Jump to content
The Education Forum


  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

About IanLynch

  • Birthday 08/12/1955

Contact Methods

  • Website URL
  • ICQ

Profile Information

  • Location
    Tamworth, Staffordshire
  • Interests
    Interests<br>Playing rugby, playing football, keeping fit, saving schools money. I'm the World Lead for education for the OpenOffice.org project, education officer for the Association for Free Software and treasurer of Schoolforge UK.<br><br>Background<br>My education background is that I have taught in 4 LEAs and a CTC, was Curriculum Director for maths and science at the CTC Trust (Now the specialist schools trust) before setting out on my own. I was a Registered Inspector and NPQH assessor but now spend most of my time helping schools make successful specialist schools applications, supporting genuinely innovative technology in schools and various bits of management consultancy work.<br><br>

IanLynch's Achievements


Newbie (1/14)

  1. The concept of a Microsoft Society is anti-democratic. In so far as Windows is currently a monopoly that restricts competition, raises prices and curtails freedom, its undesirable enough, but the implication of a MS Society where MS has even more political power over a broader range of technologies is highly undesirable. I think maybe we should be preparing pupils to understand the economic and political implications of putting too much technological power into the hands of non-elected orgaisations. So let's talk about broad education that enables individuals to question the marketing propaganda of not just MS but all larege corporations. I suspect you were thinking more along the lines of - they will use MS word when they leave school so we must teach them using MS Word at school. In fact, young people take virtually no time to adjust from a shift from OpenOffice.org Writer to Word and back, its usually adults who have the problems. If we genuinely want to education children for change, we should be actively encouraging them to use different tools to gain confidence in the underlying principles not channeling them into a narrow set of button pressing where if something unexpected happens they are shouting for technical support. Of course many of the current generation of adults are technophobes and many of these are in positions of influence. We have to be careful that they don't transfer their prejudices to the next generation. It costs nothing but a bit of time to put OpenOffice.org on a school network alongside MS Office so why not give them some choice? The truth is we don't know what society the pupils will move into in 5 or 10 years time, so prepare them for technological change.
  2. Another take on curriculum on-line is that the BBC said they were going to put £160m into on-line E-learning resources freely available. The education software companies, RM et al complained this would kill their business and kicked up a great deal of fuss. To appease them the Gov made £100m available as effectively a Government subsidy to that sector through E-learning credits. My fundamental gripe is that this distorts the market by funding one commercial model at the expense of another. Why are schools so incapable of making their own decisions on how to spend their money? The proprietary software licensing model is the most well-known commercial software model, but there is another model that is catching on fast, that of free and open source resources. The difficulty with the licensing model is that everything is caught up in copyright so even two similar applications have to be written entirely from scratch. With software this is very inefficient because the cost of a software product is largely the initial development and marketing cost to compete in a chaotic arena where few people can even find what they want. There is no significant manufacturing or distribution cost. OTOH the FLOSS model enables any resource to be adapted freely by anyone so if I produce some on-line content and someone wants it in Welsh they are free to do the translation and make it available for everyone. If you take the OpenOffice.org project, there is currently a localisation project in Zulu taken on locally. That would be simply impossible if it was a commercially licensed product. The Zulus could not afford to develop their own Office software and the big commercial companies would consider the market too small to do a localisation in their commercially licensed products. OpenOffice.org is one of the biggest Open Source project in the World with well over 23m downloads Worldwide and perhaps 100m users it has cost significantly less than the government have spent on one years E-learning Credits. so the cost to each user is a lot less than £1. If the government spent say £50m on the current ELC system and £50m on open source development where all the products were freely downloadable and modifiable to produce new resources we could involve students in adapting and producing new resources as part of their learning and make the whole thing educational as well as save a lot of tax payers money in the longer term. What would happen is that by natural selection the best products would be used, adapted and developed (this has been shown to be the way open source development works) and once a critical mass is established all the basic support would be there, free at the point of use and without the admin overhead of licensing. Ok, the Gov has to pay for a bit of cataloguing and organisation but its doing this anyway with Curriculum On-line so that cost is on top of any licenses schools are paying to the commercial companies. Pie in the sky? If it was why are IBM making open source software central to their server strategy? Why has China stated an intent to build to 200m desktops based on this principle? Why is India, the second biggest software producer in the World backing FLOSS? In the whole scheme of things a £50m project is small but it would also stimulate development work in small local businesses rather than large foreign software giants simply reselling through UK channels. Ok, it requires leadership and a bit of risk, but then if GB plc isn't prepared to take the odd risk we will soon be left further behind in hi-tec but by the likes of China, India, and Brazil. BTW, I used to be an OFSTED RgI and I have inspected ICT in many schools. In my view we would actually be better focussing on teaching generic ICT skills to enable pupils to use ICT tools in support of their work rather than getting too side-tracked by curriculum content much of which has absolutely no research evidence to say it is effective in accelerating learning. Many of my clients end up buying stuff with ELCs because they have to and I suspect significant amounts of this software will never get used.
  3. I'm off to play 5 a side. So if I'm not back you know it was terminal
  4. Its misleading for the reasons you cite. There is no consensus that GNU/Linux is technically superior to Windows in the same way as there was with beta and VHS. Most of the consensus is that MS Office is technically superior to OpenOffice 1.1 at present though again there are arguments both ways. So the issue of technical superiority is the first red herring. The reason there was less subject specific stuff for Macs in the UK was that Acorn had a much more dominant installation base in the early 80s and then it became obvious that the shift would be to PCs and that shift only really took off when the hardware price plummeted due to competition and economy of scale. Macs have only ever been a niche player in the education market in England. Acorn was the English equavalent of the Mac. So the situation is not at all like the one with betamax and VHS and there is no real reason why open software systems for computer operating systems will not displace closed proprietary stuff in the future in the same way as the micro computer has become dominant at the expense of mainframe and mini-computers. Where I agree with you is that market forces will be influential and cost is a big factor in that equation. If VHS discs had cost 10 times as much as beta discs the story would have been completely different. So while GNU/Linux at the desktop will not take over this year or next or perhaps ever, we can be sure it will take a slice of the market, particularly in price sensitive areas and the effect of that will be to force down MS prices. Whether to a level that negates the growth of GNU/Linux remains to be seen but overall a healthy alternative is good for all users of technolgy.
  5. I think that the Betamax thing is misleading. What do you mean by best? What do you mean by win? In the case of FLOSS, its there, its being developed and its expanding globally. Its unlikely to suddenly be discontinued and whether its best or even in a majority is not really an issue, its more is it good enough for some adoption that forms a big enough client group for the size of business you operate. IBM seem to think so. From a purely business point of view, the only risk in not developing a business strategy that incorporates FLOSS is the loss of competitive advantage to those who do in a growing market with relatively little competition. In the mature Windows market there is over supply with only the monopolist making very high margins. I doubt that is sustainable and the significant players like IBM, Sun and several Governments seem to think not either. So as a cautious entrepreneur, I saw the business case to put some effort into new FLOSS systems about 3 years ago and now our Linux business is growing faster than our Windows business and its more sustainably profitable. But don't tell anyone, its nice not too much competition ;-)
  6. Could we improve the take-up of ICT training by starting to assess students on their use of ICT within subjects, or at least allowing students to use ICT in assessment. I don't just mean wordprocessing essays. Allow courswork to be submitted on CD rom, so that it may include a website or powerpoint presentations. Give credit to those students who know how to successfully search for data on a database, or manipulate 3D models, perform a data analysis using a spreadsheet or edit their own simple movies. I'm no expert in assessment but I spend a lot of time studying the tasks which my students are going to have to perform in their final external assessment. If there was some innovative integration of good use of ICT in these assessments I would be very motivated to develop my skills and I'm sure many others would too. In fact, I was just in a primary school yesterday and I know how terrified many adults are about ICT. Do we want to change this or breed another generation who are the same? Do we really believe in education? Most adults who do not have a computer wouldn't know MS Office form OpenOffice so it really doesn't matter which they use. You are going to have to give them some basic training whichever system you give them. To someone new to computing, giving them a Linux machine with KDE and OO.o really won't be any more daunting than an XP machine running OfficeXP, particularly if you focus on basic productivity tools. The main difference will be cost. If at a later stage they want to buy a new XP machine, fine let them or if they are happy that the machine they have does the job let them carry on. Give them a choice based on cost-benefit. Maybe a useful way to teach ICT would be to get kids to refurb and take home their own machine to do their own work on. Seems a rather better rationale than trying to cover every possible educationally relevant aspect of ICT. Learning by doing something that is personally useful is more likely to stick and focus on the bits that really are important. When the level of technological expertise in the organisation grows its also a lot less expensive to maintain systems. Invest in education, if you think its difficult try ignorance! Of course those with vested interests in selling new computers new software upgrades etc etc are not going to agree
  7. The Mac has always been acknowledged as a superior computer but the reason it didn't take off like the PC was nothing to do with VHS/Betamax. It was largely because the Mac was seen as a closed system wholly owned by Apple whereas the PC was open architecture and anyone could build one. People failed to realise that this was not true of the software so we now have a software monopoly instead of a hardware one. This is changing with FLOSS. While there are still few GNU/Linux desktops compared to Windows ones, the rate of growth is much higher than with the Mac and the number of GNU/Linux desktops worldwide is probably similar to the Mac numbers, just not as visible yet. I wouldn't expect to see hundreds of hits from Linux web browsers on an education site because there are probably only a few thousand desktops running Linux in schools at present. But if you go back 3 years it was probably a handful and then only a few technician enthusiast. Given that China has announced it aims to have 200m FLOSS desktops in the longer term with 0.5-1m new installations in the coming year, it seems to me that by the time primary aged pupils (half the school population) leave full time education FLOSS is going to be very much more visible driven by World events irrespective of what UK schools and the DfES do. When there were only a few FLOSS servers around, suggesting they would take 25% of the market would have been unthinkable. Anything new by definition is going to be small in number, its rate of development that matters and the FLOSS snowball just keeps trundling on.
  8. Take a look at http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/co...1101447,00.html This article puts the cost savings into perspective. MS are beginning to get really threatened by both Linux and OpenOffice.org. Its no coincidence that they are dropping prices and offering inducements to try and shut out the competition. What this really proves is that their prices, even those with large discounts to education, are and have been very inflated due to the effect of their monopoly. When competing head to head they struggle to make any profit at all eg Xbox, MSN, IE, but when they have tie in they make 80% margins and that is probably without having to be particularly efficient. Any government with any sense is going to give the impression that it will not only use but back Free software because even if they have no great intentions in this line it will certainly force prices down - possibly to less than 20% of their original values. That alone would save UK PLC around a billion a year. And the bottom line is that whatever a license costs, its more than zero and there is the hassle in auditing the stuff etc. So as software matures and people realise that functionally one piece of software is very much like another there won't be much reason not to use things like OpenOffice.org in place of MS Office, even if MS Office sells for £10 a license. The last thing BECTA should be doing is giving MS the impression that they are doing us a favour. They should be screwing them to the floor for every penny given that we have been paying inflated prices for far too long.
  9. I did make a response to the E-learning strategy consultation document on behalf of the Association for Free Software back in November. In essence I don't think the consultation document is in fact a "strategy", its more a hope/vision of what would be nice in the future. For a strategy there has to be lines of development with forecast costs and mechanisms explaiing how things will happen. There is very little of this in the consultation document. I think the biggest question mark is affordability and social inclusion. Technically, it is not that difficult to see a secondary school enabling families to log on and download and upload homework etc, but until we can be sure all families are on-line this can't become a routine way of working because it immediately polarises into the haves and have nots. So what is the strategy to get everyone an affordable ICT connection? I would go about it like this. What applications do we need to be able to run from home? Let's prioritise on the most often used and most versatile - reasonably sound managment principle - rather than the latest cutting edge and most expensive technology. The first myth to slay is that innovation is always down to the cutting edge technology. Innovation is often using existing technologies innovatively so let's be innovative by giving *all* access to the 90% of work horse tools that get used the most rather than a few getting state of the art toys. I think standards would actually rise if there was focussed attention on the creative use of basic generic productivity applications rather than the mentality that everyone must run everything. I run an IT business and mostly I use a basic PC with Linux and entirely free software. So we need to run a capable web browser, Word Processor, vector graphics for diagrams, spreadsheet, perhaps a presentation tool. I doubt most people set up databases that much so probably not that vital. What is the minimum cost of getting these to a family in workable form? Take a refurbished PC, install Linux or Windows 98 (I hear MS are now allowing Win 98 to go on refurbished machines at no extra cost) and install OpenOffice.org, Mozilla and a modem. Probably doable for under £100. Now all those families who already have a PC are not going to get too steamed up about giving such machines to those who haven't so we have the makings of a strategy that is a) Affordable Furthers Government Social Inclusion Policy c) Delays machines going into Landfill so also furthers environment policy All homework can now be professionally presented as can all coursework - Imean if I submit a business plan to the bank, I'm hardly likely to write it by hand in an exercise book. I should think the main use of extended handwriting these days is to do tests and school work. Of course as most LEA broadband will block linking of such PCs to the local school network some re-thinking will have to be done about connectivity, but lets get a few pilot schools done on this model and see what snags come up. It won't be plain sailing, but the real question is whether or not this is more likely to further policy than something else? At the moment I see very little else in terms of practical proposals other than projects that require excessive funding that will die as soon as that funding is removed and which are far too expensive for national replication. I am doing a pilot with a school on this already so a lot of the ground work is already in place.
  10. Incidentally, its rather more obvious if you look at the relative cost of software to developing countries. According to the World Bank World Development Indicators Database, 2001, MS Office and Windows XP cost the equivalent of $5431 in Malaysia based on the country's GDP and earnings. Mind, if you go to Sierra Leone its $135,000. So if you want your kids to understand the differences in wealth across the World and why it is very difficult for developing countries to legally join the hi-tec elite, take a look at http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_12/ghosh/index.html If the government wanted to not only save itself a lot of money, but also contribute to overseas development, simply backing the OpenOffice.org project with a modest amount of money would do both. Better still, invest the £100m a year spent on E-Learning Credits on FLOSS development projects using UK programmers for the benefit of the World. This would create jobs in this country and reduce costs so its a win-win. And before anyone thinks I'm an old socialist, I run a private sector company and I believe in free enterprise and competition. There are however some things that don't work on traditional free enterprise models and software development is one. Monoploies are bad for free enterprise whether state or private sector controlled but a state monopoly at least has some democratic accountability. If you want to come and learn more about the Worldwide revolution taking place in Free Libre Open Source Software in Education come to the FLOSSIE conference in February at the London Institute of Education. More details at http://www.schoolforge.org.uk/flossie/conference200402.html Essential INSET for anyone who wants to be up to date about future trends in ICT
  11. I agree, but then one would expect me to as I am part of the Marketing volunteer team for OpenOffice.org Still, its rather difficult for Government to have a "best value" policy and ignore the fact that OO.o gives pretty well the same functionality and at least as good support as MS Office at absolutely no cost to the British Taxpayer. IMHO, the Gov should be ensuring that every school has at least a library copy of OO.o for lending out to the community. There is a social inclusion policy and if the Gov really thinks that there are features in MSO that schools need, they should be identifying them and E-mailing the list to discuss@openoffice.org. Better still fund projects to make good any such deficiencies, it would be a lot less expensive to do that than to globally pay even £10 a license for MSO given the economies of scale. Oh, and the XML file format of OpenOffice.org is a recognised open international standard so on the grounds of the EU interoperability directive, that is another reason for the Gov to actively support the OpenOffice.org project. If we can afford £100m a year on ELCs, a few 100k on a project that is likely to save much more than the investment seems a bit of a no-brainer. Regards, Ian
  12. Hi, I'm the World Education Lead for the OpenOffice.org community. Couple of points. OpenOffice.org is the code base for Star Office. The only significant differences between OpenOffice.org and Star Office are: Star Office has some minor additions such as a filter for Wordperfect and the Adabas database that OpenOffice does not include. These are relatively unimportant unless you have a specific need for them. OpenOffice.org tends to get released with bug fixes more often, usually Star office comes out after a release of OO.o. So OO.o 1.1 was later released as Star Office 7. Both of these are significant improvements over their earlier versions. OpenOffice.org 2.0 is roadmapped for the end of 2004 and will again be very much improved. OpenOffice.org is a community as well as a product with potential for pupils to take part in aspects such as Quality Assurance, provision of clip art and templates, marketing, CD-ROM distribution. What better way to learn than to take part in the World's biggest Open Source project. Star Office belongs entirely to Sun Microsystems and is controlled by that company. Sun has influence in OpenOffice.org development but the ownership lies with the worldwide community. More than 20 million downloads so far. OpenOffice.org can quite happily live alongside MS Office so why not install it on your network anyway and provide choice? OpenOffice.org 1.1 can save directly to pdf files which MS Office can't and the Drawing programme OO.o Draw is worth having for school use on its own. And you can burn as many CDs as you like for pupils to use at home without messing about with vouchers and such like. This is socially responsible because it helps prevent piracy and enables pupils without the means to buy commercial software to have the same access to ICT as everyone else with the same software available at home and at school. Government social inclusion policy. You can download OpenOffice.org from www.openoffice.org. There are also links to CD-ROM distributors if you have a slow link. The OpenOffice.org Education Web page is at www.openoffice.org/education/schools. You can subscribe to the OpenOffice.org education mailing list by sending a blank E-mail to educ-unsubscribe@marketing.openoffice.org There is good support at users@openoffice.org for technical queries and its all free. You can also suggest improvements and "must have" features at discuss@openoffice.org. There is also certification available suitable for OpenOffice.org at www.theINGOTs.org If you want to find out more about FLOSS in general come to the FLOSSIE conference at the London Institute of Education 18th February. More details at http://www.schoolforge.org.uk/flossie/conference200402.html Hope this helps.
  • Create New...