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[Fsfe-uk] BBC digital curriculum service in England

From: Ian Lynch
Subject: [Fsfe-uk] BBC digital curriculum service in England
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 2004 11:49:15 +0100

I have just received the BECTa report to the DfES concerning the BBCs
plans to provide free (as in gratis) on-line curriculum resources to
schools starting January 2006.

Why this is important

I believe the investment is £160m and so there will be substantail stuff
available and if it only runs on Windows computers or in IE or with
Media Player ....It will further lock schools into proprietary products.
On the other hand if you read the paragraph below, perhaps there is a
hint of wanting to promote new ways of doing things - read FLOSS type
developments. The report is a typically waffly glossy of 20 pages. It
says in the covering letter that the report will be on line at
http://www.becta.org.uk/industry/ but I couldn't find it just now. You
might be able to get a hard copy by writing to BECTa, Millburn Hill
Road, Science Park, Coventry, CV4 7JJ

The most relevant part to FLOSS and open standards is paragraph 4.3.2 on
page 7

The technologies required to exploit the resources available in the
proposed BBC digital curriculum service should be generally accessible
and available.

For the purposes of this exercise the term "accessible and affordable
technologies" is used to mean technologies (commercially or freely
available) that have potential for general adoption in the school or
home environment within the time frame of the proposed development.

For example, it would be possible to produce a downloadable software
voice recorder music tool which could be made generally available, This
would require the use of a microphone. Such technology is both
accessible and affordable.

However, it is also possible to produce downloadable assets and
applications that require sophisticaed equipment such as highh end heart
monitoring equipment or sophisticated industry standard software such as
that used to produce realistic 3D animations. These technologies are not
generally accessible and affordable for schools and homes.

BECTa considered taking a more restrictive view, limiting the BBC's
proposed development to those technologies that are currently available
in the majority of schools and homes. After due consideration, it was
decided that this restriction could unduly hinder the BBC's ability to
innovate. BECTa believes that a key aspect of the distinctiveness of the
BBC's offering could include support for and promotion of, emerging
technologies and practices.

So what does this mean? Its difficult to say, I think we should try and
arrange a face to face meeting with BECTa and the BBC to discuss the
exact implications of all this for FLOSS and Open Standards. Who knows,
they might be already thinking along these lines. I have an "industry
consultation" meeting at BECTa in a couple of weeks so I could try and
organise a meeting then but it would be interesting to know what others
think about this and hence the post here. I'll also post this to the
SchoolforgeUK list to see what folks there think. Might be relevant to
OOo and other community lists too. The more representation we have the
stronger our arguments will be.
Ian Lynch <address@hidden>

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