to purvey. Content creation should be separate from technical 
ability, so the CMS should be simple enough for anybody to contribute.

Here is some inspiration from the UK:


The UK education sector appears to be much further ahead of us in terms of 
embracing openness, and I think we can take some lessons from their efforts.


            Secret hacker rule #11: hackers read manuals.
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