Within five years, Hirsch predicts, not a single desktop in this 52,000-student school system in metropolitan Dallas will carry the image of a proprietary school software program. Gone will be the familiar Microsoft applications and desktop icons that over the years have become synonymous with document creation. In their place will be a suite of lesser-known, but equally capable alternatives–or, what Hirsch likes to call “open technologies.”
Though some might see his plans as ambitious, Hirsch is hardly alone in his dreams. Plano ISD is part of a fast-growing cadre of school districts across the country actively exploring the use of free web-based services and open-source school software alternatives.
Last summer, the state of Indiana announced a plan to deploy more than 24,000 computers with Linux operating systems in its schools. At the time, the project–called inAccess–represented the largest single distribution of Linux-based technology in U.S. K-12 schools (see story: Desktop Linux rolls into Indiana). Experts estimate the deployment could expand to more than 170,000 desktops across the state by the end of this year.