Although this rant is impassioned and detailed it's almost comically
misinformed. What's happening in education IT(C) is the imposition of a
£45bn corporate cash cow called Building Schools for the Future (BSF) -
through which the government is shamefully entering into yet more PFI
relationships. The scorched earth Christopher suggests is impossible is
already happening as more than 20 local authorities have struck deals with
managed IT service suppliers such as RM under BSF. As a consequence local
control, flexibility and in-school knowledge about IT services is
evaporating. BSF schools will have what the supplier supports (essentially
Microsoft) at prices determined by long-term monopoly contracts. The issue
of Open Source remains important - Btw it is not true that OS is unknown in
education - is a good example

Moodle is an unusual exception to the rule, and I think it's been as popular
as it has become mostly due to the fact that it's web-based. People are
already familiar with Intranets, and no two school intranets will be the
same. FOSS is the king of web-based solutions for sure at the moment,
especially when you have LEAs hacking it apart, hosting entire collections
of resources on it and making it work very well for their own (eeeeeeeevil!
;) ends. And "moodling" is a nice verb to slip into common parlance :)

I wish there were more varieties of platforms in schools - my Uni currently
has way more Macs than PCs, but that's another angry discussion I'm raring
to have with the first person who foolishly puts their head above the
parapet - but the sheer volume of computers that most schools have today
almost requires that the common denominator is OS and platform. If you have
400-500 PCs, just keeping them all running smoothly is a sheer nightmare.
This number can rise significantly if a school has more than 1,000 students
and is well funded for ICT (most Technology College accredited schools will
likely have at least 1 computer to every 3 people, my old school has almost
1 for every 2).

When I was at primary school, our IT room had BBC Master systems, Acorns of
all shapes and sizes (my own A3000 is still tucked away in the loft) and
some IBM PCs. Every kid wanted to use the PCs because they had the best
games on them (The Incredible Machine!) Of course, they weren't networked,
secured or anything like school computers have to be these days, because
those pesky kids will always sniff about trying to find holes in the system
to get through. Given the added demands of policing the network at all times
and a disparate set of platforms becomes a nightmare. Sure, you can get VNC
for all major and minor platforms, and no doubt there are FOSS monitoring
solutions out there - but most proprietary monitoring systems (that sit on
the desktops and monitor keystrokes, take screengrabs etc) are for Windows,
and the best-supported ones will be proprietary. My sixth form (at a
different school) had that kind of monitoring software which also looked for
keywords entered and disabled your username if you exceeded a threshold!
That was a pain (the sysadmin knew me by how I knocked on the IT Support
door after a few months).

Oh, and I almost forgot... Once you've sorted everything else out, you then
have to add in policies, including its most recent creation, RIPA,
dictating strict rules and policies for educational establishments to adhere
to - and woe betide if you cross them and Mr. investigating officer doesn't
like the cut of your jib or how you've handled the enquiry. So, compliant
monitoring, data retention and archival becomes almost as key as providing a
stable base for students and teachers. Although I don't have intimate
knowledge of each and every solution I certainly get the feeling from what
I've read and seen that most solutions either have to be completely bespoke
or an off-the-shelf, proprietary solution... Which quite often will work on
a proprietary OS.

Reiterating the point I made earlier, and Michael picked up on, until all
teachers are as au fait with every kind of platform and software as the kids
are (or may be), there's no point forcing a move to FOSS, because the kids
will be doing stuff the teachers can't even understand and it'll just waste
everybody's time and money plus lower the quality of teaching. Who cares if
MS is de facto in the school setting if it serves its purpose? Even if on
the face of it FOSS could replace it, all that existing knowledge is gone
because people have to relearn how to work the computers to a standard they
were at before. A phased migration is the only workable solution, and even
that becomes harder and harder when you have outsourced service and support
from third parties as Neil mentioned.

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