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[edu-eu] Blogpost: Skolelinux in Rhineland Palatinate - lessons learned

From: Guido Arnold
Subject: [edu-eu] Blogpost: Skolelinux in Rhineland Palatinate - lessons learned
Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2012 21:32:18 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.20 (2009-06-14)


This summer, I attended a talk by Kurt Gramlich at FrOSCon where he
explained the problems they had with the Skolelinux pilot in Rhineland
Palatinate. I tried to sum it up in a blog post:

For your convenience, here is the text (without links, though):

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Skolelinux pilot in Rhineland Palatinate – Lessons learned

Last FrOSCon, Kurt Gramlich, leader of the German part of the
Skolelinux project,  gave a brief overview on the Skolelinux pilot in
Rhineland Palatinate. What happened after the first euphoria and
listed reasons why the pilot may be considered a failure.

It was a very entertaining and informative talk. I learned quite a bit
and absorbed a tiny fraction of Kurt’s experience. I tried to condense
what I got out of it in just a few bullet points from the “lessons
learned” part to share with FSFE’s edu-team and now also with you!

 - the deployment of a FS system in a school is not the victory, it’s
   the beginning
 - Politicians don’t go by ideals, they want to see numbers
 - at the beginning of the pilot project in RLP, the activists were
   not aware of the internal quarrels and factionalism within and
   between the ministries (many decisions were more influenced by the
   quarrels than by reason)
 - decision makers were often not aware that they had the power to
   make a decision and were constantly checking back with their
   superiors who acted often the same way
 - if the training of the teachers is mandated from above, the process
   is very slow and expensive – due to bureaucracy
 - Teachers mentality. Contrary to the spirit of FS, teachers usually
   feel awkward if someone has a deeper insight in their work. They
   are trained to find mistakes in pupils works and afraid someone
   could find theirs.
 - Some stakeholders joined the pilot project because it was an easy
   way for them to earn money, but they never had the intention to
   actively contribute to the project.
 - The mechanism of the pilot project was such: There was a pot of
   money to spend for it. If a school wanted some of the money, they
   had to install Skolelinux and sign up with one of the “certified”
   support companies. Some schools had been running
   Debian-Installations maintained by one or two teachers for years.
   After the director decided to join the project, they had to
   “downgrade” to Skolelinux and worse: the motivated teachers who had
   been maintaining a FS system in their school had to surrender their
   root access and hand it over to the support company. This didn’t
   have the best effect on their motivation.
 - one core component in skolelinux, webmin, was kicked out of the
   official Debian system during the project phase and they had to
   spend a lot of resources to implement a replacement package.

Kurt’s conclusion: a bottom-up approach is much easier and more likely
to succeed than a top-down approach where people are told what to do.
Seems like it has something to do with freedom after all. Speaking of

He also mentioned a less surprising, but remarkable finding about the
different ways to “sell” the Free Software solution (“no license
costs” vs. “freedom”):

 - Schools that told their staff and pupils: “If we had money, we’d
   use MS Windows…” didn’t participate: no bug reports, no patches, no
 - Schools that pointed out the aspect of freedom in Free Software
   submitted excellent bug reports and patches and they learned a lot
   (both: teachers and students).

Well, that’s already it. I’d love to link to the recording for those
who understand German, but it is not available yet. Some talks of last
FrOSCon have been online for a while, but unfortunately, Kurt’s is
none of them. Depending on when you read this, you may want to check
again if this has changed.
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Guido Arnold                       Free Software Foundation Europe      []         Edu team & German team
OpenPGP Key-ID:  0x82F6A8F2    [][][]                  Get active!
XMPP: address@hidden      ||

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