ICT in a new schools Academy

I just took the register with a program that used Firefox as the default browser on XP? ... Intriguing but too busy to think about it. I just received a load of coursework. It’s all very modern here. The students upload work via a...

Share

I just took the register with a program that used Firefox as the default browser on XP? ... Intriguing but too busy to think about it. I just received a load of coursework. It’s all very modern here.

The students upload work via a browser-based VLE called GO! based on Blackboard and which looks like a (pretty) version of Moodle but GO! did announce sniffily that I was using a ‘Unix’ OS which it did not support... harsh.

Everyone had submitted work in .docx format (as that was the default for MS Word 2007). It all worked smoothly enough, I did not need any training (!) but of course it could have been done just as easily (maybe without the sniffy messages) using free, open source software Moodle and Open Office.

GO!’s default launch was with Internet Explorer but that kept giving me memory overflow errors so I switched to Firefox after the inevitable XP hang that followed: I noticed on reboot that LDAP was in charge of the College’s single-sign on stuff.

I had not used either GO! or MS Office 2007 before and can honestly say I barely gave either a glance. I admired no feature or criticised any other. As I said, all very modern; a Microsoft front end, it looks like Linux on the servers and a pic’ n’ mix approach to the web-apps which are still biased towards IE.

Truth is the IT at the college is nigh on invisible. The managers are happy with their apps, the IT-admins seem calm and unstressed and the teachers and pupils just get on with it all. Think of ICT like you do of photocopiers. If you are able to discuss the latter’s finer points you are either the resources technician or very geeky indeed.

ICT in education world has matured with respect to functionality either as classroom-ware or MIS-ware. This has a consequence which is re-written below.

Everyone in IT already knows or should know the following:

  • Selling into a mature market is really tough it’s low margin, high budget, smart suit, big smile stuff.
  • Managing mature market software suite gets more and more straightforward as long as you dont change stuff much.

Arguments about proprietary v FOSS applications in the above mature context don’t get you very far. Cost savings from free software can easily be chewed up with vendor-born marketing overheads and consumer-borne management overheads. In any case software is easy to produce now, if MS Word et al were inadvertently wiped out globally tomorrow how long would it take a 16 year-old to code a functional word processor?

PCs were once funky bits of hardware in search of applications just like the smart phones of today. Now they are ‘photocopiers’ fully featured with the usual stuff (eg MS OS and MS office) networked by black-boxes running some kind of Unixesque software. A sort of natural order has been established.

In a mature market the model for better or worse is refined and elaborated not revolutionised. That’s just how it is. Thus the desktop will get cheaper and less energy hungry as is the trend and the servers will follow suit. Open source software will sit alongside proprietary software in a purely pragmatic management-user friendly sort of way not a money saving free versus costly way.

No, to be frank I have lost interest in promoting Open Office as a replacement for MS Office (at least MS Office has a development road map of sorts) and Alfresco/Nuxeo and Moodle as replacements for Sharepoint and Blackboard. The like for like market is a ground best fought over by those with deep pockets...

... now, new opportunities like the upcoming e-book/web app revolution on the new slates that is a whole lot different.

Exciting is not a strong enough word.