Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Real computing power for students – while cutting spending

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-02-09

If KRudd (or state governments) wanted to improve educational use of computers in schools (and kindergartens), and wanted to DECREASE the government spend on IT in schools, all he’d have to do is point schools to the pages where Google offers schools a near-enterprise-level service free of charge: Google Applications for Education and Google Apps for Kindergartens through Secondary.

Then, there’d be no need to fund laptops – just low-end "diskless" (actually a flash disk) netbooks and a means-tested basic internet connection (enough to be ok for google apps, wiki pages, etc, but a bit painful for music/video).

By near-enterprise-level, providing the school joins before July 2010, I mean things like fine-grained filtering of email, along with not just email, but the other goodies like word processing, website creation, team assignments (via groups), lesson plan creation, integration with other schools…

Can the government do something that provides great value, in a field they tout as a national priority, that decreases costs of hardware, software and administration to schools, freeing up money for any per-student giveaways (and lowering the cost of each of those)?

If our governments can’t do this, basically needing nothing more than a simple email to all principals, then they need to explain why are going for a costlier lesser-functionality solution, or be thrown out for inefficiency.


7 Responses to “Real computing power for students – while cutting spending”

  1. Jacques Chester said

    Your solution is a) to sensible and b) does not benefit any ALP donors.

  2. Dave Bath said

    Jacques@1 says “too sensible”.

    Yep. How often have you come out of meetings with senior suits/PHBs and exchanged with your peers the following? “We could have done X rather than Y, but that would be too sensible”.

    I suspect that things that are too sensible for managers are like courageous decisions for Jim Hacker.

    The donors bit? You’re being cynical, but probably not by much. It could be the typical political line of “We are doing heaps for the problem… we are spending $X billion on it!”. If they got it done for less, it might look as if it wasn’t a priority!

  3. Slim said

    Nice one David!

    I’ve signed up our school for Google Education and still working through deployment processes. The MS Exchange used by the Victorian public sector and public schools is clunky, too limited and unreliable. Our Principal’s email account is often automatically suspended for having a too full mailbox! I’ve been using Google apps on and off for some years. To their credit the NSW State goverment abandoned MS Exchange for a deal with Google.

    Meabwhile the VIC Gov is rolling out Teh Ultranet to government schools. Is meant to be the Swiss Army Knife of intranets. I suspect it;s going to be a $60,000,000 MS Sharepoint Portal. I suspect it will end in tears if it has the usual obtuse MS interface design. A 20th century solution to a 21st century problem by geeks with insufficient experiance or appreciation of the needs of the education sector. Victoria has been at the forefront of rolling out IT infrastructure in Australia. This also means they have an almost 20 year investment in Microsoft that is hard to turn around.

    Departmental customisation could have been done for a fraction of the price in open source platforms such as Moodle and Google APIs. They could have spent the rest on developing digital content and digital pedagogy.

    Google are also planning to release the Chrome OS for tablet devices. The iPad sets a good starting benchmark. A Chrome/Android pad will change the game again.

    Hopefully email and recruitment on line will be working tomorrow so we can download the applications for a tech support job that closed yesterday.


  4. Dave Bath said

    Slim… you’re probably right about the MS Exchange/Sharepoint deployment by Joh Brumby. And both of these are evil. Sharepoint cannot even by accessed properly by non-Microsoft browsers (it needs Active-X on the client, bending over and spreading them for SOOOOO much malware), and even programmatic access requires a Microsoft API (meaning you’re screwed), while MS-Exchange has cut out the ability to get at shared folders (a standard mailserver feature for almost ever) over IMAP, AND with Microsoft’s own web-based-Exchange, even if the web client is MSIE.

    Oh yeah, and before you say “You can get at sharepoint over webdav….”, you’ve forgotten that MS wants whitespace in the URLs to objects that contain spaces…. forbidden by the standard, which says you MUST respect a %20 (which compliant clients, either APIs or usertools) put in before sending the request to a server).

    But then Joh Brumby is about as straight as a spirochaete…. and getting ridding of the infection he has put in our state IT systems will be just as difficult.

  5. Dave Bath said

    BTW Slim…. no chance you can make the free (and OPEN NETWORK STANDARD PROTOCOL) cloud services on offer better known around principals through horizontal info transfer?

  6. Slim said

    I do what I can. I’m pushing ahead with a Moodle/Google integration as we have considerable skill development invested in Moodle. I’m beginning to doubt that the Ultranet will do any better.

    The person who manages the ISP company providing DEECD schools argued with the head honchos some years ago that Moodle does at least 60% of what they wanted in an Ultranet and that the remaining functionality could be provided through commercial developers. Moodleroom are doing some interest stuff comnercially for clients and then share the fucntional modules to the open source community. Can’t see MS doing that.

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