Open Technology Solutions for K-12 Education

Open Technology Solutions for K-12 Education

EDUCATION CONNECTION Open Technology Solutions Fair

Litchfield, Connecticut

May 9, 2007

David Shields

Linux Technology Center, IBM

Copyright (C) 2006, David Shields.



  • Explain key concepts of Open Technology: standards, architecture, source, data formats, collaboration.
  • Show how they can be applied to education looking at some case studies.
  • Suggest how best to deploy, next steps.

Open Technology includes …

Open Standards

  • Shared specification or shared convention
  • Improves information sharing by simplifying integration of different technologies (interoperability)
  • Allows multiple implementations of the same technology

Open Architecture

  • Open up the system design (hardware or software)
  • Standards-based development using open interfaces and specifications.
  • Allows innovation on top of common specifications.

Open Source

  • Freely available source code for program application, utility or library.
  • Promote innovation by leveraging community development
  • Accelerate open standards creation and adoption

Open Data

  • Internet has enabled worldwide distribution of content at minimal or no cost.
  • Programs, in source or binary form, are an important kind of open data.
  • Open data and data formats

Open Collaboration:

  • Sharing information
  • Building communities
  • Social networks, part of “Web 2.0”


Standards Matter

Disasters / Humanitarian Assistance:

In Government:

  • George Washington to Constitutional Convention, 1787: “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.”
  • George Washington in recently-discovered letter from 1787: “The happiness of this Country depend much on the deliberations of the federal Convention which is now sitting. It, however, can only lay the foundation — the community at large must raise the edifice.”

In Education: No Child Left Behind

In Commerce: Standards Competition


Open Standards / Open Architecture: Hardware

Desktop/server computer components today:

  • Case
  • Power Supply
  • Motherboard
  • Processor
  • Memory
  • Hard Disk Drive
  • CD/DVD Disk Drive
  • Display
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Graphics card
  • Network card


  • Components are interchangeable; they can be substituted.
  • Components are independent; you can change one without affecting the others.
  • Not a new concept; see for example Eli Whitney (Yale ’92)
    and Samuel Colt

  • More choice to end-user.
  • Most users just need components that are “good enough.”
  • Market dynamics change:
    • Components commoditized, need high-volume to make money
    • Innovation becomes more important to the component makers

Key concepts: standard interfaces, components, commoditization, “good enough”

Cost of each of above has fallen dramatically:

  • For example, disk storage from 1 megabyte/$1000 in 1983 to 3 gigabytes/$1 today, factor of 3 million improvement.
  • Same componentization phenomenon in software going on now.

Background / history:

1981: IBM releases Personal Computer

  • Publishes interfaces to hardware.
  • These interfaces become instant standard.
  • Enables others to develop hardware.
  • Puts Moore’s law to work in new mass market.
  • Defines how to develop (DOS) and distribute (floppy disk) software for this new kind of computer.


  • Definition of hardware interfaces as formal standards: “plug compatible interface”
  • Enables “cloning” of hardware, such as portable computer from Compaq, the ancestor of today’s notebook/laptop.
  • In 1984 Michael Dell starts selling plug-compatible PC’s from stock off-the-shelf components.
  • PC “microcomputer” evolves into workstation that replaces minicomputer.
  • Rise of commercial, “shrinkwrap” software. Microsoft goes from DOS to Vista.

Open architectures from IBM:


Open Standards / Open Architecture: Software

A standard is “open” if:

  • Open to input from the community of interested entities;
  • Available fairly, to any entity that wishes to implement or use them;
  • Neutral and unbiased – giving no one entity or vendor an unfair advantage over others in the creation or implementation of the standard.

Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF):

  • Develops and maintains open internet standards
  • Started in 1969, almost 5000 reports and documents to date

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

  • The World Wide Web (W3) is an application built on the internet.
  • “W3C develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential.”
  • “In order for the Web to reach its full potential, the most fundamental Web technologies must be compatible with one another and allow any hardware and software used to access the Web to work together. W3C refers to this goal as “Web interoperability.” By publishing open (non-proprietary) standards for Web languages and protocols, W3C seeks to avoid market fragmentation and thus Web fragmentation.”
  • Over ninety standards published since 1994.

The initial work on W3 began in 1989 at CERN. CERN released the base code for W3 into the public domain in 1993. See Ten Years Public Domain for the Original Web Software, which includes the following quotation from Tim Berners-Lee:

CERN’s decision to make the Web foundations and protocols available on a royalty free basis, and without additional impediments, was crucial to the Web’s existence. Without this commitment, the enormous individual and corporate investment in Web technology simply would never have happened, and we wouldn’t have the Web today.”


  •, a Uniform Resource
    Locator (URL)

    • http: is protocol
    • is domain name that resolves to a specific Internet Protocol (IP) address.
    • TR/html/html01/ is directory on a server
    • html140.html is file with HTML specification (this document is written according to that specification)
    • Standard for domain name
      • Use characters A-Z, 0-9 and hyphen (-):
      • So “” and “W3.ORG” the same, “W$” not allowed
  • email:
    • john is recipient
    • @ separates recipient name from recipient’s site
    • is recipient’s site

and so it goes …


What is Open Source?

Software is a special kind of writing that directs the operation of the various hardware components of a computer. Open Source is a kind of software.

  • You are almost certainly using some of it every time you use a computer or use the internet.
  • Yahoo runs much of its business using Open Source Software, as does Google. (Google uses 3 million processors
    running Linux, an open source operating system).

  • Firefox — a browser you can use to access Yahoo, Google, and all the other web sites — is a good example of Open
    Source software.

Since software is a form of writing, it is protected by copyright. The author, or copyright owner, sets the license terms. Software is “Open Source” if its license meets the conditions of the Open Source Definition.

There are many Open Source licenses though only a few are widely used.

Here are some key differences between commercial and open source code licenses:

Question Open Source Commercial
Access to source code? Yes No
Payment? No Yes
Can make copies? Yes No
Can make changes? Yes No
Can distribute copies and/or changes? Yes No

Open Source code is usually developed using collaborative community-based approach in which all work is done in full public view.

It is distributed in several ways, including: as individual programs (also called “packages”); or as a set of related programs, called a “suite”; as a collection that constitutes a complete operating environment for a computer, called a “distribution.”

It is usually made available as a downloadable file from the web, or on a CD, or on a DVD.


  • User
  • Contributor
  • Maintainer
  • Distributor


Examples of Open Source projects


  • Open-source implementation of operating system kernel, work began in 1991.
  • Supports many Unix-related standards such as the IEEE POSIX standards.
  • Many kernel developers are corporate employees, using shared R & D model to enable Linux for the enterprise.
  • Linux growing several times faster in server market than total market and faster than Windows server.
  • Has become standard platform used by open source developers
  • Available on wide range of architectures, from supercomputers to cell phones, and also the $80 Linksys NSLU2
  • Customers asking for Linux led to greater IBM involvement to provide more options to customers by making Linux more enterprise-ready.


  • Most widely used HTTP Web server (for over a decade), see Netcraft Apr ’07.
  • Community initiated, example of best practices in open source development and governance
  • Apache also sponsors many other projects, including XML and Web Services, databases, and so forth.
  • IBM’s first serious engagement in Open Source was replacing the proprietary Notes Domino Web Server with Apache’s server in mid-1998.


  • Browser and client technology.
  • Widely used. One of first open-source applications to achieve wide use on the desktop.
  • The term “open source” was created in early 1998 when Netscape decided to release the source code for the Netscape browser as a competitive response to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
  • Mozilla evolved into today’s Firefox browser, Thunderbird e-mail client.


Open Source Strategy

Support rapid adoption of open standards by providing easy access to high quality open source implementation of open standards in order to speed industry adoption. Encourage open source implementations of standards and so use open source to support business and strategic goals.

Use open source as business tool by keeping platform open and to take advantage of new business opportunities. This encourages choice and flexibility in meeting customers’ needs.

Enhance mind share and work with open source projects, build relationships with the community of developers. Become strategic player, both as contributor and consumer of technology.

IBM contributions over last 8 years

  • More than 1000 IBM developers involved in OSS projects.
  • IBM leads over 80 projects.
  • IBM contributes to over 150 projects.


Market Dynamics

Very mature open source packages available for infrastructure and tooling, especially in the application and web server space.

Most standards have open-source implementations:

  • Open source used to create initial “reference” implementation.
  • If good enough this can become the most widely-used, standard implementation.
  • These implementations become components.
  • Just as with hardware, some components become commodities.

Programming applications increasingly based on component creation and integration: distinguish standards-supporting versus value-add components.

  • Open source “stack” available from the smallest embedded computers to supercomputers, from system startup to enterprise applications.
  • Low barrier to entry allows this this stack to be used as a platform for innovation:
    • Encourage like-minded companies within an industry to collaborate on development of common business functionality.
    • Share common development method and open standards.
    • Utilize a common value-based approach supported with partner or peer.

Hybrid Model:

  • Products and solutions moving toward hybrid mix of open source and commercial components.
  • Commercial vendors: create software that is innovative, meant to differentiate the vendor and deliver value to the clent.
  • Can use non-differentiating open source components that implement and support standards.
  • Open Source projects/vendors create software through open, collaborative communities driving evolution of standards and innovation.
  • Choice no longer just build or buy, can now integrate and even share components.
  • Opportunity to develop and enhance service business.

Industry evolving. What is the right mix?


Benefits of Open Source

  • Choice and Flexibility
    • Hardware portability – available on multiple platforms
    • Software flexibility
    • Modularity and extensibility – can customize and adapt
    • Range of support options
  • Low acquisition cost, no recurring license fees
  • Easy access to software
    • Light weight, easy to use
    • Rapid prototyping lets you try things out with small investment.
    • One model now in wider user is to develop using open source, deploy using commercial software.
  • Quality
    • Peer review of source code enhances quality.
    • Broad community testing helps discover bugs.
    • Fast cycle time of releases and fixes encourages wider use.
    • Adoption encourages others to join project.
  • Many choices


Challenges of Open Source

  • Support
  • Integration
    • With other open source software
    • With commercial software
  • Skills
    • Commercial developers may have little experience.
    • New developers probably have some experience as open source.
  • Availability of applications
  • Maturity
    • Size of user community; strength of developer community
    • Enterprise requirements: function, scalability
    • Community and industry support.
    • Sustainability — will it be available five years from now?
  • Too many choices.


Key Customer IT Questions and Open Source

How can IT help our business succeed?

  • Solve our problems today
  • Grow in the future
  • Integrate across and outside the company
  • Respond quickly to opportunities and threats

How can we improve our IT infrastructure?

  • Better – more reliable, more secure
  • Faster – better price / performance
  • Lower cost – more efficient, lower TCO
  • More flexible – easier to integrate and adapt to new opportunities

Should we use Open Source Software?

  • When / Where / How /
  • Open Source / Commercial / Mixture
  • Who from / Who supports / Who integrates
  • How much will it cost / TCO / ROI ?
  • How to acquire or learn needed skills?


Integrating Open Source into your IT Strategy

Insist on Open Standards – increases flexibility and responsiveness

Evaluate Open Source and Commercial software options – be pragmatic.

  • Most customers are using a mix of open source and commercial source..
  • The open source may be found embedded within commercial source.
  • Don’t build a separate strategy – interoperability / migration considerations are important.
  • Balance up-front costs against recurring costs.

Evaluate Community and its maturity before committing to Open Source:

  • Open, robust communities and broad industry support are important.
  • Sustainable business models are also important.
  • Look for healthy ecosystem of vendors, service suppliers, and business partners.

Establish policies for dealing with open source software:

  • Provide education.
  • Understand licensing issues.
  • Need a team: business, technical, legal.


  • Be pragmatic – “Crawl, walk, run.”
  • Run proof of concept or pilot to test viability.
  • Make decisions based on both business and technical factors.


Open Content

It’s not just about sharing code but all forms of data/content. For example,

  • Web 1.0 began as effort by physics research lab CERN to share information about research.
  • Wikipedia is an example of open content.
  •, 400,000+ papers in physics, match, etc. Most written using open
    source programs Tex/LaTex.

  • Web 2.0 — work in progress.

Just as with open source code need to address licensing issues. See for example Creative Commons

New ways of distributing, creating and sharing content:

Business models based on user-supplied content, social networking, building communities on the web:

Education: Hewlett Foundation Open
Educational Resources (OER) – Making High Quality Educational Content and Tools Freely Available on the Web


Open Data Formats

Part of open technology is the use of open data formats, the web being a prime example. Data formats are important in many other areas; in particular in the need for institutions that archive and maintain public records that go back decades — and in some cases centuries — and which need to be preserved in a public form indefinitely.

For example imagine if Lincoln had used Powerpoint: The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation.

By the way, I prefer the open format HTML. It is good enough for me and no one need download or buy any software to read it: they can just use their browser.

In an environment where a single word processing application is widely used, organizations have largely defaulted to storing their documents in proprietary file formats. A weakness of this approach is that if a user were to employ an application that does not use the same file format, then that user would not be able to efficiently collaborate and exchange data with colleagues.

In situations where different proprietary formats are used, the search, retrieval and re-use of vital information stored in documents can become difficult if not impossible.

Problems only compound when maintaining archival data in a proprietary format, as may need not only to maintain the data but the software used to access that data, and the operating system software on which that software runs, and the hardware that can run that operating system, and associated skills.

Adobe announced in January 2007 that it would submit PDF as an open standard: Adobe and industry standards.

Open Document Format (ODF) is emerging as an open standard
document format to facilitate interoperability and collaboration in the format for document editing, interchange,
storage and retrieval. It is maintained by OASIS and is the
format used by the open source office suite OpenOffice. See ODF Alliance, especially ODF

Libraries / Museums / Governments / Educational Institutions:

Blogs: Bob Sutor (IBM VP of Open Standards and Open
, Andy Updegrove, Sam Hiser.


COSN K-12 Open Technologies Study #1: Saugus Union School District

See Case Study 1, Jim Klein’s Open Technologies at
and his recent COSN

Profile: 11000 students in 15 K-6 campuses. IT group manages 800 staff accounts, 11K student accounts, authentication and authorization for 50+ programs.

Problem: District was using Novell Netware solution, but worried about continued support for education. Decided for migrate to Linux. This done in 2Q 2004.

Decided to use RedHat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) for servers, Fedora for desktops.

Self-taught: Used books, LDP, (Observation: Because open source so prevalent and many mail lists publicly available, web search is a great tool to learn about packages, aka “Support via google.” Note also the “Amazon book metric.”)

Used RHEL Kickstart to automate install and configuration process. Used flash drive with Kickstart program and RHEL
install CD.



Service Old New (Open Source)
Directory services Novell Directory Services OpenLDAP
Windows File and Print Novell Netware 6.2 Samba
Macintosh File and Print Novell Netware 6.x Netatalk
Web server Apache or Netware Enterprise Apache
Email server Novell Groupwise 6.5 Novell Groupwise 6.5 on Linux
DNS/DHCP servers Novell BIND9 and dhcpd
Web proxy server Novell Border Manager Squid
Backup Veritas Backup exec Bacula

Used two old (5-8 years) and one new server per school, using standard configurations:

1 DHCP, router, NAT, web proxy
2 Email, library automation, web server, local DNS
3 File/print, directory services, backup


Used The Open CD (Win ports of 30+ packages) to demo Open Source to faculty
and staff.

Rollout started with non-essential edge servers, worked way to core, testing and developing expertise on the way. Migrated 14 school sites and 42 servers over six weeks during summer. Now almost all Linux, with a few Windows servers running legacy database apps that are not yet Linux ready.

Staff receptive, especially since much of migration transparent (Windows users still saw Windows servers, as did Mac users and Mac servers). Easy migration to use Open Office (OO), and configured OO to save documents by default in MS Word format (hope to see standards-based format supported by both OO and MS Office).


  • Maintenance: use RedHat network for automated updates and patches. Use cron scripts to update student desktops; use VNC to access desktops.
  • Expansion: working with vendors to encourage and obtain Linux versions
  • Virtualization: Moving from several servers to blade servers, plan to use Xen to run virtual machines to bettter manage server resources.
  • Linux on student desktop: Plan gradually migration, using Linux to extend shelf life of older computers. Plan to set up complete lab using Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP).
  • Building “Open District:” Every teacher given OpenCD; new machines configured to use Open Office suite. Have “Teacher
    Community” for content development using ELGG Open Source social networking platform — “MySpace for Teachers.” (ELGG started in March 2004)

  • Investigating Moodle, but proceeding slowly. “Frustrated by lack of standards.”



  • Solving 30 per cent of tech support issues within one day. “Thrilled with dramatic increase in performance, reliability and fault tolerance.”
  • Customization: Modfied perl scripts for editing Samba accounts on the LDAP directory. Extended to exchange information with some of their web apps.
  • Time savings: Servers easier to manage. Single server management and configuration tool.
  • Cost savings: $54K/year for Novell licensing costs, estimate $50-$200/year per desktop by using OO and other Open Source software on desktop workstations.
  • Community: Spirit of “Open Community” beginning to catch on. More sharing of lesson plans, new uses such as using Audacity (from the OpenCD) to record podcasts of class review material.

Lessons learned:

  • Happy with results, felt research, planning and early experimentation important.
  • So happy that “would not be so cautious next time” but would try newest beta releases sooner.
  • Every time they looked for an open source alternative they found one.


COSN K-12 Open Technologies Study #2: Indiana Desktop Linux

Case Study 2, inAccess
and Linux Desktops in Indiana – A

Indiana sponsors one of the most extensive statewide programs to provide class sets of low-cost student workstations using Linux on the desktop.

The Indiana Affordable Classroom Computers for Every Secondary Student (InACCESS) program is

  • State-funded via grants
  • Has placed more than 22,000 workstations in 24 high schools across Indiana.
  • Classrooms in a single subject area (usually language arts) are
    fully equipped with non-mobile workstations.

  • The workstations are used for online research, frequent writing, and collaboration.

Indiana has just over one million students in public schools, with 300,000 high school students.

The majority of schools have a student-to-computer ratio of between 5:1 and 8:1. About half the computers are in a lab environment.

Motivation — status in 2001:

  • Computing resources were either overbooked or not reaching students.
  • Students were spending an average of only 35 minutes per week using computers.
  • Often the few classroom computers were used with early finishers and occasionally for special projects.
  • Lab computers heavily used, most classes used just once/week


  • Considered individual laptops but rejected on basis of cost and security issues.
  • Decided to focus on 1-1 (one computer for each student) in language arts.
  • Create grant program so schools could purchase low-cost computers using open-source.
  • Provide up to $190K/grant to equip five classrooms with 30 stations in each. One quarter of budget for professional development.
  • Goal to keep software costs to $5/year.
  • Initial cost $400-$600 including desktop running on commodity hardware.
  • Using Gnome, KDE, Star Office, Moodle, GIMP, IHMC CMAP (CMS), Crossover Linux (to run Win apps).
  • Provide choice of Linux distros: Novell, Linspire, RedHat, Ubuntu. State provides images to format hard drives.
  • Minimal ongoing investment.
  • Schools given freedom to come up with their own plan.
  • Pilots for two years starting in 2003. Program going strong today.


InACCESS Case Study Highlights

Feature MI CH RC AC MC
Computers 300 300 150 120 ?
Classrooms 10 10 ? 4 9
Subjects Eng Eng Eng (2) Sci(2)
Moodle? Yes Yes Yes
StarOffice? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Distribution SUSE SUSE SUSE + Edubuntu
Desktop NLD Yes NLD
Diskless client? No No Ardence LTSP No

Key: MI, Michigan City; CH, Connersville HS; RC, Rush County; ACc Alexandria Community; MC, Monroe County (one of few all-MS sites in program).


  • Summer training for teachers, starting with StarOffice and Moodle to prepare worksheets and quizzes. “Shallow end of the pool.” (CH)
  • InAccess gives extra points to applicants that partner with established districts. Rush did this and reported that this made process much easier. (RC)
  • State did allow funds to be used for a few applications such as Criterion that were known to be of value in one-to-one context.
  • Teachers were using MS Office, students MS Works, which caused compatibility problems. Moved to StarOffice for all.

  • Relying on uniform images, remote installs and refresh at start of each school year.
  • Remote installation makes it easier to update and maintain large number of machines.
  • Server-based approach (LTSP,Ardence) eliminates need for hard drives in some workstations.

Technology / Software:

  • Schools use StarOffice (SO), an enhanced version of Open Office (OO) , since Indiana has statewide license for SO.
  • Using Ardence server to avoid hard drives, provide Novell Linux
    Desktop (NLD)
    to 150 new machines. (RC)

  • Used SuSE, StarOfice (commercial version of Open Office, Crossover (AC) (supports running Windows apps on non-Windows platforms. Used here for Inspiration and Criterion ). (AC)


  • Provided summer training in Moodle. Training not needed for StarOffice since it similar to MS Office. (RC)
  • In some classes, students start by logging into Moodle they keep daily journal, access assignments. (MI)
  • Teachers use Moodle to administer quizzes, provide assignments, chats, journaling. (RC)


Reported problems:

  • Tried termal server approach, had problems (not detailed), so moved to desktop with CD install (CH)
  • Tried pilot one-to-one laptop, found it was too expensive. (AC)
  • Required dual Linux/Win98 boot to support one application (testing program). (AC)
  • Used Novell SuSE for $10/year when XP available for comparable price; think could have stayed with all-Windows networking. (MC)

Reported benefits:

  • Training requirements have proven to be modest, in part due to similarity of commercial and open-source applications
  • Schools adding up to 300 new machines but none have to add additional support staff.
  • Plans to expand to social studies, geography and economics classes. (CH)
  • So pleased that extended in second year to three new classrooms using school’s own funds, using no hard drives and thin client/LTSP approach. (AC)
  • Using money saved to invest in other technologies such as classroom feedback system. (AC)
  • Plan to use 90 old desktops that would otherwise be retired as LTSP clients. (AC)

Teacher comments:

  • Seeing more writing since moving to one-to-one. (CH)
  • More experienced teachers seem to do better than newer teachers. Guess perhaps they have better classroom mgmt skills and so can keep students focused (MI)
  • Linux machines well used, teachers report students writing more (MC)
  • Even teachers who are reluctant technology users soon become enthusiastic (MI)
  • Estimates students spend half of class time using computers. Students prepare series of wikis. Also using free external wiki hosting; see (CH)
  • Noted sixth-eighth graders more open to learning new software, as they take it as challenge. Ninth-tenth graders tired of novelty (!) (AC)
  • “Don’t be afraid. Problems can be solved.” (MI)
  • “Once one teacher gets it, they all want it.” (AC)
  • Students more engaged when have good computer access.

Believe that many of the benefits were due to the use of the one-to-one approach.

Success due in part to ease of implementation and the cost savings that resulted by using an open technology

Expect statewide increase in 2007 from 24 to 80 high schools in program.


Open Technology 2.0

What we today call “open technology” is the collection of the key technologies that were refined and created during the creation of the web. Common to all is the notion of “openness”:

  • Open architecture
  • Open standards
  • Open formats
  • Open protocols
  • Open code
  • Open discussion
  • Open collaboration in full public view

Collectively they comprise Open Technology 1.0, the technology that was used to build the modern Internet and web.

The internet and web themselves have become part of Open Technology.

These technologies are being further refined and extended today as the Open Technology 2.0 that forms the base technology for Web 2.0.

Perhaps the single best demonstration of the power of open technology is a Linux server running on commodity hardware: Open Technology in a Box.

Note that ALL the applications of open technology mentioned in the two Case Studies discussed above involve the use of Linux servers.

What next? How can we be more effective in providing education about open techology and its application in the K-12 space?


Promoting Open Technology in Education: One ? per ?


  • Fragmented market: Almost 15,000 local school
    districts serving 47 million public school students.

  • Limited resources for capital expenditure and hiring new IT staff, so must work with what is available.
  • Enterprises more used to dealing with mixed IT environment and more aware of importance of open standards, schools less so.

Options / Goals: One

  • Laptop
  • Desktop
  • Thin client
  • Linux Server


  • Student
  • Teacher
  • IT staff member
  • Classroom
  • Computer Lab
  • School
  • District

Entry point: One Linux Server Per District (OLSPD), installed and maintained by existing staff in the district.


Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Why? Provide better education Connecticut Lt. Governor Michael Federle in
Governor brings business view to state Capitol

He said the lack of business expansion has nothing to do with the state’s tax structure.

“The reason they’re not growing their business here is we don’t have a skilled work force for their position,” he said, adding that the higher taxes will provide more money for education from pre-kindergarten through $50 million in higher education scholarships.

What? See if open technology can help provide better education. Provide more options to IT staff and teachers.

When? Now

  • Open technology was good enough to build the web and is being used in the enterprise. It’s certainly ready for use in education.
  • More software becoming available. Might as well dip toes into water now if you have any interest.


  • In the school, in the classroom, “inside your firewall.” Need to respect school culture, especially the privacy and security concerns.
  • On the web: provide resources, especially case studies. establish more active, vital community.

Who? People

  • Teachers
  • School IT staff
  • Administrators
  • Open technologists

Who? Organizations


How? Many paths…

  • Bring open technology into a school or district to improve IT infrastructure.
  • Provide education about open technology to educators. Demonstrate how they might use it.
  • Provide education to technologists about the possibilities of applying open technologies in education. Why they should engage, how they can help.
  • Try to bring open technologists into schools. Get them engaged.
  • Use Linux servers as the key enabling open technology:
    • If you’re going to do anything with Linux you need to be able to install and operate a base Linux server. Show it can be done.
    • Need just core Linux networking functionality plus a small number of packages.
    • Hardware requirements are minimal; this provides more options for aging hardware.

How? Community

  • Engage developers and experts with educators.
  • Engage with regional groups and organizations that have existing relationships with multiple districts.
  • Provide training to staff in those groups so they provide education in open technology and assist in its deployment to interested schools and districts.
  • Track and document deployments to create case studies.
  • Work to establish larger and more vital web presence in this area:
    • Current work very fragmented;
    • Supplement existing web content on this topic;
    • Create new publicly-available content.

Community and Open Source/Technology:

  • It’s not just the code but the people behind the code;
  • It’s just not those people but the community that builds up around the code;
  • It’s not just the community but the relationships you can build with community members;
  • It’s not just the relationships but the opportunities that can come from those relationships.

The key to all this is building relationships and communities.


Appendix A: Open Technology and Education Around the World

Thanks to Randy Metcalfe of OSS Watch, U.K. OSS advisory service, for providing most of the content in this section.

The key open source group in the UK for the k12 space is (This site includes several case studies.) It serves as both an advocacy group as well as a clearing house for information and case studies for this sector. The American version of the same thing is

Except for the private schools such as Eton and the like, virtually the entire schools sector is government funded. Funding comes from central government direct to schools in some cases, but most school funding is channelled through the Local Education Authority (LEA) which is intimately connected to the local city or county council. BECTA (British
Educational Communications and Technology Agency)
sets the policy for IT infrastructure for schools. It also manages some of the large-scale procurement exercises for this sector. For example, a huge amount of money is about to flow into virtual learning environment (VLE) procurement for schools. BECTA writes the invitation to
tender (ITT) and sets the criteria against which vendors’ solutions will be measured. A recent controversy here arose when it became clear that BECTA’s ITT inadvertently excludes many small open source companies. This is because BECTA is obligated to follow central government’s procurement guidelines. These have been developed over decades and are really useful for secure large-scale procurement. Many open source support companies are not able to meet the conditions ( e.g. 5 years of audited accounts and such). Thus we are faced with a gap in the market between the very little companies and the big players.)

Since government is the main actor in the k12 field, it is only natural that Members of Parliament get involved. John Pugh MP introduced an Early Day Motion in Parliament. One of the results was the founding of the Open Schools Alliance.

The other reference is to a newly formed group called the National Open Centre, which focuses on the open source and open standards area Although this is not specifically targeting schools, it may turn its attention that way in the near future.

South Korea: Open Source in South Korea


Appendix B: Open Technology in Higher Education

Two recent projects of interest, Sakai and Kuali. These are joint efforts led by several Research Universities. Both
share the following properties:


  • Course management system
  • Meant for use at large institutions (thousands of users)
  • Hosts regular conferences (six so far, several hundred attendees)
  • Achieving wide use, both in the US and other countries
  • Core tools:Announcements, Drop Box, Email Archive, Resources, Chat Room, Forums, Threaded Discussion, Message
    Center, Message Of The Day, News/RSS, Preferences, Presentation, Profile / Roster, Repository Search, Schedule, Search,
    Web Content, WebDAV, Wiki, Site Setup.

  • Teaching Tools: Assignments, Grade Boxok, Module Editor, QTI Authoring, QTI Assessment, Section Management,

  • Portfolio tools: Forms, Evaluations, Glossary, Matrices, Layouts, Templates, Reports, Wizards.
  • Includes The Open Source Portfolio Initiative, a community of individuals and organizations collaborating on the development of non-proprietary, open source electronic portfolio software.


  • Sustaining and evolving a comprehensive suite of administrative software that meets the needs of all Carnegie Class institutions
  • Newer, with project structure based on Sakai experience



Open Source 2010: Reflections on 2007

Why Open Standards Matter

Brandon Elementary transformed by K12LTSP.

New Resources on Open Technologies in K-12 Education

The Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems

2007 Nonprofit Software Development Summit

Google’s Docs and Spreadsheets


Blu-ray Disc

Linux Terminal Server Project (Wikipedia)

Videotape format War

War of Currents

IMS Project

Linux @ BHSN: Journeys in Linux at an Indiana ACCESS High School

Open Source, Openness, and Higher Education.

Open Technology Resources


Millbury MA Public Schools

National Center for Education Statistics.

Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-2005

Technology Use in Public Education.

Working for The Man? Advice to a young programmer.

ODF Viewer FAQ

Planet Eduforge

Biggest Community Wins,

Sakai Times: NACOL Wrapup.


Open Source Paradigm Shift

DoD releases OTD Roadmap.


Back to school with education LiveCDs


Open Technology Development.

Bloomington Linux Users Group – wiki

Metri Report: Technology in Schools, What the Research Says

And Oregon Makes Five for ODF – With a Twist

Orwell High School Case Study.

Indiant INaccess site.


Dr. Chuck’s Web Log: K12 Summit.

Faculty Spotlight: Jean-Claude Bradley.

David A. Wheeler’s Blog

Open Source and Open Standards,

Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS, FLOSS, or FOSS)? Look at the Numbers!.

EdTech Action Network

EDUCAUSE: Reinventing Technology in K-12 Education to Make a Difference

Educational Systemics

Major U.S. Cities Using National Standard Fire Hydrants, One Century After the Great Baltimore Fire

Fire Museum of Maryland: The Great Baltimore Fire

The Case for Open Markets in Education

Social Sofware and Learning.

An introduction to open computing, open standards, and open source

IBM: Resources for Open Technology

IBM: Resources for open technology

IBM: The power of the open approach to transform K–12 schools. Open Archaeology

UNDP-APDIP International Open Source Network.

Free/Open Source Software, Open Standards.

JISC: Web 2.0.


Linux Foundation, Linux Standard Base (LSB)

Intel aims low-cost K-12 laptop at emerging markets

A Computer Lab with No Windows, Part I

A Computer Lab with No Windows, Part II

Windows PCs vs. X Terminals: A Cost Comparison (Willamette Library)

MA Technology Leadership Symposium March 2006

The Information Puzzle

Nigerian school kids use Linux.

SchoolTool: Tapping a world of schoolroom innovation

K12OSN — Support list for open source software in schools

The Economic Motivation of Open Source Software: Stakeholder Perspectives

Becta 14/4/05

Laptops for all at Iowa High School

Thornburg center.

Open Source in South Korea

Mandriva puts Linux on USB stick.

Primer on Open Technologies in K-12 Education.

Technology + Online + Industry + Partnerships: CoSN Study Opens Doors to Open Technologies

Steve Hargadon

What Is Web 2.0

Open Source Meme Map

Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops

Critical Thinking About Word and .doc

Simplifying Drupal

Global Innovation Outlook – Media and Content

Danish Board of Technology: Open Source
Software in e-governent (2002)


3 Trackbacks

  1. […] May 10th, 2007 · No Comments I gave a presentation on Open Technology — the combination of open source, open standards, open content, open data formats, and such — to a group of educators and librarians yesterday in Litchfield, CT: Open Technology Solutions for K-12 Education. […]

  2. […] once I had finished the presentation — Open Technology Solutions for K-12 Education — I realized that although I had made the choice out of convenience it was also the logical […]

  3. […] Open Technology Solutions for K-12 Education […]

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