The future of stand alone apps?
I’ve been struggling with the current approach of providing educational software as stand alone apps versus web-based apps. In FOSS there is a dearth of stand alone apps as many publishers follow the standard proprietary software model and target only certain operating systems. Same for many of the CD/DVD based materials that accompany textbooks provided by publishers. On the other end of the spectrum is an entire wealth of web-based apps and sites that contain some incredible and often free content for learning. But the places that most need this free and open content are some of the places without the bandwidth or technology to access them. Thus my dilemma; to advocate a strategy that tries to encourage more stand alone app development or to forgo stand alone content and focus on just getting learners to the web? The middle ground maybe being a school server with preinstalled content.
If you work in a technology-rich field it’s sometimes difficult to remember what it’s like to not have ubiquitous access to the cloud. Schools, most schools, have limited access and some schools even purposely limit that access. In technology-rich schools it’s mostly a policy issue on how to handle web access. For the rest of the world, the issue is still getting any technology into the classrooms.
OLPC helped lead the way toward delivering a quality technology experience for kids in most need of technology resources. Ubuntu and Edubuntu are now being distributed to many of those same audiences but I’m struggling with what strategy I should advocate as the technologies grow. FOSS will never be able to match the numbers of proprietary software and WINE can only get you so far and you still run into the same licensing issues if you want that software at home and school. One of the reasons so many organisations have chosen Edubuntu over plain Ubuntu is the inclusion of the educational software, even if the list is not long. It’s still better than nothing and that’s the other option.
So going forward I would like to see more stand alone application development but thinking long-term I question that approach. I can see a hybrid approach with a school server with captured sites and preinstalled content that could then be distributed out to student and teacher machines. Remember, no one NEEDS the entire Internet at once, they just NEED the relevant bits to learn the topic at hand.