With the host of simple, free and powerful client apps (eg OpenOffice) and web based apps (google suite), what are the advantages of continuing to pay annual seating fees for MS Office on our student/lab images?? Up until a few years ago, MS Office was really the only option. But now there are many...any thoughts??

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"you should not be teaching Word, Excel, WordPerfect, Writer, etc. You should be teaching principals NOT specific tools"

This is the cornerstone of the whole argument I believe. Imagine if we only knew 1 package. I teach accounting, and there are 2 main suites in Australia. Its like a North Vs South, East Vs West.

The important thing is that we teach students to be resilient and adaptable, so they can function in a dynamic world.

@Petaris:"Why would you make the assumption that most family's home PCs have MS Office? "

Just empirically speaking, I didn't think it was all that far fetched a notion.

From Bloomberg News:
"President Jeff Raikes of Microsoft Corp.'s Business Division says Office software revenue could double from 2002 levels to reach $20 billion by 2010."

@Petaris:"if you teach a specific tool not only will you have trouble adapting to any other tool but you will have to teach them again the with the next version (Think Office2k/XP/2k3 compared to 2007)."

Doesn't that apply to teaching Open Office as well? Is OO a non-specific tool? Won't they also have versioning with changes that need to be taught? From OpenOffice.org NINJA: "OpenOffice.org 2.4 is now released and ushers in new features, bug fixes, and performance improvements."(Think StarOffice, Open Office 1.0, / 2.0 / 2.4)

@Petaris: "I really don't think you will see too many people rushing to buy MS Office for their macs."

Maybe not rushing, but from the numbers below, they aren't dawdling either. Lot's of people are buying MS office for MAC. I did.

From Microsoft Watch: "Office 2004 for the Mac is selling like hot cakes."

""Twenty percent of all the versions of Microsoft Office sold at retail are the Mac version," said Chris Swenson, NPD's director of software industry analysis. "Office 2004 for the Mac is selling like hot cakes." Swenson quoted numbers for U.S. online and in-store retail. "

From CNET NEWS: "Office for Mac 2008 are flying off the shelves"

"Microsoft's Mac unit is set to disclose on Tuesday that copies of the new Office for Mac 2008 are flying off the shelves at three times the rate of its predecessor. The company wouldn't disclose sales numbers, but said the sales are the highest in the 19-year history of the unit. That continues a trend that has been going on for some time. "

@Petaris:"If you teach principals then you can adapt to any tool"

Of course, you can. I am advocating cutting to the chase and teach the tools mostly widely in use. Let people adapt to secondary and tertiary products like OO as needed, if at all.

@Petaris:"If you really think OpenOffice is that different then I really doubt you have ever used it. "

Ah, yes but I have. You see, something for free is the holy grail of budget strapped districts and penny wise teachers all across the land. I am a computer teacher. Set a complete lab with a SuSE linux server, and tried out Open Office just about every year for the last 4 years. Horribly slow on P4's with 512mb ram.

@Petaris:"Your keyboard comparison isn't really accurate. Your comparing two completely different layouts..."
Yes but what's wrong with that if you're supposed to be teaching "principals" as you said. Keyboarding principles can be taught on either board No?

Now I know that speaking out against open source in this exact forum is like praising Vista in a Mac forum, I will be the pariah simply for trying to present a strong contrasting viewpoint. I am reminded of my dads' saying of my penchant for playing devils advocate " A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still"

So I don't expect anyone here to change their mind at all, I just want to present an alternative view.
Here are some of my thoughts to what you are saying.

In response to : From Bloomberg News:
"President Jeff Raikes of Microsoft Corp.'s Business Division says Office software revenue could double from 2002 levels to reach $20 billion by 2010."

The pricing structure of Office is changing, we now pay 33% more for office than we did in 2002, so this does not mean that there will be any more computers using, only that the revenue is "supposed" to doulbe.

In response to: "Of course, you can. I am advocating cutting to the chase and teach the tools mostly widely in use. Let people adapt to secondary and tertiary products like OO as needed, if at all."

If what you say about only teaching MS Office, which MS Office are you talking about? The one for Windows or the one for Mac's? Even though they share the same title, they are different programs and they do look and act differently! Yes, I know they are close, but then again, so is OpenOffice.org and versions of MS Office prior to 2007!

In fact, using your reasoning for MS Office, you are also saying that Mac's have no place in schools (or at least OS X)! Why do I say that?
1. Windows PC's make up more than 90% of all computers, Macs make up less 5% (and I am being very generous).
2. OpenOffice is being used on more computers than Mac OSX (this includes the many Mac users who are using and enjoying OpenOffice,but even if no Macs used OpenOffice, the numbers would still be higher).
3. There are many other analogies that could be used here, but I think most will get my drift.

( I am not advocating, not using Macs, but using Steve's logic, he is trying to have his cake and eat it too)

In response to: """Twenty percent of all the versions of Microsoft Office sold at retail are the Mac version," said Chris Swenson, NPD's director of software industry analysis. "Office 2004 for the Mac is selling like hot cakes." Swenson quoted numbers for U.S. online and in-store retail. "
http://www.microsoft-watch.com/content/business_applications/micros... "

I think this is more of a reflection of how poor sales are for Office 2007 for Windows. Also, most Office for Windows purchases are online (sales generated when the "FREE" MS Office that came with the computer expires).

In response to the DVORAK keyboard:

The keyboard setup is actually in the OS and not in the keyboard itself. While there is a chip in the keyboard so that the OS can identify it, there is nothing stopping you from using your QWERTY keyboard as a DVORAK or vice-versa. And actually you may have a good idea! In researching this topic, I have found almost everything about the DVORAK keyboard to be positive. Here are a few of the links that I found.


In fact, I am going to try it myself, as I have had problems with my hands for years, so I will get to see for myself, if it helps.
(Does anyone reading this use DVORAK keyboard? )

My personal thoughts on this, are that MS Office is NOT needed (neither is OpenOffice), you can use and teach any Office suite and it will be better than not doing it all! In my district, we spend about $15,000 a year for MS Office, and if the number of computers increases so does this cost. For $15,000 a year we could be purchasing another 15-30 computers each year.
The salesmen for these companies go to the schools and say "you should be teaching this, because all the business world is (or going to be) using it" then they go to the business world and say "you need to be using our products because thats what all the schools are teaching"! It is a vicious cycle, but as long as everyone pays, they will continue the spin.
I personally think that the benefits of another hundred or more computers are much better than anything MS Office offers over that of OpenOffice.Org. I am a believer in one to one computing, and I don't think that it is sustainable to continue to pay for these kinds of things. I actually think that Microsoft should be paying schools to train people on the use of their products! I think that schools using MS Office, benefit Microsoft more than Microsoft benefits schools.
I think Mike Huffman and Indiana's InAccess program are more of an answer for our schools http://indianaaccess.blogspot.com/ .
In order to change and improve things, we need to embrace new ideas and make changes. This is the biggest problem that I think is facing us today, everyone knows that there needs to changes, but no one wants to change! The bad news is that change will not happen for many years.
So if you have lots of money to give away, then by all means give it to Microsoft, but if you don't think you should be giving away taxpayers money, then download OpenOffice and experience "Free"dom and some extra money to buy things that actually will make a difference!
Paul, I am in agreement with you on most points of your post. As a tech director in a district of 3800 students we are in our 3rd year of transitioning to OpenOffice. Rather than spend our savings on hardware we are spending every penny, $50,000 per year on professional development. We have a variety of areas where we can get funds for hardware but few for training. In my opinion a lack of professional development is the biggest problem that we have in schools today. We spend billions on hardware and then just expect teachers to know how to use it. Until we start providing the training in technology integration, we are wasting a bunch of money on hardware that rarely impacts teaching and learning in a measurable way.

As far as teaching an application, sure you are teaching an application no matter what software you use. We do need to teach concepts of word processing, spreadsheets, presentations etc... If one truly understands the concepts behind the application, using another application is just "buttonology", finding the where for what you want to do, and in most cases it is not that hard to find.

Another nice thing is that I can provide a robust office suite for any student that can't afford MS Office, Word Perfect etc... and it alleviates any compatibility problems if all kids at home have the same software that we use in the schools.
Wow, that is a great story Randy. Congrats on your success. I wish you could bottle up your recipe and create a potion that we could give out to the decision makers. A move to open source options makes so much sense. And with the economy the way it is the US right now, I have a hunch we're going to see more of a movement toward open source in K12. Other countries are years ahead of the US in their adoption of open source office suites, desktop operating systems, and other client apps. I, too, would much rather spend tens of thousands of dollars on things that really matter like professional development and low cost laptops for our students instead of spending the money on proprietary software.

Again, I want to congratulate you on your success and thanks for sharing your story here.

Matt Montagne
Palo Alto, California
Great posts, very informative!
I love the opensource, opencourse movements...there's so much out there.
If you teach the principals, maybe they'll support using open source software! ;)

"But in the real world, tools matter and specific skills using specific applications matter enough that people get hired or not hired, paid and not paid, because of well developed skills with those apps. Think Adobe PhotoShop, DreamWeaver, Final Cut Pro. Think Microsoft Office, not some generic office package."

At last some real sense in this discussion.

Let's get at the real issue underlying this discussion; i.e., school districts try to educate "on the cheap" and fail to fund technology projects to a level that ensures success.

The failures to plan and fund (for technology and much else) to appropriate levels leads to the burden for implementation being placed upon teachers.

Of course teachers are going to resist.

So, why create an additional challenge for teachers by having them deal with multiple file formats because our school districts don't want to pay for the tools that teachers need?

Not only should school districts pay for MS Office, but school districts should provide the software for every teacher on the district laptops that teachers use at home.

I use lots of open source applications, but when I need real tools; I generally go with the commercial products because the open source applications lack the power I need. (Of course, most students don't need that kind of power and flexibility in the applications that they use...but their teachers do.)

It speaks to our failure to integrate technology that this discussion finds traction. If teachers were trained to use software correctly, they would demand top-quality products. Instead, many teachers shun technology (or do the minimum that their supervisors demand) because professional development and backend network support are not available.

Instead of telling school district executives and high-level managers that "make-do" software is available "on the cheap;" tell these folks that they have to do a better job "funding what maters" and stop wasting money on all the "no-payoff/ low-payoff" ideas that they currently fund. (Excessive testing, benchmark testing, teaching to the test are examples of money going "down the drain.")

Lack of courage to "tell it like it is" to school district executives and managers is the corollary of this issue.
I've been using Open Office in my grades 1 to 9 lab for the past 6 years.

I find that students learn the SKILL and PROCESS better since they must actually read the screen to find tools and functions, instead of clicking automatically as they would at home.

Of course, 6 years later they are masters!

IMPORTANT: I have had issues when they "forget" to change file types to more commercial extensions. There are very few places that will open their work! It is important that they get used to saving correctly!
I say let's expose our students to all options if possible. My students work with MS Office in our school lab. I happen to have an Edubuntu lab with 14 computers in my fifth grade classroom. They work with Open Office everyday and have no problem switching to MS Office when they are in the lab. We also use Scribus. In fact, my students are exposed to the Apple operating system as well as to Linux. My students learn fast. I think our students should be exposed to all variations and types of technology. This will make a well rounded tech. savvy learner. If you have the resources, go buy MS Office. If you are like me, wanting to integrate technology into your everyday teaching with very limited funding, Open Office is the way to go. Actually, these days, you can buy a thin client computer for the price of a MS Office license. Both Office Suites work well and will create a good product. I rarely use MS Office anymore and it doesn't matter. I am still able to share, documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with all my Microsoft friends.
I don't think anyone has mentioned open source NeoOffice for Mac. I've used it ever since it came out and has amazing support with patches and updates. It can open just about any file format and seems much more responsive than OpenOffice for Mac. Teachers are continually sending me the docx files to open for them. My classroom has an imac, mac mini, and 5 pcs using a variety of linux distros (and therefore OpenOffice), such as mint, edubuntu and now on the older hardware newly released Lubuntu (runs very well on an old HP Omnibook xe3! from a Gates grant 9 years ago, yes free software Bill.). We are a small district only one K-8 school in the district, and our hardware needs are immense. Only 5 old emacs or bondi imacs in most classrooms. Pathetic I know. I've showed teachers linux and they are impressed, but with only 1 tech person and me (Science teacher) no one is ready to take on a new albeit simple operating system.
The issue of getting teachers to use Open Office on student lab or classroom machines is actually not that different from getting teachers to use computers in instruction in the first place! Did you know there are still teachers who never use computers at all? ;) Not for instruction and not for themselves...One of the most important steps in the process of converting a teacher from a "non user of computers at all" to a "user of computers for instruction" is getting them to use computers in their own life. Correspondingly, individual teachers who worked so hard to learn MS Office skills for use in instruction are not likely to start installing, learning about, and using Open Office unless they start using it for themselves first, and to do that, they have to be shown its advantages at the individual level first. I agree with a previous poster who suggested encouraging teachers to install a single version of Open Office on their home or school computer and starting to use it sometimes instead of Word experimentally. Once they see that they can use Writer instead of Word, they will be more likely to experiment with the other programs in the suite and they still have MS Office available when they're in a rush and don't feel like a challenge.

For me, I did that for quite some time, and when I purchased a new laptop for home use, I was ready to forgo buying MS Office and have survived on Open Office alone. (At least at home!)

One additional motivation for me in starting to experiment with Open Office was that students would bring or email me documents they created at home using whatever software was on their computer when they bought it that I couldn't open with Word. That's usually not a problem with Open Office.

I work with predominantly low-income adult populations and being able to show them free alternatives to expensive software is an added bonus.



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