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

Andrew Dorrell andrew.dorrell at cisra.canon.com.au
Tue Jul 8 13:25:52 EST 2008

Sridhar Dhanapalan wrote
> 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'.

I'd like to agree with that.  Choice should be the primary objective.  
Avoiding *having to use* a particular platform because it is the only 
way to run some application that someone has decided everyone must use 
is a noble enough aim.

IMHO some of the most significant "Open" minded efforts in recent times 
have not been software ones but knowledge ones.  There is an increasing 
amount of open "courseware" of very high quality (examples from MIT and 
IEEE are in my mind).  To me it is this attitude to sharing knowledge 
that is fundamental.

My personal passion for open source software and open standards in 
schools stems from the view that access to this knowledge must be 
equitable.  The need to purchase a computer and internet service already 
means some kids miss out in the home environment.  The need to purchase 
additional commercial software just to participate adds to this 
inequity.  These are the barriers that a mindful public education 
program should be concerned about minimising.  In so much as OSS can 
help address this inequity it should be embraced. 

A simple step would be to ensure all school computers had all the 
software required to support open standard formats (e.g. openoffice, pdf 
reader etc) and important multi-platform formats (quicktime, windows 
media, ogg etc.) pre-installed.  Currently that's just not the case.

BTW, for high schools, zotero, which makes it easy to track and list 
your information sources in assignments and essays is a great reason to 
use firefox.  And it integrates with openoffice and word - your choice!

At my kids high school we are charged a "computer services" fee, part of 
which buys them a USB drive... but its empty.  Why not give all kids a 
USB key with firefox portable edition + zotero on it so they can carry 
their bookmarks and research work with them?  Why not pack it with other 
free portable OSS apps on at the same time 

Linux on the desktop?  One obvious place for it is on low cost laptops.  
The ones that cost about $600, run like a dog with windows vista and 
fall outside the new XP license agreement (for example they have normal 
sized screens).

Just some thoughts,

Andrew Dorrell

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