Canadian Education

A forum for discussion of issues important to the future of education for Canadians.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Take a look at this talk by Mike Huffman, from the Indiana Dept. of Education...over 24,000 linux computers in operation already in Indiana schools! Scroll down to Mike Huffman. Fantastic article on the huge Indiana linux project in the U.S. I have take the liberty of copying this short item below, since the credit and link is given above:

The biggest deployment of desktop Linux in K-12 schools in the US is taking place in Indiana. They’ve got 24,000 Linux desktops currently deployed in Indiana high school English classrooms, with plans to increase that to 170,000 in a year. What has been exasperating for me is that this project has been undertaken very quietly, with little publicity or communication with the rest of the K-12 open source community. I wanted to know what was going on! So it was a special treat to meet Mike Huffman, the special assisstant for Technology in the Indiana Department of Education, at the Open Source BOF and finally get a first hand report.
Mike started off an informal presentation to the BOF with a rhetorical one-two punch which managed to balance an emphasis on student learning with the practical and technical shortfalls of how we approach school IT. He pulled out some pithy statistics. Before starting this Linux deployment they did a survey of computer use in Indiana schools. The state had spent $100 million a year over 10 years on technology in education. The average student used a computer for 35 minutes a week. That’s a billion dollars over 10 years for 35 minutes a week per kid. There is no better statistic to demonstrate how broken our current paradigm is. A related quote from Mike:
“As long as we keep waiting for big bags of cash to fall from the sky, we aren’t going anywhere.”
I would add that as long as we’re spending our time coming up with “new stories” in hopes of causing bags of cash to fall from the sky, we aren’t going anywhere either. For that matter, it doesn’t matter what profound conversations we have about the potential of computers in schools, if we can’t get manage the technical and economic feat of getting computers into schools.Here’s another data point they found from their interviews with students:
Time needed for a Windows-using high school student to acclimate him or herself to the Linux desktop: 10 minutes.
The Indiana project, called InACCESS, has eight guiding principles:
Affordability, Sustainability, Repeatability, Flexibility, Compatibility, Openness, Commonality, Scalability.
Mike is also a seemingly bottomless source of funny and inspiring anecdotes about the students and teachers who have been impacted by the inclusion of computers in their classroom. Contrary to conventional wisdom, they haven’t done a lot of extra training for teachers or students. I don’t remember if Mike actually said “we’re already professional developing our teachers to death,” but if he didn’t he seemed to agree when someone else said it. Instead, he emphasized giving teachers time to adjust at their own pace. If it takes a year for a teacher to get comfortable with the computers installed under each desk, but at the end of the year they’ve begun to transform their pedagogy, that’s a success story. A huge success story. It seems like the physical presence of these immobile desktops mounted under every glass-topped desk in a teacher’s classroom makes them particularly difficult for the teacher to ignore, unlike a few computers in the back of the room, or a laptop cart or computer lab that has to be reserved.
It is a pragmatically motivated and run program. They liberally mix in proprietary technology where it seems cheaper and more effective than the open source alternative. And broader Linux advocacy is not their concern, at least in the medium term. It is also safer for them to keep a relatively low profile until the project has scaled up and proven its success. There is always a chance that corporate interests might try to derail the program via the legislature or other routes.
Mike did mention that some of their more successful deployments have been very simple by contemporary IT standards. For example, some schools simply use a generic “student” account for all students, who save their files to a web-based repository, (or USB keys, I’d imagine). With limited IT support, I can imagine that this would be effective in many cases.
In summary, Mike Huffman is my new hero.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Just received news about free, week long training session for teachers, sponsored by Novell and Thomsom Course technology, about SUSE linux training.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

As luck would have it, there is a very good summary of linux in education in this month's (July 2006) issue of Linux Format magazine, with articles at the elementary, secondary and university/college levels (starts on page 50)! I usually pick up the magazine at various Indigo/Chapters stores in Canada. Two comments I would like to echo (among others ;-)) are barriers to adoption stated in the articles: 1.) "Lack of knowledge" 2.) "Lack of leadership". How true. My experience is that there is an appalling lack of knowledge by the decision makers, and hence, a lack of leadership in schools. As someone has already commented, more linux/tech-savvy administrators would help the situation and reduce the harm being done to the education of students by denying them knowledge of the exploding growth of linux use worldwide, linux experience and access to linux systems. Linux format website.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A big thank you to Robert Littlejohn who sent me the following link about linux in schools:costs, etc.. As well, while answering a question about other linux migrations, etc. in Canada, there are some other interesting Canadian linux success stories from a 2004 conference, including Toronto City Hall, Calgary City Hall, etc. Here's the pdf version
And as for public libraries, and school libraries, I find the Userful (linux based, Canadian company) system to be superior to the systems in Toronto public libraries, Toronto public schools, etc. (which are MS based and require a card/ID number. Without a card, you are given much less access. Discriminatory access against visitors to Toronto, etc.) Some Canadian case studies of this linux based system can be found here With just 3 clicks, no login required, I can be surfing the net, emailing, etc., using this linux system. Also, far more environmentally friendly than the thousands of individual MS boxes in schools and libraries. Far less hassle and better, equal access.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I've just been informed of some other linux labs
in Toronto,Ontario high schools
Here are a couple of other interesting examples in Canada, such as this one, with an excellent "Linux in Education" link.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Very recent, interesting article about various linux systems in schools! :-) (And make sure to read the comments too...very interesting...) :-)

Re: CLUE response

Parents with children at Monarch Park may wish to talk to Mr. Montgomery about some of the other issues within the school. I do not believe that CLUE should become too involved in the school politics within a specific school, as we have a mission that is Canada-wide in scope.

My response:
Of course, I am happy to discuss these and any other issues at any time with students, parents, teachers, etc.
And I believe that frank, honest, open, public discussion is essential to providing the best possible education for students, including students at Monarch Park, in the schools in the TDSB, in schools across Ontario, schools across Canada, and schools around the world. :-)
Please feel free to email me at:

Note on following point:
Class size and policy aside, Worthy said the Board doesn’t have the adequate number of staff to support multiple operating systems.

“We have extremely limited resources on our help desk as it is and for them to be trained and maintain multiple platforms would be very challenging,” she said.

Yes, the CTMI systems are apparently so full of problems that calls to the help desk result in "too busy, call back later". I think it would be very educational to know how many calls are made (hence, how many problems there are) and perhaps that is why they have "extremely limited resources". It is perhaps because they are using systems that are plagued with a multitude of problems? Further, it would be also very educational to know how much has been, and continues to be spent on these systems.

Philosophically speaking, every teacher takes ownership of the course(s) that they teach. Regardless of what I or any other teacher teaches, whether it is computers, ESL, science, language, history, etc., the ultimate goal is to help expand the experiences of students, to broaden their skills and knowledge base. Exposure to new ideas, new ways of thinking, that students may use to compare and decide on their own, is fundamental to what I and many other teachers try to do. Analysis of facts, debate, opinions, systems, etc. leads to improvements, choice, options, alternatives, etc. Much like political choice, democratic systems, etc. For all of these above reasons and more, I believe that linux systems should be available to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Hence, I believe that when a teacher is willing to provide these oppportunities and experiences for students, these kinds of initiatives should be supported.
I welcome comments, suggestions, etc. from anyone interested in these ideas.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Canadian Education

Canadian Education


Apparently, the linux machines have been replaced with old machines, based on CTMI/Windows 2000 computers from room 225.

Re: article statement
It is interesting to note how a figure of "6 students enrolled" can be quoted in any article discussing class sizes, etc. Quite meaningless. Which course(s)? When, precisely? At the beginning of each semester, my classes were overflowing with more than 20 students (there are only 20 computers in the lab) to the point where students had to share access to computers. This can be verified by attendance records. Hence, this is a misleading statement, in my opinion. Consider that my ESL class alone had at least 17 students throughout the semester, using the lab during their class, using OpenOffice to write essays, answer questions, using WordNet for dictionary purposes, etc.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


I'm a Canadian school teacher, interested in issues in education in Canada.
Currently, I'm a secondary school teacher in Toronto, Ontario.

I will be starting with issues regarding computer education in Canada, Ontario, and in one of the largest school boards in North America, the Toronto District School Board.

At the moment, I have been assigned to teach science classes next year (September 2006), although this could change. I have spent the last 5 years teaching a variety of subjects in a linux lab at Monarch Park Collegiate, Toronto, Ontario. This included computer engineering, computer science, communications technology, ecommerce, and even ESL (English as a Second Language) classes in the linux lab! :-) I found the use of linux to be by far one of the best computer systems I have ever used, and highly recommend that its use be encouraged, expanded, supported, taught, etc.

Please feel free to ask questions, etc.