A math teacher with his students bring Desktop4education to austrian schools

This is an introduction to a case study that was published recently, this case study is a good example for everyone of us, if we need to extend the use of opensource and especially Linux we need to start from the basic, that are our children, and the best place where to start , are the schools .

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In 2003 Helmuth Peer, a math teacher at the Weiz secondary school (Bundesgymnasium) decided that it was time to migrate the schools’ IT system to a new platform, that would be easy to set up, easy to maintain, and easy to connect via a network. Together with his students, which he involved in the project, he searched for a solution that would allow for customization and correspond to the needs of each school level concerned. He found that the Linux distribution openSUSE 11.1 would qualify as a suitable solution, and building a system on this basis seemed sustainable in the future and the right choice to him. The team therefore started developing what was to be called the ‘desktop4education’ for the school’s workstations and a server version they named ‘server4education’. Once the project grew and matured, the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture (BMUKK) became aware of it and realized its potential for other schools throughout Austria. The Ministry’s IT department, under the direction of Robert Kristoefl, consequently started to support the project by dispatching around 2.000 CDs and DVDs to other Austrian schools. Although the system is working very well and does not require any type of licensing fees [due to the use of free and open source software], many schools are still reluctant to use the solution, as they prefer to opt for proprietary software solutions (i.e. Microsoft). However, by the time of writing the situation is about to change as the Federal government increasingly adopts a policy that promotes the use of open source software in Austrian schools. Exemplary to this is the government’s decision to pay any school €10 for each workstation that runs the free productivity suite Open Office that is provided by Sun Microsystems in replace of Microsoft Office, for which the government introduced a calculative license fee of €10. Although the schools opting for Microsoft Office still do not pay the full amount of the license, this policy creates a give-or-get framework which clearly illustrates the schools a financial loss or reward. With further political steps in this direction on the one hand and decreasing regional budgets on another hand, an increasing number of schools is about to realize the potential of educational Linux distributions as desktop4education, or also the related Linux Advanced project, which is a similar initiative focused on an easy to use live booting operating system for students. The desktop4education solution has seen to be not only an economical viable alternative to proprietary solutions, but also an alternative of equal quality.

You can read the whole case study in pdf or ODT:

Desktop4education: Bringing new environments to Austrian schools – ODT

Desktop4education: Bringing new environments to Austrian schools – PDF

Project website : http://d4e.at/

This case study is brought to you by the Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR), a project of the European Commission’s IDABC project.

Author: Gregor Bierhals, UNU-MERIT

his study is based on interviews with Hemluth Peer, team leader of desktop4education and teacher at the Weiz secondary school, Gerhard Schwed, e-learning coordinator at the Donau University, and Rene Schwarzinger, team member of the Linux Advanced project and teacher at the Rechte Kremszeile secondary school.

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