managing ict managing ict
At the root level, it is possible to get rid of For those frustrated by the clunky functionality of
the Windows or Macintosh environment completely some of the very expensive proprietary school information
by using the open source operating system Linux. management systems, this may be well worth trying out.
There is a special education-focused version of this However, and this is true for much open source software,
called Edubuntu, which comes ready-parcelled with a the help and support provided on installation can be
huge array of educational applications. These include patchy as it relies on the open source community, rather
programs for editing video, audio and photos, packages than paid staff at the end of a helpline.
to help students learn to touch-type, games for early- Tapping into the open source spirit, the BBC has
years education, drawing packages, and subject-focused recently created a website called Open Lab. It is
applications that help teach concepts in chemistry, designed to be “a new online community for teachers
mathematics, physics, art, and English. and developers, and anyone else who has an interest
For example, the “kturtle” application allows students in producing new educational resources”. This is not
to explore a simple programming language that controls a marketplace for expensive downloads, but a place
a turtle on the screen, very much like the popular Logo where software developers and educators can share
program. There is also “qcad” (professional computer expertise and collaborate on original and innovative
aided design package), and “parley” – a replacement applications. It will be an evolving place over the next
for written flashcards. few years, so well worth getting involved in at the
Each of these can be downloaded separately if you beginning, whether as a teacher or software developer,
already have a Linux operating system. to ensure it grows in the right way.
For those sticking with Windows as the basic A quick survey thus appears to support the view
operating system, but wanting some good free software that was prevalent at the BETT show: that a free, open
to run on it, then SchoolForge is one excellent resource source solution is available for pretty much every area
for all kinds of open source educational software. of education. While it is clearly great that the software
Popular applications that can be found there include is free, I also believe that it is the ethos of open source
Audacity – a totally free, open source, professional that is very positive, and parallels nicely with the goals
audio editing package, Crossword Builder – which does of education. That is to say, engaging with open source
exactly what it says, Inkscape – a very sophisticated software, as users will find when they visit any of the sites
drawing package, and Open Office. I have mentioned, encourages sharing between peers.
Open Office is designed as an open source This builds capacity in the same way that the peer-
replacement for Microsoft Office and contains word review system in the scientific community does: all
processing, spreadsheet, database, drawing, and research is freely available for others to look at, replicate,
presentation packages. It is very similar in style to validate, and improve on. Open source software is not
Microsoft’s version and students will very easily be software that is simply downloaded and used; instead all
able to switch between the two packages. All file users are encouraged to participate in making it better.
formats are interchangeable too, so documents written The open source community is therefore a generous
by either suite can be opened by the other. and exciting place where good ideas are exchanged and
I know of many schools who already use the excellent creative solutions are found. It is, therefore, all that a
open source course management system, Moodle, with school should be too. SecEd
which teachers can create courses of lessons that are
deliverable via an interactive whiteboard, or online with • Kester Brewin is a maths teacher with a strong interest
any internet connection. It can also be used to create in educational ICT at The Charter School in south east
websites too. London.
For those who would like to create some interaction
with their classes, or an online discussion forum and
depository for resources then Wordpress is an excellent • Firefox: www.mozilla.com/firefox
free system. • Edubuntu: www.edubuntu.org
One final package to highlight is ClaSS, which is a • SchoolForge: www.schoolforge.net
web-based student tracking, reporting and information • Open Office: www.openoffice.org
management system. It allows teachers or departments • Moodle: www.moodle.org
– or even whole schools – to create class lists, manage • Wordpress: www.wordpress.org
pupil data, create assessments, record marks, and report • ClaSS: www.laex.org/class
progress. • Open Lab: http://backstage.bbc.co.uk/openlab/
More Choice. More Opportunity
Here in Hertfordshire, we are home to an
exceptional range of schools - from small
village primaries to large secondaries.
We also offer superb induction and CPD.
Within this very supportive environment,
you will have every opportunity to
establish and develop your career.
The wisest thing you can do is to make sure you only you need to be prepared to spend some time seeing
download full releases of an application, rather than the what it can do for you and making it work in the way
For more information about opportunities in
“beta” versions, which are not fully tested. You should that you want.
also do a quick internet search for the application you For those prepared to do some research and invest
Hertfordshire Schools, log on and apply at
are thinking of using and see what issues others have time getting used to new software, the open source
found with it. approach could provide huge savings. With programs
Second then, is it going to work? Again, the basic such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and
answer is yes. In fact you may find that open source Microsoft Windows costing hundreds of pounds per
software, with a little time investment, will work far machine installed, and with schools very often having
better than the programs you are used to working with. hundreds of computers, it is clear that the sums are not
Tel: 01438 844871
Why? Because geeky open source developers like insignificant.
nothing more than tweaking applications to make them
do exactly what they want.
Open source exemplars
Again, Firefox is a good example. Long before So what are some of the best examples of open source Hertfordshire is committed to the protection and safety of children and young people.
Internet Explorer had them, Firefox came with features software available to schools? I have already mentioned
like a dedicated search bar, tabs, and live bookmarks. Firefox, which is well worth downloading, but as
As with any piece of software, it takes time for users Internet Explorer is an integrated part of the Windows
to “inhabit” them and feel comfortable using them. If system and not strictly something schools purchase, we
you are to really benefit from any new program then will skip over it for now.
SecEd • may 21 2009 11
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