First distributives developed on the basis of Linux OS within the program to equip Russian schools with the open source software have been handed over to the informatics teachers in the Perm Region. The developers are sure their product will not only protect teachers from copyright advocates but might result in the technical literacy of pupils to improve.
Fist formal acquaintance with Linux OS has been held. On Friday, January 11th 2008 the teacher Alexander Ponosov and ALT Linux vise president Alexey Novodvorsky presented the rural teachers of informatics in Vereschagino District of Perm Region with the developments of the consortium, which won the tender to develop the open source software to be implemented in schools in three pilot regions – Tatarstan, Tomsk Region, and Perm Territory. The tender was held by Rosobrazovanie (the Federal Agency for Education) in 2007.
The consortium winner consists of the holding Armada, which is the main project performer, and the leading open source software developers in Russia, i.e. the companies ALT Linux, Linux Online, Linux Ink, the Russian Research Institute for management automation of non-commercial enterprises (MCBC OS developer), and the system integrators Ramec and NTSIT Intertech.
The consortium representatives handed over first open source software packages developed within the project to the teachers of informatics and told about Linux open source software, and its implementation in schools. After the meeting the teachers acknowledged not to be afraid of the mentioned OS.
Linux introduction in Vereschagino District of Perm Region is symbolic: the teacher Alexander Ponosov lives and works in the village Sepych. Although transition to the open source software was spoken about long ago, the process has gained momentum only after the notorious case against Mr. Ponosov.
‘I was dubious regarding switching to Linux, but now I calmed down’, - Irina Makarova, the employee of the district supervisory center told the CNews correspondent. There were many reasons to be dubious: education supervisors ‘have hardly forced the teachers to operate on computers as they have to switch to Linux’. During the master class Irina Markova found out that Linux was not so complicated as it was spoken about: the interface reminds familiar Windows ‘windows’, while the office packages of Microsoft and the open source software turn out to be similar both visually and functionally.
According to Alexey Navodvorsky, ALT Linux Director General, his company will try to make the transition to Linux excessively comfortable: ‘Within the project supervisory guides will be developed for different categories of users, both for school sysadmins, directors and teachers. The given kits will help to ease the transition to Linux’.
Hotline support call and internet centers will be organized. And the open source users are sure to be supported through the internet forums. Before the basic implementation of the open source software seminars for teachers will be organized regarding Linux installation on school computers. ‘Our task is to ease Linux installation as compared to other OS’, - Mr. Novodvorsky highlights.
The project to implement the open source software in Russian schools might become the largest worldwide: this year the open source software packages will be installed in 1200 schools in pilot regions, i.e. Perm Territory, Tomsk Region, and Tatarstan. Although abroad Linux is widely used in state institutions and at schools (in the Spanish province of Estremadura it is installed on all school computers), such a large-scale migration to the open source software has not been carried out before. After testing in three pilot regions over 2008 and making adjustments, Linux is planned to be installed in more than 61 thousand Russian schools.
Linux key advantage is that it is open source. However, the project participants also point out to the distributive easy adaptation to any hardware and requirements to the users’ computer literacy. ‘Transition to Linux is not simple replacement of OS. The given transition forces schools to improve the engineering education, we are loosing now and which is in great demand currently’, - Alexey Novodvorsky believes. As for school computers hardware, the consortium has developed 4 school distributive to 4 configurations: for computers with 128, 256, and 1024 MB RW memory. ‘Linux terminal’ has been developed to be installed on rare computers.
It is rather hard to determine what equipment prevails in Russian schools: the situation in pilot regions is under study. According to the teachers of Vereschagino District, PCs in computer rooms are far behind contemporary standards.
‘The first presentation of products on the basis of Linux OS has been held, but it is too early to speak about a full-scale implementation of the product, - Alexey Kuzovkin, Armada Director General, says. – Nevertheless, the real implementation is about to begin: we have launched the site linux.armd.ru, where the distributive current versions might be downloaded by anyone. In February the given distributives will be sent to schools in pilot regions. Besides, we intend to hold a large forum related to the open source software implementation at schools. We plan to invite teachers and heads of education systems from all Russian regions. Representatives of Rosobrazovanie and the Ministry of Education will are also invited’.