Opinion: Is Linux a solution for the school laptops program?

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Opinion: Is Linux a solution for the school laptops program?
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The Australian Federal and State governments have announced programmes to give school-kids laptops.

However, there are ongoing cost and deployment issues, which are causing these programmes to be delayed or stopped.

One solution is to use low-cost netbooks, allocating one per two students, with the students using 'live' Linux USB keys to store their operating system, applications and school-work.

This results in a major reduction in installation and maintenance complexity, but still allows the students flexibility in how they use their netbooks and applications.

This programme can be established for a cost of $500 per unit (ie, for 2 students sharing), or $1000 per 4 students.

This includes all hardware and software costs. All that remains is the effort of having designated teaching staff image the USB keys, which is a trivial, one-click exercise.

We've seen approaches similar to this one work in other countries. For instance, in France, 175,000 'live' Linux USB keys were supplied to Parisian school children.

It's clear that with the approach we've outlined above, it is feasible to ensure that every single school child in Australia has access to an educational netbook/laptop for much of the
school week, and to have that laptop filled with hundreds of useful educational software applications, all within the budget offered by the Government.

We must also provide our response to what we've been informed is the key criticism against using Linux in school education, namely that it's 'not Microsoft', and thus somehow won’t prepare students for the real world.
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