Germany is a core area for the Debian Edu and Skolelinux user community, and this time I managed to get hold of Wolfgang Schweer, a valuable contributor to the project from Germany.
Who are you, and how do you spend your days?
I've studied Mathematics at the university 'Ruhr-Universität' in Bochum, Germany. Since 1981 I'm working as a teacher at the school "Westfalen-Kolleg Dortmund", a second chance school. Here, young adults is given the opportunity to get further education in order to do the school examination 'Abitur', which will allow to study at a university. This second chance is of value for those who want a better job perspective or failed to get a higher school examination being teens.
Besides teaching I was involved in developing online courses for a blended learning project called 'abitur-online.nrw' and in some other information technology related projects. For about ten years I've been teacher and coordinator for the 'abitur-online' project at my school. Being now in my early sixties, I've decided to leave school at the end of April this year.
How did you get in contact with the Skolelinux/Debian Edu project?
The first information about Skolelinux must have come to my attention years ago and somehow related to LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project). At school, we had set up a network at the beginning of 1997 using Suse Linux on the desktop, replacing a Novell network. Since 2002, we used old machines from the city council of Dortmund as thin clients (LTSP, later Ubuntu/Lessdisks) cause new hardware was out of reach. At home I'm using Debian since years and - subscribed to the Debian news letter - heard from time to time about Skolelinux. About two years ago I proposed to replace the (somehow undocumented and only known to me) system at school by a well known Debian based system: Skolelinux.
Students and teachers appreciated the new system because of a better look and feel and an enhanced access to local media on thin clients. The possibility to alter and/or reset passwords using a GUI was welcomed, too. Being able to do administrative tasks using a GUI and to easily set up workstations using PXE was of very high value for the admin teachers.
What do you see as the advantages of Skolelinux/Debian Edu?
It's open source, easy to set up, stable and flexible due to it's Debian base. It integrates LTSP out-of-the-box. And it is documented! So it was a perfect choice.
Being open source, there are no license problems and so it's possible to point teachers and students to programs like OpenOffice.org, ViewYourMind (mind mapping) and The Gimp. It's of high value to be able to adapt parts of the system to special needs of a school and to choose where to get support for this.
What do you see as the disadvantages of Skolelinux/Debian Edu?
Which free software do you use daily?
At home (Debian Sid with Gnome Desktop): Iceweasel, LibreOffice, Mutt, Gedit, Document Viewer, Midnight Commander, flpsed (PDF Annotator). At school (Skolelinux Lenny): Iceweasel, Gedit, LibreOffice.
Which strategy do you believe is the right one to use to get schools to use free software?
Some time ago I thought it was enough to tell people about it. But that doesn't seem to work quite well. Now I concentrate on those more interested and hope to get multiplicators that way.