The argument "We need to teach the programs the students will be using" tends to feed the monopoly. We have long said that we should be teaching skills, not software.  While it's hard to do that completely, in practice, it's an excellent goal to keep in mind.  We make assumptions as educators about what students will be running into when they enter the business world that are not necessarily valid.  For decades, I have heard drafting teachers say that they need to be teaching AutoCAD, as that is the software students will be using in the workforce.  Yet I have spoken with many architects and designers who use other software.  There are lots of other CAD software companies out there; who are they selling to, if everyone is using AutoCAD? Ditto for Photoshop and any other piece of software.
I think the biggest factor in our choices of what software to use in our schools is what we feel most comfortable using.  That's not the best reason to select one program over another.  If we really want to be helping students become agile, unconstrained learners, we should consider teaching the software that is NOT the predominant in its field, instead of the other way around.
Steve Barner
South Burlington High School

From: School Information Technology Discussion [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Bryant Patten
Sent: Wednesday, December 09, 2009 1:11 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: What version of Office are people using?

Discussion of the free (no cost) aspect of Open Source is mostly around saving dollars for school budgets by supplanting proprietary, for-fee software.  While saving $500 - $50,000 is important in this time of plummeting budgets, we rarely discuss the other, more important value of Free software - closing the Digital Divide.  Don Davis put together a nice video ( ) about it.  {The content is good - the compression is grim}

Until we can guarantee that each student has access to the software, can we (techs, teachers) fully integrate it into our curricular world?  Since we can give away OpenOffice to every student (and provide refurbished Linux computers to any family without a computer), moving to a Open Office solution district wide would be a significant step to helping close the Divide.  We have to deal with the conversion costs and PD funds moving from 2003 -> 2007 anyway so spend the money on making the switch to a more equitable solution.  Shouldn't we be training them on software they can share with their 21st century skilled, project-based, internationally focused teammates?

Are there school systems in VT that promise to buy a copy of MS Office for every student that needs it?  Perhaps there are but I haven't heard of many.

Bryant Patten
Technology Consultant
Orange East Supervisory Union

On Dec 9, 2009, at 10:59 AM, Bob Wickberg wrote:

It's only $5 a year if you use the license for 10 years, and only upgrade
when support ends for the previous version.  Who does that?  If you buy
new licenses every time a new version is released, it's more like $15-$20.
Still a bargain, I suppose, but with 1100 computers on our campus, that's
over $20k/yr.


Bob Wickberg
Technology Coordinator
Brattleboro Union High School District # 6

School Information Technology Discussion <[log in to unmask]> writes:
OO isnt the only option ZoHo, Abiword and Gnumeric.

Microsoft Office @ $50 each over 10 years of mainstream support, the
are miniscule compared to other costs to educate students. (I don't mean
negatively, I mean it's a bargain).

Seems odd to me that given the salary/benefit costs of any given
one would even think of quibling over $5/year for office software ...

There are hidden costs using OO, the first time that there is a issue
conversion, and that file doesnt quite look right, how much payroll are
going to burn through to get it resolved, how much payroll to get clipart
enough' or rejigger your lesson plans ...

However, if OO provides some competition and MSFT therefore makes a
product or sells it to us cheaper, so be it.


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