Yet if we are willing to go out on a limb a bit, there is a viable alternative using older PCs loaded up with a predetermined distribution of Linux. The cost is practically zero. Using existing hardware that can be found via many PC recyclers, through a used PC drive put on by the school, a tech savvy group of high school kids could do the whole thing for extra credit (school rules and state laws allowing).
The key to seeing success above with the open source approach is to use an application called iTALC. I discovered iTALC by accident, when researching different software options for this article.
I say by accident as it did not rank well for the search query I happened to be using at the time. Despite me simply stumbling upon this classroom management application, I was stunned at how well done it was considering the lack of obvious corporate funding. Generally speaking, this feels like it could be the money saving alternative to Master Solution Vision that I bet many schools are looking for.
In other words, pay for some a quick setup and train the teachers using the software end of continued cost right there.
Ideally, it would be even more compelling if the schools sought out help on how to use this kind of software from their gifted computer savvy students. Trading their time for extra school credit in the applicable class sure sounds like a win-win to me.
Student management software
Everything listed above provides a valuable start for the school interested in making the leap to an open source universe. But it does leave one very important item left unchecked student management software. Thankfully there is Open Admin for Schools to fall back on.
This server software provides easy access to:
Online Grade entering for teachers and report card management as well.
While there are a number of other impressive features, these are the most important that struck me personally. Open Admin for Schools provides the school's office staff with the ability to do their job with regard to attendance, discipline and other related matters that often go beyond the initial scope of the typical classroom.
The Windows dependent bubble
And there we have it. A clear set of example applications that can be used with popular Linux distributions in lieu of the Windows platform and the current software licenses being renewed year after year. Best of all, it would not require a massive event just to get these solutions put into play, either.
Yet despite all of the options presented above, there will still be those who insist that Windows must be used, as clearly, Linux software is just not taking hold for the sciences...right?
Actually, there are more applications providing computer learning for the sciences than you could possibly imagine.
So you see, its not Linux or the applications that run on it that are holding back schools here in the U.S. It is a lack of understanding from the school districts and in some cases, the states themselves, as they firmly hold onto thinking reflective of that of the 1990's. The rest of the world has already begun to get their classrooms out of the Windows dependent bubble. Perhaps someday soon, we will begin to see more U.S. based schools doing the same?