In November of 2001, members of the online groups SEUL/edu
(http://www.seul.org/edu), Open Source Schools
(http://www.opensourceschools.org), the K-12 Linux in Schools project
(http://www.k12os.org), and the Open Source Educational Foundation
(http://www.osef.org) decided to develop a central organization to
provide help for educators seeking the advantages of open resources
and open source/free software. Composed of more than 30 open-resource-focused educational organizations on five continents, the all-volunteer Schoolforge project hopes to harness the collective strengths of educators by enabling them to share technical and pedagogical expertise far beyond their localities.
"For too long," said SEUL/edu leader and Schoolforge spokesman Doug Loss, "our many projects suffered from isolation and low visibility. Our lack of a unified organization often meant that our efforts as educators and as technologists were duplicative. Isolated, we could neither build on our colleagues' successes, nor learn from their failures."
Schoolforge is intended to help its member organizations to:
- introduce open resources, including free/open source software, to primary and secondary educational settings;
- help educators use and develop open resources, including free curricula and free software;
- foster local and global volunteer support networks to implement free/open source educational solutions; and
- provide open forums for educators to share information with colleagues, and with corporate and governmental educational stakeholders.
Schoolforge member organizations are made of volunteers, teachers and technologists in elementary and high schools around the world who are committed to harnessing the Internet and open resources to help teachers teach and help students learn. Contributions to open resource projects are free and open to anyone who desires to use them, and can never be withdrawn from public use.
Schoolforge's member groups are delivering the power of open resources to primary and secondary educators. While some Sourceforge groups are focused on bringing open source and free software resources to schools in need of low- or zero-cost alternatives to proprietary software, other member organizations have broader goals: "When we use the term
'open resources,' we mean a lot more than free software," said David Bucknell, Open Source Schools Project head and Schoolforge co-spokesman. "Open resources are educational tools made by educators, for educators, sharing the experience they've gained in both the classroom and the lab. That can include everything from folk wisdom to lesson plans, and from software to documentation."
Visitors to Schoolforge will find links to SEUL/edu's successful case studies from around the world (http://richtech.ca/seul/casedex.html), and Open Source Schools' how-tos, reviews, and informative essays (http://opensourceschools.org). Links are also provided to projects dedicated to free and open source educational and administrative software (http://richtech.ca/seul/), and free curriculum and free science instructional texts (http://www.ibiblio.org/obp/). A list of
all current members, and information for organizations interested in joining, can be found at http://www.schoolforge.net/membership.php.
"We're hoping to put behind us the day when computers were used to teach students how to use branded computer products, and to lock hapless school districts into a never-ending treadmill of hardware and software spending," Loss said. "We don't want another teacher ever to have to learn a proprietary interface, only to have his or her experience rendered useless with the next product upgrade or business failure. Open resources promise to make technology a powerful tool for
education, not the other way around."