NDRB logoThe elusive promise of a wealth of digital resources available for free use by learners and teachers throughout the UK is finally about to be realised. The National Digital Resource Bank (NDRB), run by the North West Learning Grid and supported by open source specialist company Sirius, will start by making available £30 million worth of resources (expected to double year on year).

The radical project has been brought about by collaboration between around 120 local authorities, 9 out of 10 broadband consortia, national network organisation Janet and the final piece of the jigsaw, Spanish secretary of state Francisco Ros releasing the source code and documentation for Agrega, Spain’s own digital repository for learning – a major breakthrough for open source.

Stephen Lucey, executive director for strategic technologies with Government ICT agency Becta this week welcomed the Government's shift in policy on open source technology for the public sector and revealed that it has the potential to save schools between a fifth and a half of their ICT procurement costs.

“We’re pleased to see open source getting the recognition it deserves as a viable alternative to vendor software having championed open source and open standards to the Government 12 months ago with our review of the use of Microsoft’s Vista and Office 2007 products within the education sector," he said.

Tom Watson MPThe schools open source community has welcomed the announcement by minister for digital engagement Tom Watson MP (left) of a change in ICT policy for the public sector to create a “level playing field” for open source.

Miles Berry, who runs the Open Source Schools website, funded by Becta, described the move as “a very positive step along the way to allowing the public sector to make the most of the adaptability and savings that open source offers”. “Tom Watson clearly has a lot of respect for open source development, and it's heartening that the minister for digital engagement recognises its contribution to a culture of innovation. I'm sure that, when judged fairly on the basis of value for money, open source solutions will stand up very favourably against proprietary alternatives, especially when the additional flexibility they offer is factored in.”

Bob HarrisonBob HarrisonBy Bob Harrison
An Ofsted report published this week has mixed messages for schools about how effectively ICT is being taught as a subject and, more important, how ICT is used to support learning in other subjects.

“The importance of ICT: Information and communication technology in primary and secondary schools, 2005/2008" is based on evidence from inspections of ICT between September 2005 and July 2008 in 177 maintained schools in England, as well as other visits to schools where good practice was identified.

By Bill Hicks

Sam PeterGoogle's Sam PeterMore evidence of Google’s  advances into the UK education system came today as three high-profile academic institutions went public with their reasons for opting for the search giant’s version of 'cloud computing' – that is, the Google Apps EDU package, providing email plus collaborative applications including document sharing, calendars and site-building.

Speaking at Google’s London HQ, managers from the University of Westminster, London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and the Royal College of Art (RCA) each cited similar motives for ditching their in-house email systems and plugging into Google’s  cloud model.