Low power, flat-screen nirvana with Open Source software

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I know sometimes I am inclined to rant on about ICT in UK education - how much it costs; how it is unsustainable (that was even before 'le crunch' ); how unutterably rubbish the qualifications in schools are; what a rip-off proprietary licences are and so on and on.

I don't blame folk for getting bored with the same old message about how much free, open source software could save the taxpayer and benefit the student. A typical 80% cost reduction is worth billions. But hey, down with the doom-mongers, I say. Let's keep on doing what just we have always done until it all falls apart in one fell swoop.

Why so sarcastic? Well, the answer lays in a very successful day of presentations at a lovely HE college in the South of England.

We met some excellent innovative and resourceful IT folk keeping the ship afloat making first-class use of free, open source software and so really I should be encouraged and cheerful.

No, what has got to me (yet again) is the evidence of past mindless ICT procurement strategies that now threatens to cripple our educational ICT.

As many of you know last week was a bad one for education in general.

It started with the announcement by HM Gov that for 16 year-olds the Basic Skills component of GSCE Maths, English and ICT have been dropped. They were due to be introduced because employers complained (and Ruth Kelly agreed in 2005) that students could get good GCSE's in Maths, English and ICT but be functionally innumerate, illiterate and unable to do more than use MS Office.

The week ended with the announcement that there was not enough money to fund existing post-16 education and indeed the budget had been miscalculated by the Government. So can they have some of it back please?

Poor Higher Education colleges and anyone else in the tertiary sector (16-19). Record numbers of students staying on after 16 and a fortune having been spent on numeracy, literacy and ICT. The result? Qualifications are no longer useful and now there's no money to carry on doing even what they did.

So it was with the above gloomy thoughts in mind, when strolling onto the above mentioned campus I walk past room after room of intensively and obviously well-used computers. Each room was in effect 'date-stamped'. You could date to the year when the capital came in and a batch of PCs were purchased. Unfortunately most still sported cathode ray tube monitors (CRT).

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