Linux in schools - what's worked and what hasn't

ITWire published a summary of several successful Linux deployments in schools, as well as one that ended in a switch back to Windows.

ITWire published a summary of several successful Linux deployments in schools, as well as one that ended in a switch back to Windows. All of the success stories had several elements in common:

  • A genuine financial need to avoid software licensing costs and reduce hardware acquisition costs
  • Some degree of internal expertise in the use of Linux
  • Strong support from administration

While the article itself was obviously pro-Linux, it showed that, aside from the qualities above, schools that have done well with their Linux deployments represent a wide cross-section of educational environments. Schools from Maine to Sydney were able to roll out Linux on clients and servers, student and teacher machines, and thin clients with few problems.

Of course, finding staff and students (the students in the Sydney school drove the switch) with enough time and expertise to make such a switch from an entrenched operating system can represent the largest hurdle. Similarly, the one "failure" highlighted by the article came from administrative pressure to switch back to a "more familiar interface."

Yet, six years later [Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School] reverted back to Microsoft Windows. The reason for the change back was not technical nor was it financial. Instead the school’s staff pressed for Windows due to their own familiarity with it. Tragically, the same people who claimed unfamiliarity with Linux were similarly lost in the new Windows world of Vista and Office 2007.

Now, as I noted earlier, Vista itself may be a driving force in seeking out alternatives, many of which look and feel more like Windows XP (and are generally faster and less prone to student mischief) than Vista.