My school is beginning to consider moving to open source software. Currently we operate in a windows environment and use all proprietary software. The rational at this point is a matter of both money and open access to public documents. I have read about some success stories with linux based systems in schools and how the choice of open source allowed for greater buying power. I am interested in hearing from anyone whose school has gone through the transition. How did it work out for you? What were the challenges faced by the faculty along the way? How was it received by parents and students and what challenges did they face? What other benefits are there aside from what I listed? What were the surprises, good and not so good?
Thanks for any feedback you can give me.

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Well, I'm not sure this is the info you're looking for, but it's an amusing story no less.

One of my 5th graders (who's actually pretty tech savvy) downloaded ubuntu and installed it on his MacBook. Of course he lost everything, including his old documents, movies, pics, (not to mention his entire MacOSX), but he LOVES his new Linux system! HA!
He's having to work really hard with 2 weeks left in school to re-create all the work coming due, and I'm not mad at him. Heck, he didn't harm anyone or anything but himself and those are his natural consequences. He's serving them with a good attitude, and while he works to really get the bells and whistles added to his new Linux system, he's learning SO much (including time-management and priority-building). Heck, if he messes his Linux up, we'll just re-clone his MacOSX and we're back to square one! However, I think he'll soon be learning how to partion his HardDrive and will have BOTH!

Can I tell you how much I love working with students who have a certain measurement of tech freedom and watching them really grow in maturity, responsibility, and knowledge? Oh, also, I'll mention that as a reg classroom teacher, I have NO idea what is going on with all this, but that he's been able to pull in expert help for his own (and MY) mentorship? I LOVE working in a charter school that focuses on preparing kids for the REAL 21st century!! We truly DO have to move at the speed of light...
RIck, given the limited number of replies to your posting, I feel compelled to share what we have been doing in my district with Open Source Software. It marginally addresses your questions but you may find some of it helpful.

But first, you may want to check out the COSN web site which has some Open Technologies Studies including the Saugus Union School District, and the Indiana Desktop Linux project. IBM has a K-12 Open Technologies effort, too.

We run a primarily Apple OS X computer environment. X Server takes advantage of many Open Source Software applications, but while it is less costly than a Microsoft environment, it is not fully Open Source. Some of the OSS applications we run on our desktops include: Firefox, Neo-Office (Apple port of Open Office), Audacity (sound recording/editing), Cyberduck (FTP client), and others. We are looking at Seashore, an image program like GIMP and Photoshop.

In addition, I maintain a Linux server running Redhat Enterprise Server 4.0, which while not free costs $50/year for educational institutions and is a fully featured server. On it I run Wordpress blog, phpBB2 forum software, Moodle course management system, Doku WIki wiki. All these run on Apache web server which is an Open Source project that comes with Redhat Server, and many other Linux distributions.

Many districts in CT where I work are beginning to look seriously at OSS alternatives. There is a state-wide effort to PromOTE (Promote Open Technology in Education) that one of our regional education service centers (RESC's) has initiated. Recently I attended a day-long workshop at Education Connection, the hosting RESC. The speakers included David Shields of the Linux Technology Center at IBM, a man who has been part of the Open Standards effort at IBM for many years.

I can also state that I use Ubuntu (7.04) on my desktop computer at home and am very pleased with its performance. The initial installation is very easy, and the GUI is simple and clean looking. I should add that it is very stable.

If you plan to move to OSS, the conventional wisdom is to move to Open Office (or Star Office which is also free to education and the basis for the Open Office project), replacing your MS Office installations in commonly used areas such as student computer labs. Then perhaps Moodle (which for schools using Blackboard can be a huge cost savings) on MS IIS (web server software.) You might want to pilot Ubuntu on a few older desktop systems. Then set up a Linux server....
Rick:

This is a topic that I end up talking a lot about... :) You might want to look at my blog (www.stevehargadon.com) and my interview series on Free and Open Source Software in Education (http://edtechlive.wikispaces.com).

I will be running a large Open Source Pavilion at NECC again this year (http://necc2007.wikispaces.com), and have a wiki at www.K12OpenSource.com. Seems like we need a good social network for Open Source in Education--don't you think? :)

Steve
Hi Rick,

I advocate Open Source for schools and the first thing I usually ask from those who are planning to migrate is to list down all the crucial applications that you are using (and if possible, the features as well) so that you can map each commercial application to one that runs on Linux. I must give you a warning, though, that it is not easy.

In one lab in the University of the Philippines, a single Windows PC was left just so some of the proprietary applications that do not have (yet) a Linux equivalent will still be accessible to faculty.

Before embarking on that journey, I recommend that you have a team who are familiar with the FOSS before you start getting students and faculty members to shift. Support is always key in situations like this.

Here's a way to do it - use FOSS that runs on Windows first. Once they're familiar with the FOSS on Windows, gradually remove Windows and replace with Linux. :)

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