‘Involved teachers bridge the gap between users and technicians’
Three teachers and a handful of volunteers working on the decade-old project that introduces schools in the Italian province of South Tyrol (Alto Adige) to free and open source software, are starting a campaign to get new teachers involved.
“Italy’s oldest and biggest open source school-project needs a handful of new teachers, acting as a bridge between users and technicians”, says Paolo Dongili, a member of LUGBZ, the Linux User Group Bozen-Bolzano-Bulsan.
The province supports the FUSS (Software libero nella scuola/Free software in schools) project with full time IT staff. “They are doing a great job, but the schools could use a few more involved teachers and school managers”, Dongili says.
Teachers have very little spare time, and this hampers the communication with the technicians, he explains. “If an application in the PC lab fails or shows an error, teachers and students go back to class. They don’t have time to report the error to IT support. What is needed at each school is one teacher who can help fix the error, and will follow up by filing bug reports and contacting IT support.”
“The technology is not the issue”, confirms one of the teachers involved in the FUSS project, Ezio Monastero. Rather, a lack of experience and insufficient knowledge of the many available open source options is blocking innovation, he argues.
Writing on the LibreItalia website, he asks for volunteers to help with the project. The province’s schools need to reach out more to parents, to show how the open source tools used at school can just as easily be used at home and beyond. Dongili and fellow LUGBZ-members have decided to organise some workshops this year, to help Monastero and colleagues inspire new teachers, students and parents.
The first South Tyrol schools started using free and open source software in 2005. The project is now reaching nearly 15,000 students and 1,700 school teachers. The project maintains about 4,000 desktops workstations and 80 servers across the schools. The FUSS project’s eponymous GNU/Linux distribution is based on Ubuntu.
The project was originally financed in part by the European Social Fund. According to Monastero, ten years ago the schools annually spent around EUR 150,000 on proprietary licences for proprietary operating systems. These days, the only software licences that need to be acquired, is for proprietary software tailored to special needs.