Microsoft Vista Pushed Back Yet Again

Microsoft has announced that its upcoming Windows Vista operating system will be delayed until at least January of 2007. Can anyone say vaporware? That’s OK MS, take your time. Seriously. We really don’t need Vista. There are plenty of excellent alternatives.

At any rate, this is likely good news for the Linux movement, and for Macintosh sales as Apple continues to increase its market share.

RedHat & Open Source In Education

Redhat has announced a partnership with Lotus Learning Systems Society to promote the use and implementation of open source software in schools. (full article)

The Hyderabad based Lotus Learning Systems Society, an organisation established to provide world- class professional teacher development and establishing and operating educational institutions, will deploy Red Hat’s open source we can learn from and adapt in the educational context.

And a quote from the article that I particularly like:

With open source software, we can modernize the education system far more rapidly than we can with proprietary software. Open source gives schools flexibility and control over their IT infrastructure and freedom from expensive licensing schemes.

And a quote that I can support from my own research:

Open source also helps in building a participative community of educationists and technologists.


And while I’m on the topic of open source software, I just noticed a couple of excellent links for those looking at finding and using open source applications on Windows or Mac operating systems. There are links to some excellent software packages here.

Open Source Windows – Open source software for Windows.
Open Source Mac – Open source software for OS X.


I received an instant message from my 13-year-old nephew today. He wanted to discuss the differences between peer-to-peer file-sharing and bit torrent. He’s being homeschooled this year so it’s been fairly easy to connect with him at times when he’s usually in school.

I wanted to know what he thought about homeschooling. I’ve been involved in formalized school settings for the majority of my life as a student, as a teacher, and now working in a Faculty of Education with preservice teachers. I’ve often thought about my life as it would have been had I been homeschooled. I’ve pondered what it would be like to be apart from the familiar social environment in our classrooms, and how it may be different to learn. Here’s some brief insight from my nephew as captured from our IM conversation.

Me: So how are things going with your homeschooling?
George: Great.
Me: You don’t miss being in the classroom at all?
George: Not really. I like not being in it actually.
Me: What don’t you like about it?
George: The noise. The strange people.
Me: Yea, you can’t do much work with the noise.
George: Nothing actually.
Me: Do you feel like you are learning more now?
George: For sure. This is way more efficient, because by the time the teacher is done with everybody else we’ve wasted a lot of time.

There are simple insights here, perhaps so simple that we tend to ignore them as unavoidable. What if we really payed attention? What would learning look like then?

Come Back Soon Stephen!

I’ve been pretty busy with my writing, and haven’t had the chance to comment on Stephen’s annoucement on the (hopefully) temporary hiatus of the OLDaily and all of the wonderful work that Stephen does there. I know that my thoughts for a swift return have already been echoed throughout the blogosphere, and this outpouring certainly demonstrates your deep impact in the learning community. It’s been a pleasure to learn from and with you over the past several years, and it was truly my pleasure to meet you in Regina a few months ago. We all hope for the best in your current circumstances and we wish for your speedy return.

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Canadian University Rejects Plagiarism Detection Service

The Chronicle Herald reports that Mount Saint Vincent University has outlawed the use of the popular plagiarism detection service. The service has been instituted at other Canadian Universities in the past several years due to the rise of digital plagiarism.

The announcement is timely for me as I just finished facilitating a workshop on academic integrity, digital plagiarism and intellectual property (presentation available for download). One of the things I stress throughout the workshop is that when you come to the point of policing the problem, you’ve already lost the battle. does just that … policies incidents of digital plagiarism, and I feel that resources and efforts need to be placed at earlier intervention points instead.

I’ve included a graphic from my presention to help you understand what I mean:

Intervention points for eliminating digital plagiarism

In practice, there are three approaches toward eliminating digital plagiarism. Academic integrity/character approaches, preventative approaches (e.g., assignment design, learning vs. grades, elimination of competition) and policing/detection approaches (e.g., And with these, there are three junctures for applying these approaches. I think the rest is self-explanatory.

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Concepts Trump Information

Peter Rock has followed up on my previous post, and has thoughtfully expanded on my point regarding the old adage “if you don’t teach x (e.g., MS Office), you aren’t preparing students for the real world”.

Peter responds:

I don’t teach students to memorize and regurgitate. I don’t teach students to use MS Word or OpenOffice Writer. I use such applications to teach word processing. I don’t teach students to use Mozilla or Internet Explorer. I use such applications to teach web browsing. I don’t teach students Scribus or Adobe Pagemaker. I use such applications to teach desktop publishing. I don’t teach students Logo, Guido van Robot or Python. I use such languages to teach programming. I don’t aim to have students memorize the 5,6, or 7 steps it takes to perform a specific task. I teach menus, how they are organized and thus, where they would likely find a sought after function in any similar application. This is not to say that memorization does not occur – of course it does. But most of that memorization occurs unconsciously and is secondary to conceptual understanding.

I supervise many preservice teachers through their internship experiences, and of course, I do my best to ensure that these beginning teachers “get it” when it comes to technology integration. To get a better understanding of how well technology is being integrated into a particular classroom, I find out from the K-12 students themselves. I’ve often used the simple question, “what are you working on?”. Now most of the time, I will get an answer like, “creating a spreadsheet”, or “surfing the web”. That’s not what I want to hear. But, when I enter the classroom of a teacher who really “gets it”, I may hear something like “preparing a budget” or “projecting costs” or “analyzing and comparing information from multiple sources.” OK, the language is not always quite as polished, but even with younger kids, you can easily tell if they are learning a spreadsheet for the sake of learning a spreadsheet, or if the teacher has created an environment where such software is just another tool in the arsenal.

Check out Peter’s post. It’s worth the time.

ZDNet Article: Open Source In Education

Today, ZDNet UK featured a special article focused on open source in education. It’s a good read with some excellent points, and since this is a huge interest of mine (and the reason for my very infrequent blogging), I’ve provided some of the key points below along with some thoughts of my own.

1) Exposing school-aged children to open source software may make the difference in long-term adoption.

Or alternately, “For companies like Microsoft the school market is important because they’re leading innocent young minds to love Microsoft technologies.” And of course, then the old argument continues that schools shouldn’t use open source technologies because they are not used in “the real world”. Whose world are we preparing these children for? Ours, or theirs?

2) There is a perception that open source software is more difficult to use … at least for adults.

Yes, some open source software is more difficult to use than their proprietary counterparts, and I’ve seen this stated as a reason for resistance many times. However, there’s also some excellent software that’s easier to use and better than anything in the proprietary world (if you are reading this using Firefox, you know what I mean).

But if there are any differences in usability, I don’t think it’s intentional unlike one voice quoted in the article. “There is a prevailing sentiment among many in the free software community that technology shouldn’t be too easy and that people should invest the time to learn about it.” Hmmmm … I am not sure I buy that.

But the more important point is that when it comes to children using software, it may not matter. “John Osborne, a deputy headteacher at Orwell High School, which runs about 350 Linux-based thin-clients, says the pupils in the school found it relatively easy to learn how to use the open source desktops, although the staff struggled initially.” And I guess the idea that staff struggle with software use ties in well to point #1, and of course, Prensky’s Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants argument.

3) There are now many open source educational applications available for schools.

“There are a number of open source educational suites available, including the KDE Edutainment Suite, which includes tools such as the geography learning tool KGeography and the vocabulary trainer KVocTrain; the GCompris suite which includes algebra, science, geography and reading tools; and the Tux4Kids project, which has produced software such as TuxPaint and TuxTyping. Some Linux distributions. such as Edubuntu, come with bundled educational applications, including.” Obviously, you just have to know where to look.

4) Open source software adoption in schools is still slow due to a general ignorance of these tools furthered by strong marketing campaigns/approaches from software companies.

“The limited use of open source by schools can also be put down to lack of awareness or technical skills, and fear of the unknown.” And of course, it’s not just fear. It’s fear, uncertainty and doubt or FUD.

5) It is perceived that the technicians in many schools are not familiar enough with open source tools to provide sufficient support, or are reluctant to do so.

“..technical skills among school technicians is also a key factor. Paul Jenkins, the managing director of open source consultancy SimpleICT (formerly SchoolLINUX) says that few IT technicians know anything about Linux, so are unlikely to support a migration to such software. “The IT guy doesn’t know anything about Linux, so a way to protect himself and his job is to say it’s no good,” he claims.” While I am sure this is not true in all cases, I’ve witnessed this sentiment and the inaction it brings. Obviously the solution to this is to support the educational growth and professional development of technicians as you would with anyone else in the institution.

6) It’s not just about the cost.

Sure, open source adoption can lead to superior cost-savings. However, there are many other factors through adoption that can be as or more important.

“Linux thin clients are more resilient — at one school where SiriusIT has installed thin clients, there is no technician to support the technology, but due to the resilience of the technology this has not been an issue. With Linux, IT isn’t an issue any more — systems don’t crash. The thin client environment is quicker to boot and if someone pulls the plug it’s back up in a few seconds. Also, they don’t blue screen any more.”

While I certainly don’t buy the argument that “IT isn’t still an issue with Linux adoption”, I do agree that the open source process often produces software with greater quality and resilience. However, thats’ not the only other good reason for adoption.

7) The open source movement can be seen as a culture, an ideology and a better way for humans to work together on shared pursuits.

There is some philosophical argument regarding the moral superiority of open source software vs. proprietary software. Some of this sentiment comes from Richard Stallman and the related, but different, Free Software Movement. Whether you buy this argument or not, there is something to be said about developing software or content through open methods, and the philosophy inherent to the open movement is worth modelling to our students. And in the words of Sartre “Instead of secrecy, openness should reign, and I can very well imagine the day when two persons will no longer keep any secrets from one another because they will have no secrets from anyone, because the subjective life will be a fact, as totally open as the objective life.” And with this, I will continue to do my part to support the open movement in my corner of the world.