After sharing six beta versions over a period of 14 months, Microsoft has formally released Internet Explorer 7 in advance of its major operating system revision, Vista.

My personal browser of choice on the Windows side of things will remain Firefox, largely because IE in all previous variants has been the most security-vulnerable web browser on the planet. IE7’s support for RSS feeds is long overdue and should be welcome, but my month of using it in its May 2006 beta version earlier this year did not leave me impressed.

From a selfish standpoint, I hope most people who use Windows computers DO continue to use IE, and as a result malware attacks continue to be focused primarily on IE instead of Firefox or browsers like Safari on the Mac or Flock. A year or so ago I ran into some problems (mainly with online banking sites) requiring the use of Internet Explorer, but I have not run into browser-related problems much lately except on some streaming video sites that use Windows Media. (Flip4Mac takes care of most problems for free, thankfully.) I am firmly convinced that educators and others should strongly support cross-platform web standards which provide for interoperability. In addition, as new programs are purchased by schools for administrative or instructional purposes, those systems should be web-based and support open standards.

As much as Redmond hopes Vista will prove to be a fantastic new revenue stream, I personally hope its ridiculously robust operating system requirements will cause more fiscally responsible and critically-thinking school administrators to move towards open-source solutions like Ubuntu and OpenOffice. Will many do this? I don’t know. Everyone should know the options, however, and the words “free software” should get more attention in educational administration circles in the future than they do today.

To elaborate a bit more on this: In most K-12 schools I have worked in and visited, basic computer use rarely goes beyond Internet surfing, email, printing, electronic gradebooks, Accelerated Reader, and clerical application use (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation software use). As much as I support digital storytelling and interactive desktop videoconferencing, I just don’t see many schools using many of their computers for more processor-intensive tasks like these. To maintain current patterns of technology usage, most schools do NOT need to upgrade and run Windows Vista IMHO. Browser-based, read/write web tools have placed abundant power at the fingertips of every Internet user not blocked by content or port filters. (Admittedly, many in schools and in China fall into this category.) I do not think schools should maintain generally low-levels of technology integration– we need to help learners of all ages develop greater digital literacy through more robust uses of technology tools which authentically cultivate literacy skills– but I do question the idea or premise that “because a new Windows operating system is available, we have got to upgrade all our computers.” How many teachers do you know who were really using many of the advanced features of Word97, much less WordXP?

My workshops last Monday in Wichita Falls drove this point home clearly: Most teachers are still not comfortable with web 1.0, and need a great deal of help learning what web 2.0 is and what it can mean for instruction in their classrooms. Web 2.0 does not require IE7 or Vista, and I question the motivation of those who would insist these are things our school districts need and (in the case of Vista) should spend money to purchase.

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One Response to IE7 for Windows and Vista / Open Source reflections

  1. Antonio says:

    I’ve had some banking issues with Safari as well, but Firefox seems to handle those problems….other than that, Flip4Mac is just perfect for me streaming WMV content.

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