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Date: Tue, 04 Jan 2000 13:14:06 -0500
From: Doug Loss <dloss@suscom.net>
To: lwn@lwn.net
Subject: SEUL/edu Linux in education report

SEUL/edu Linux in education report #1

   David Moore has just released version 0.6.0 of Authenticated User
Community (AUC).  This is one of the SEUL/edu-supported projects.  It
has been uploaded to the website at 
There are a variety of new features and flexibility enhancements beyond
the previous version.  Here's a brief description of AUC:

Authenticated User Community (AUC) is an intranet system designed for
use in a K-12 setting but is also useful in many other settings. It
offers the ability for users to have a uniform web-based interface to
discussion forums, e-mail (similar to hotmail, etc.), file management,
and a searchable user database.  Also, "Interactive Classrooms" provide
a means for students and teachers to have a web-based extension to their
in-class interaction. The system runs from a C-based monolithic CGI
script. MySQL is used for database storage. Also, the web-based mail
client supports MIME parts/attachments, IMAP, mbox, and multiple mail

  If you are interested, please goto the webpage and optionally sign up
for the development mailing list.

   Bruno Vernier of SEUL/edu has been working on developing an XML DTD
for educational information, called EduML.  While XML should be
inherently open and cross platform, the only other efforts in this
direction that we're aware of, Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF)
and IMS http://www.imsproject.org/, 
both seem to lack something in their execution.  EduML has been designed
by a working teacher who probably knows more about the needs of teachers
and their students that the companies and bureaucracies that are driving
the other efforts.  Here's my response to a question about SIF and how
it relates to us, and Bruno's response to me:

Eric Sandeen wrote:

> > [I've looked at the SIF] 1.0 draft spec, and it actually looks quite
> > good, and something that Linux should be able to support.  I'm
> > wondering if there has been any discussion
> > of this vs. EDUML, or how the two might relate?
> >
Doug Loss wrote:

> Bruno and I looked at this a while ago.  At that time, SIF was ahead
> of EduML in some areas while EduML held the lead in others.  Bruno
[looked into our associating with SIF, but the structure of the SIF
organization made it very difficult for non-corporate or bureaucratic
groups to gain]
> an entry into SIF; it seemed better to work on developing EduML.

> If things have changed, working together might be a good idea.  But
> the organization of the SIF effort didn't inspire confidence in me
> that we'd actually have any influence in what they did.  Bruno, does
> that match your take on the SIF situation?

While agreeing fully with you, Doug, I'd like to present a different
angle with the same information:

1. SIF is maturing and has the big players committing long term to it

2. We are still at the beginning of the XML era; it looks like it is a

3. SIF does not care what we think, but we need to care what it thinks;
(simple arithmetic and common sense here)

4. I've noticed a couple of educational publishers claiming future
compliance with SIF and IMS, and Jose Lacal has chosen IMS for
openclassroom.org...this might be the start of an inevitable tidal wave.

5. Since the specs for SIF are published and open, then ***insofar*** as
we all think it will become a standard for our school's commercial
software then the situation will be better than SMB: Samba had to
reverse engineer the standard to become a killer app.  We won't need to
reverse engineer SIF, and we probably won't be able to afford not being
SIF and possibly IMS compliant.

6. My main complaint about SIF (which I can do nothing about) is that it
is North American centric ,  but with the globalisation of business, I
am sure future versions of SIF will be internationalized... or else the
rest of the world will conform to US standards ... :-( like it did with
other microsoft standards.  Europe will probably put up some resistance
via an official (European government) commission: Ariadne:

My main complaint about IMS is that while much more international in
scope, it aims only for the telematic component of education (pure
distance education)

7. I am not particularly excited about this development.  One year's
worth of working and preaching EduML (a universal XML for all of
education) can usefully be resumed to this:

please write your educational programs so that data is automatically
exportable/importable in some sort of XML format.  Converting from one
XML to another is relatively easy.  Ideally, we should have all agreed
on exact data structures and made our long-term lives easy by sticking
to a universal educational data structure.  In practice, that is not
happening: There is no universally accepted educational data structure.
But one day there will be and converting from one XML to that one will
be efficient in the open source world, thus leveraging our time

If you work in North America, and are aiming for North American users,
it is probably wise to try to stick to the SIF format as your XML

   Unfortunately, Bruno finds that the press and priorities of daily
life make it difficult to develop EduML at the rate he'd like to.  For
that reason most of the current work on EduML is being done via the
clx-eduml mailing list organized by Odile Bénassy and Georges
Khaznadar.  This list is primarily in French; the message announcing its
formation is at this URL 
Everyone involved would like to request assistance from people with XML
skills and an interest in furthering the use of Linux in education.  If
you would like to help in this effort, please contact me
<dloss@seul.org>, Bruno <vernier@seul.org> or Odile <ob@seul.org> and
we'll find something worthwhile for you to do.

   In these reports on Linux in education, I plan to list a number of
programs we've found that could be useful in education.  Some of these
haven't made it to our software page

http://www.seul.org/edu/software.html yet, so keep watching here!  For
now I'm going to start by listing a few of the programs that _have_ made
it to our software page:

addpsx--Generates addition worksheets in PostScript. (PostScript is a
common format for published works. It can often be sent to a printer
directly, or viewed with GhostScript.) Variable number of digits. (This
file is being hosted by seul-edu for the WeParent project.) (GPL)


chemtool--a menu-driven program for drawing organic molecules under X.

Dr. Geo--Dr GEO is interactive geometry software. It allows the
construction of interactive geometric figures. Currently a
DOS/Win3x/Win95 and Linux application. (GPL)


dvorak7min--drak7min is a simple ncurses-based typing tutor for those
trying to get fluent with the Dvorak keyboard layout. (GPL)


GPeriodic--GPeriodic acts as a periodic table reference and allows you
to browse through the table of elements. (GPL)


   Finally, I want to highlight a different website or OSS project each
report that in involved in Linux and education.  For the first one I'd
like to mention the Linux Educational Needs Posting Pages (LENPP)

http://www.linuxhelpers.org/lenpp.html, run by Bill Ries-Knight.
LENPP is a place where members of the Linux community interested in
helping schools use Linux can list their abilities and how they can
help, while schools can list the needs they have for community members
to see and help with.  Take a look at what's listed there, and see if
you can help!

Doug Loss                 The difference between the right word and
Data Network Coordinator  the almost right word is the difference
Bloomsburg University     between lightning and a lightning bug.
dloss@bloomu.edu                Mark Twain