Open Source @ school: Tom Hoffman on free software for schools

Tom Hoffman, project manager of SchoolTool, an initiative funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation to create an open source framework for schools using Python and Zope, recently gave a presentation titled “Managing an International, Philanthropically Funded Open-Source Project from a Victorian in Elmwood.”

schoolroomSchoolroom by cake_land

But while schools may pay large sums for information systems, they often cannot add a feature or change an option to accommodate a particular scholastic arrangement. This causes problems for school administrators constantly. With proprietary software, it may even be illegal to analyze the technology in an attempt to make such changes.

He said.

Schools face difficult challenges because their scheduling, resources and classes regularly change and, importantly, differ from one school to the next. Open-source projects such as SchoolTool are based on collaboration between the author and users, who can improve and alter the source code to meet a specific need.

It is difficult to bootstrap this kind of open-source project in schools that have stable technical infrastructure like here in the United States or in Europe. SchoolTool is more explicitly philanthropic and aimed at the developing world in the long term.

So SchoolTool is not specificly addressed to schools already having a stable infrastructure.
Tom has also wrote a letter to to Kenneth Whang, the NSF program officer in charge for the Scratch programming environment asking to publicly release the source code of the project, supposed to be already available as stated by the website.

Apparently Mitch Resnick from the project replied, but his answer wasn’t fully satisfactory indeed.

About Tom Hoffman.

As a teacher, free software project manager and developer, and blogger, Tom Hoffman advocates for progressive educational reform and practical open source technology in schools. Since 2004 Tom has managed SchoolTool.

About SchoolTool.

It is a project to develop a global school administration infrastructure that is freely available under an open-source license and designed to be used on an unlimited number of machines by an unlimited number of clients. Via a Web browser interface accessible through any operating system, SchoolTool allows schools to manage enrollment information, scheduling, attendance and grades, generate reports, and import and export data.

About Scratch.

Scratch is a new programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web. Scratch is designed to enhance the technological fluency of young people, helping them learn to express themselves creatively with new technologies. As they create Scratch projects, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, and they gain a deeper understanding of the process of design.

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