One short article cannot hope to encapsulate the minutea for implementing open source in school districts and schools, however this primer sets the basis for the opportunities and strategies to achieve success.
When I speak about using open source I am not limiting it to replacing commercial office productivity suites with LibreOffice, as one example. This article speaks to the pervasive utilization of operating systems, productivity software, management software to all areas of the curriculum and business of a school district. It considers the relative ease for implementing open source in elementary schools as well as highly complex secondary schools under a diversity of programs and curricular requirements.
I recently wrote about the implementation of open source systems at the Saanich School District in southern Vancouver Island, BC here: Prepare students for a rapidly changing world by teaching with open source.
As a result I have received communication about the practicality for implementing this kind of technology and what was involved. At our school district, I would consider our implementation of open source to be a success. Is it a panacea? Would it satisfy everyones needs and perceived needs? Perhaps not but when offset against declining enrollment, budget constraints, staffing constraints, limited resources, energy conservation, and other factors, I believe it offers the greatest potential benefits while satisfying curricular and business needs.
The benefits of change
When we talk about sweeping change with this system, it considers the following. Replacing not only server operating systems with Linux but desktop operating systems through the use of distributions like RedHat, Ubuntu, and so forth. It also involves replacing the traditional fat clients, such as a Microsoft Windows computers or Macintosh computers, with Linux diskless clients that are energy efficient, cost effective, and sustainable.
It requires utilizing open source software applications wherever possible and enabling commercial applications only where necessary. It means moving to cloud-based systems as they evolve and satisfy Freedom of Information and Privacy laws. The advantages in doing these things are significant and include:
- reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
- reduced maintenance
- reduced support
- reduced operating costs
- reduced capital costs
- reduced licensing fees