Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Open source finally approved for UK schools

According to a post on the PC Pro News pages 12 "open-source companies" (I think it's the software they support that's open source, rather than the companies themselves, but hey) have made the list for the Software for Educational Institutions Framework, which means that they can supply schools with Open Source software without the schools having to feel like they'd bought it from a bloke down the pub. Similar articles from the Inquirer and ComputerWorld seem to imply that it's actually 12 companies", one of which offers Open Source" - things will no doubt become clearer later on. Or maybe not.
In my mind Sirius Corporation sounds like it's a company run by a Mr Blofeld, possibly one that kidnaps submarines, or airships, or something, but it's actually a provider of Open Source solutions including (you saw this one coming, didn't you?) Moodle. It's not clear how this relates to the Becta Learning Platform Services Framework - Sirius aren't on there, so would their Moodle solution be approved under the SfEIF? Would anyone be bothered? What would be interesting would be if a company like Sirius or Novell (whose Open Source service has apparently also been approved) were to start to do Open Source integration with MIS tools, reporting systems, other things like that, to provide the "travel adapter" for schools who would want to plug in their newly-acquired OS infrastructure to their existing (legacy?) LA-supplied MIS system.
There's a bit of a generalisation by Sirius in the PC Pro article:

Moodle is already massively used in higher education, and loads of schools want to use it. But because no supplier was on the list, if a school wanted to use it there'd be quite a lot of pressure not to from local authorities. Hopefully that can change now.
Mark Taylor, president of the Sirius Corporation & Bond Villian
- of course at this point I'd be jumping up and down waving an orange flag yelling "Local Authority", but it's a not wholly inaccurate picture of where things are in some people's mindsets. I think the bigger reluctance to use Open Source Software (OSS) has been on the desktop where despite Becta's relationship with Microsoft fluctuating from bad, through worse, to approaching normal, there is still a reluctance to do anything that doesn't involve paying through the nose. This is often due to a perception that "buying from Microsoft gives you some sort of support" - but I've yet to see an implementation of a Windows network & MS Office applications in a school that does what's wanted.
I've been asked to take part in an advisory capacity in the Open Source Schools project, which is supported by Becta, to explore how the appropriate use of OSS can help with the delivery of the Harnessing Technology strategy, including personalised learning, parental engagement and home access, as well as curriculum-based materials. This is due to kick off within the next month or so, and I hope to post about it here. In the meantime, the list of companies for the Software for Educational Institutions Framework should be released later today, possibly by the Office of Government Commerce, so watch that (or this) space.

1 comment:

  1. Hiya,

    Are you involved in Open Source for Schools - http://www.opensourceschools.org.uk ? Your post answers my question at http://www.liquidelearning.com/2008/10/open-source-for-schools.html