What office suite does your kids school use?

I sent an email to our local technology director asking what software the district uses for email and office documents;  I was surprised to here they use GroupWise and not so surprised they use Microsoft Office.  But then I started thinking about this, they are paying for the use of this software!  I am paying for them to use this software through my taxes.  I guess the email can be many options but there are so many services out there that are dirt cheap I don’t know why they would choose GroupWise – I need to dig a little further on that one.

As for Microsoft Office – I see no need for a school district to pay for an Office suite when free products like Lotus Symphony (which is based on Eclipse) and Open Office are available.  Microsoft probably gives schools very cheap licensing but I am sure (but not totally sure) it is not free.

Then I started thinking about the different sites my school district uses to communicate between parents and teachers, they have basically created a “community” online but it is based on 1999 technology.  How cool would it be if something like Lotus Live was used for it?  I don’t know the details around the licensing of Lotus Live but I think this kind of stuff would be a good business opportunity for business partners to go and implement these kinds of vertical communities.

There is an issue though – someone needs to get this idea out there and sell it.  I don’t think the education sector (at the high school level and lower) know too much about these areas.  One way is to educate politicians and have them get the message spread to the various school boards – is this an opportunity for change?

5 thoughts on “What office suite does your kids school use?

  1. I’m on the technology commitee of a local catholic school that has very little money to begin with – but everytime I bring up moving away from Office and the licenses I get resistance from the “All business and Colleges use Office” argument.

    I’ve never really looked for a definitive list of what business/colleges are NOT using Microsoft Office, but I think until you can prove that there’s a big list of people moving away from Microsoft, schools aren’t going to go for it. Especially schools with limited tech resources to begin with. For them, Microsoft is the easy answer. They still think Office just comes with all new compputers pre-installed.

  2. I think that it is high-time that schools started using free tools like Symphony and OpenOffice. I personally don’t buy the argument that “All businesses and Colleges use Office.” My experience in university is that, in general, there is no strict adherence to any particular office suite. I never used Microsoft tools for any of my work at university. When I had to write papers for my English and philosophy classes, I used OpenOffice and then later switched to Symphony. When I needed to write technical papers for computer science and math, I used LaTeX.

    I’m in Canada–I don’t know what it is like in the US. But all over Europe and Asia, government offices don’t use Microsoft tools. They use open source software for their offices. I think that Microsoft currently has a strangle-hold on North American schools because they use a false argument that if students don’t learn Microsoft tools, then the won’t get a job. Honestly, kids are smarter than that. They are able to understand the more abstract concepts of how to enter text, save files, and find spell-checkers in general office suites. They are able to transfer their knowledge from one office suite to another with a little guidance and help from documentation. It isn’t a huge transition from one to the next–they are pretty much all the same. And schools could save a tonne of money by not being tied to proprietary software.

  3. My local school district dropped M$ Office for OpenOffice with a savings of $17,000 in annual licensing costs. My employer has aM$ Office license for me, but I have not used it in approximately 5 years. OpenOffice and Symphony will do everything I need, even updating presentations and documents which are then opened in M$ applications after I’m done with them.

    Whenever I ask why we should pay for M$ software the universal answer is “What if we need to call them for support?” I follow up by asking “When is the last time you called for support?” Every time, the response has been “Never.” WTF?

    The art department is migrating to The GIMP for digital image manipulation. They have tons of inhouse generated documentation which is slowing the progress, but it is underway. Why should a family have to drop five bills on a copy of Photoshop so the student can work on his project at home when The GIMP will do just as well.

    Way to go East Aurora Union Free School District (NY)!


  4. I personally tend to favour SSuite Office’s free office suites. Their software also don’t need to run on Java or .NET, like so many open source office suites, so it makes their software very small and efficient.

    Perfect for school kids with older computers and no funds to buy new software.


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