Students and teachers at 160 high schools in the Brussels Region have started to use free and open source applications. Since April, the region's Informatics Centre (CIRB) is helping schools to modernise their computer classrooms, electronic whiteboards and networks. The project includes the use of open source desktop tools such as LibreOffice, an office productivity suite and Mozilla Thunderbird, an email client.
The CIRB has been helping schools with their ICT since 1999. This year's 'Multimedia Plan' is the first that includes Libreoffice. However, the switch to the free and open source office suite will not be new to everybody, as there are already a few teachers and schools that use OpenOffice, knows CIRB's Fabrizio Fuso, who is managing the implementation.
How many students and teachers are involved, Fuso does not know. "We basically only deal with the school managers, and I don't know the number of students per school", he says. Schools in the region are free to choose whether they want to join or not, says Fuso. "We invited schools to join us, but there is no obligation."
The open source tools were selected for two reasons, he explains. "First, we use tools like LibreOffice ourselves. We have also implemented this office suite in the region's ministerial cabinets and so we can provide support. Second, it helps to lower the costs of the project."
The CIRB has readied installation images that are installed on desktop PCs and tablet computers, depending on the choice of the schools. They can select one or more out of three different packages, fitting a classroom with PCs, fitting a classroom with tablets or upgrading classrooms with projectors. "We expect to be done at the end of this year."
CIRB expects that students and teacher will have little issues in using the free and open source tools. Fuso himself is particularly pleased with the software used for managing interactive projectors, Open Sankoré. "There is a very active French community around this tool. They offer support, there are free templates and there are use cases. We've seen some very impressive demonstrations by experienced teachers. And the nicest thing about this software is that it works with almost any projector."
CIRB's Multimedia Plan was mentioned last week Monday by the region's minister for Public Works, Brigitte Grouwels, in her opening address of the Libre Sofware Meeting 2013. The LSM, better known as the RMLL (Rencontres Mondiales du Logiciel Libre) took place in Brussels from 6 to 11 July.