[Fsfe-ie] IBEC requiring laptops for all secondary students.
ifso at gibiris.org
Thu Sep 1 13:15:05 CEST 2005
Yesterday, IBEC released a press statement on the subject of "Information
and Communications Technologies"
-- http://tinyurl.com/bwmcd) calling on the government to provide every
secondary school student with a laptop computer within 5 years.
While there's no mention of the matter in the press release itself, IBEC
spokesman, Brendan Butler, was quoted in certain news items as saying that
one of the benefits will be to eliminate the need for school books and
bags. Clearly he's never found himself dragging a laptop from site to site
on his bicycle every day.
In light of the news that Princeton University and other colleges are
offering students electronic versions of textbooks that have "digital
rights management" controls on them
(http://news.zdnet.com/2102-9588_22-5825301.html?tag=printthis), while I
applaud the initiative on the part of IBEC, I believe IFSO needs to
respond to highlight the dangers of it regarding the freedoms of students.
I propose the following as a press release.
I had a brief discussion with Ciarán, Malcolm and Teresa regarding this
last night at the meal for Beatriz, and they suggested some changes. I
haven't put those changes in because I don't have the time right now.
Also, if IFSO decides not to go with this, hopefully we can use this as an
exercise in drafting press releases in order to make the process more
efficient. With that in mind, there was a number of criticisms offered by
Colm McCárthaigh on the first/last press release from IFSO. Can some one
point me to where they are so that I can apply them to this one?
(with thanks to Ciarán for the separator!)
School Laptops and Freedoms.
The Irish Free Software Organisation (IFSO) welcomes the call from
IBEC for all secondary school students to be provided with a laptop
within 5 years. Noting the suggestion that this initiative will remove
the need for school books and bags, IFSO cautions against the
potential on the part of administrators and publishers to restrict the
freedoms that students currently enjoy.
"The temptation on the part of publishers to control electronic text
books with 'digital rights management' (DRM) features will be too
strong to resist," says [a functionary of IFSO]. "The education sector
will need to fully understand the implications of this with respect to
how students acquire and use text books." Recently some colleges in
the United States, including Princeton University, have offered
"cash-strapped" students electronic versions of text books for a 33%
discount. However, these versions of the books are controlled by DRM
features that will not allow a copy of the book to be view on any but
the computer it was downloaded to and will prevent the student from
reading or accessing the book after five months. "If the idea becomes
popular, the size of the discounts will progressively become smaller
until the electronic versions of the books are no less expensive that
the paper versions," said [yet another IFSO apparatchik]. "With the
elimination of paper books, students will be significantly less free
to learn than they currently are. At the same time, cost saving
options like second-hand books will be denied to families who struggle
every year during the back-to-school months."
Some examples of freedoms that students enjoy with school text books
that would be denied to them by DRM-controlled electronic books are:
* Writing notes directly into the book.
* Retaining books indefinitely for the purposes of revision or
* Borrowing books from friends.
* Getting books from older siblings.
* Buying books from students from the class ahead.
Regarding the laptops themselves, parents and teachers need to make
sure that the students' tendency to explore and learn are not
inhibited by the software applications that are installed on them.
"Inquisitive students like to change and adapt their computing
environments to suit their own interests. Many software applications
prevent the students from examining them in order to learn how they
work." said [some one else crawling from the IFSO woodwork]. "In the
light of an increasing culture of monitoring activities, students who
think they are being spied on by their teachers and the vendors of the
software applications on the laptops will be inhibited in their
natural desire to learn, especially with such a powerful educational
tool as a computer. Students should not be allowed to believe they
could gain a criminal record, as in the case of some high-school
students in Kutztown in Pennsylvania, for exploring their
computers." IFSO believes that school laptops should contain a wide
range of Free Software applications to facilitate this, and the
administration of these computers should encourage the use of Free
Software for all school activities.
About Irish Free Software Organisation (IFSO)
IFSO was founded in January 2004 with the aims of promoting and
protecting software which comes with the freedom to study it, modify
it and redistribute it: Free Software. Notable examples of Free
Software include the GNU/Linux operating system, the OpenOffice.org
office suite and the Firefox web browser. IFSO seeks the wider use of
Free Software, and a wider understanding of the benefits that software
freedom brings through independence, transparency and the ability to
collaborate with others. IFSO would also like to see businesses which
write, deploy or support Free Software being encouraged. IFSO works to
ensure that new legislation does not restrict the writing of Free
Software so that Free Software can continue to flourish.
 "Coming to campus: E-books with expiration dates",
 "Kutztown 13 Face Felony Charges",
Éibhear Ó hAnluain
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