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Education GNU is Not Unix

The Argument For F/OSS In Schools 193

pfaffman sends us word of a two-part article in LinuxInsider that lays out to an audience of non-tech educators a cogent argument for using F/OSS in schools. The piece was written by a University of Tennessee professor for the education journal TechTrends. It makes the case that proprietary software is inconvenient and that when schools choose to use proprietary products they spend their constituents' money. The article won't contain a whole lot of surprises for Linux initiates (save perhaps some software recommendations for educational use), but it's interesting to see these ideas presented so clearly to a wider, and influential, audience."
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The Argument For F/OSS In Schools

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  • He missed one point. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:18PM (#19485301)
    If the students are using F/OSS throughout the K-12 years, some of the students will go on to college to study programming.

    What better projects for them than enhancing / bug-fixes for the software they've been using for so long?

    In essence, the educational system ends up teaching students to write software for the educational system. So it just keeps evolving and improving.
    • If the students are using F/OSS throughout the K-12 years, some of the students will go on to college to study programming.

      On of the problems with F/OSS is that many of its proponents seem to assume that most people want to know about programming. This just isn't so. Most people want to use computer to leverage their skills and do useful things, but they don't want to have to deal with the mechanics of the computer. Windows, to a huge extent, with all its warts, allows them to do this. Right now, Linux doe

      • by h2g2bob ( 948006 )
        I disagree that Linux is "too hard". In situations where the software is already set up, it's not hard at all. The kids aren't going to install software and manage user accounts on windows, and they aren't going to edit xorg.conf on linux.
    • by tknd ( 979052 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:48PM (#19485547)

      The problem with having the students work on the actual software projects is that often they may not have enough experience to correctly perform the change. I certainly wouldn't trust pretty much all first and second year CS students with changes and I'd feel more at ease with 3rd and 4th year students. A good portion of the first year students end up dropping out and a good portion of the remaining students still can't write good code. That doesn't mean they're bad students, in fact they might even be very good computer scientists. But there's a big difference in understanding and having experience in the basic principles of software engineering.

      For example, my school required all students to take project courses (one where you work on a project the entire quarter rather than sit through lecture) and one course I took was software engineering. We were required to make a team of four students (our choice, at the beginning of the quarter) and we were given a "customer" who was either a graduate student or a representative from a company. In the class we were tasked with constructing a complete proposal and presentation for our specific project, capturing requirements, designing the solution, implementing it, and testing and documenting it. It was not and easy class (there were times where we were in the lab for more than 24 hours) and often teams failed. The teams that did succeed, did not necessarily put together something that met the customer's initial expectations. Often, requirements were scoped down, the final product was not completely finished, and so on. There were even bad customers who poorly communicated with the team (if at all). My assumption is that most of these customers understood that the work done by the students was likely to not meet their expectations, but they're still getting free labor with few hours invested.

      The students, however, benefited immensely from this experience--it gave everyone in the class a real perspective of what was beyond the lecture room. But as I said, often what the students produced was of considerably lower quality. I'm not sure that's good for all open source projects as it's quite likely that the quality of work many students will put out can introduce more defects than they solve. I do think it is good for companies and grad students trying to get some free/cheap research done on the side, and I do think that it is a good experience for the students.

      • Yep, they're probably not that good when they first start.

        But remember that F/OSS is developed in the open. They'll have some of the best minds critiquing their patches. And they'll be able to see how a project evolves, in real time.

        That kind of interaction with skilled programmers on an evolving project just can't be had at most colleges.

        But they'll get it just because their school system was smart enough to invest in F/OSS for their students.
        • Indeed. Back in the day I learnt a great deal of lessons from doing open source development before I even went to college. College taught me the nuts and bolts of algorithms and approaches, but doing open source development taught me how to write good, maintainable code and code that has the potential to last for several years rather than being thrown away as soon as the requirements change.

          Sure, I submitted some awful patches in my formative years, but the people I submitted them to were usually friendly,

      • For example, my school required all students to take project courses (one where you work on a project the entire quarter rather than sit through lecture) and one course I took was software engineering.

        We did this too in high school. We got the opposite result. Some of the projects became commercial products. Two of mine remained in use (and not by me) for more than a decade.

        The trap of experience is thinking it's universal, or even representative of some nonexistent norm.

        If you give them a computer wi

      • I knew final year students who couldn't program their way out of a paper bag, and 1st year students who could break someone's arm from 6ft away with a regex. I know what you're trying to say though, however I don't see that it matters. Joe Blow, just joining an open source project probably wouldn't have commit access to the source code repository and would be submitting patches to someone already on the team surely? If the quality wasn't satisfactory, then they'd be given direction (hopefully) to improve it
      • That project course can sometimes be really bad, or really good depending on how it is organized. I took software engineering, but I know a lot of people who took computer science.

        Here's how the project course works in software engineering. In a group of 4 to 6 people, do a project either for a professor, business, or your own product for the open market. Go through all the requirements, design, implementation, testing, and documentation. The project lasts for 2 semesters. If you happen to be in co-
  • by dws90 ( 1063948 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:23PM (#19485335)
    Floss at school would be tremendously useful. Kids everywhere are told to "Brush after every meal", but if they eat at school, how do they get the necessary tools? Since we can't expect the kids to bring a toothbrush every day, providing floss will go a long way to better, brighter teeth!
  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:25PM (#19485363)
    Proprietary software at educational pricing is, in most cases, dirt cheap.

    Almost every single software company I know provides software to schools at a significant discount.

    Our small little school gets windows for $60/copy. We also buy office for $60/copy. Bigger schools get an even bigger discount than that.

    Our largest costs are humans and hardware; neither of which have a free/open source equivalent. If you look at the entire budget for a school or a school district, software costs are a tiny blip on the radar. Those costs pale in comparison to payroll, benefits, insurance, utilities, facilities.....etc.

    The point is that software should be selected based on ONE criteria: suitability of purpose. The best software that does the job for the lowest total cost should be selected. Sometimes free software is the way to go, sometimes it's not.

    We are already struggling with religion creeping into schools, we don't need software religions creeping into schools.

    -ted
    • by Shados ( 741919 )
      What the hell, someone who actualy -knows- what they are talking about on Slashdot? The server's going to overload, you shouldn't be here!
    • by cecil_turtle ( 820519 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:41PM (#19485487)
      From the header of the first article, had you bothered to read it:

      Free software gives everyone the freedom to run, study, change and redistribute software. It is these freedoms, not the price, that is important about free software. Free software advocates make the distinction between free, as in speech, as opposed to free, as in beer. Though many people would gladly accept a free beer, it is not one of the fundamental principles of democracy.
      The article doesn't even make the argument about cost to the schools. It does make another point about the cost of F/OSS vs. proprietary software however (one I hadn't considered):

      I once spoke to a vendor of an online grade book who, upon learning that I train teachers, was very interested in my using it in my classes.

      "What does it cost?" I asked.
      "It will cost you nothing. You can use it for free for as long as you like."
      "And once I addict my students to your software," I asked pointedly, afraid that I was being rude, "what will it cost them?"
      The vendor became excited. "That's exactly what we were talking about in our last sales Free White Paper - What Retailers Should Know about M-Commerce meeting!"
      When technology leaders train teachers and students to use proprietary software, it obligates those teachers and students to buy or steal that software or to have wasted their time on the training.
      It made another 8 or 10 points that were not at all cost related. So overall, it was a good article. You should read it sometime.
      • oops, I copied the ad from the article into the quote - that should just be "... sales meeting!" - but somehow it almost works...
      • When technology leaders train teachers and students to use proprietary software, it obligates those teachers and students to buy or steal that software or to have wasted their time on the training.

        This seems to be a purely economic reason for using free software. This was the one point I chose to make my comment about.

        You even included it in your response!

        Yes, if you want to teach a class on Photoshop, you obligate the students, and the SCHOOL to buy Photoshop. If you want to teach GIMP, you obligate no o
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          You're point was about cost to the schools, my point was that the article didn't talk about cost to the schools, the only costs it mentioned were secondary costs which were things I hadn't considered and I felt went outside of the normal OSS vs. Proprietary cost argument that you focused on.

          I don't work in education, but I'm disappointed that "do we need this" and "what does it cost" are the only concerns to administrators. You even mentioned "should be selected based on ONE criteria: suitability of purp
          • Now they'll recommend its use when they go out to work in the real world

            That may be a nice thought to have a world where the employees can demand the work environment they want. If that was the case, no one would work in cubicles, everyone would have a corner office with tons of window space, and everyone would have a top of the line computer sitting at their desk.

            The real world doesn't work that way (mostly). I doubt, even if you teach students "the right way" they will not be able to demand "the right w
            • Certainly it would depend on the company; but not every young person finishes school and then goes to work for a Fortune 500 company at the bottom of the ladder and then works their way up for the rest of their life. Competent people can move into management / decision making positions suprisingly quickly. Also they could go into business for themselves or go work for a smaller, growing company where they have more initial influence.

              Also, rewind 10 years or so and that is exactly what happened. Younger p
      • Free software gives everyone the freedom to run, study, change and redistribute software. It is these freedoms, not the price, that is important about free software.

        It is easy to find programs that are free to run, study, modify, etc., that are not distributed under what many here would call a "free" license.

        It is equally easy to find "free" software that is opague to all but the most experienced of programmers. You will not be dissecting the GIMP in the grade school classeoom.

        What is difficult is finding

    • You can surf Wikipedia with your students in a winbox $60 DLLS per box
      closed source license vendor-lock-in or for $0 DLLS.
      Figures don't lie but lairs figure.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
      Proprietary software at educational pricing is, in most cases, dirt cheap.

            Dirt cheap is infinitely more expensive than "free".

            Even if your $3000 retail package is available for a low low $120 under educational pricing, it's $120, and if you need several, it adds up.
      • Even if your $3000 retail package is available for a low low $120 under educational pricing, it's $120, and if you need several, it adds up.

        And what about the cost for people who maintain and train?
        In terms of training, most colleges that churn out teachers have classes covering use of Windows and Office software. Further, MS and other closed source software vendors typically provide classes to make locking in schools more attractive.
        There also is a higher cost in terms of maintaining systems. Linux admin

        • by fritsd ( 924429 )

          Linux administrators can demand higher salaries than the huge numbers of unemployed Dotcom Era Windows certified admins.
          So, you are saying that it would be much better to teach the kids Linux, to improve their future employability?
          • So, you are saying that it would be much better to teach the kids Linux, to improve their future employability?
            There definately should be Linux classes, however, most kids (the ones not destined to be CS/CompE) would be better served by learning standard Windows applications.
    • I'm not sure to mod or reply...guess by the time you read this I've chosen.

      I'm not certain that really good linux admins are more or less expensive than really good windows admins. The key for schools is that - given 20 or 30 adults in one building - someone on staff probably knows enough to load windows and do very basic OS maintenance. They can't do it well, and they're likely to screw something up, but they are "free" in teh sense that you don't have to pay them extra to do that work. The chance of havin
    • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @10:44PM (#19486401) Journal

      Proprietary software at educational pricing is, in most cases, dirt cheap

      Hell, the first few hits are free! When you're hurtin' for more, come back and we'll take care of you real good.

      Try and think ahead. You're supposed to be responsible for teaching small humans to do that. Set a good example.

      • Many of the software vendors we deal with have been in business for 20 years, and have yet to "take care of us real good", as you put it.

        Why is it so hard to believe that software companies may actually want to provide software to schools at a discount just to be good guys?

        Do you really think an anti-virus vendor or a backup software company is trying to get the kids "hooked" on their software? The kids aren't even aware we use the software.

        -ted
    • And what is the cost of an audit by companies who push proprietary stuff? Even failing to document properly the acquisition of a few licenses makes people felons these days. Can you *prove* you own every piece of proprietary software in your school? Really *prove* you own even *discounted* software? If a few certification documents are missing, it could mean jail time for someone these days. Personally, I think the laws which have been recently changed to make copyright violation criminal instead of civil a
  • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:29PM (#19485383)

    It makes the case that proprietary software is inconvenient and that when schools choose to use proprietary products they spend their constituents' money.

    There are so many reasons to prefer F/OSS (and yes, lack of up front licensing costs is really nice). However, this is the worst "benefit" to pitch. In reality, the software will very likely require the same amount of support as other software (which many times Adobe or MS will give gratis or close to gratis). In any case, sysadmins and tech support people cost more than software (unless your software is built by Lockheed to NASA safety specs or you are using custom production and manufacturing control software).

    Some better arguments include: freedom to roll out additional seats without tracking licenses; freedom support something yourself if that is better for your organization than upgrading (upgrades often being forced by proprietary vendors); the money spent stays in the local economy instead of going off to some software company's home state/county/whatever; heck, even altruism.

    The point is that even F/OSS requires that "they spend their constituents' money."

    • That's not true. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by twitter ( 104583 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @09:39PM (#19485939) Homepage Journal

      In reality, the software will very likely require the same amount of support as other software (which many times Adobe or MS will give gratis or close to gratis). In any case, sysadmins and tech support people cost more than software

      What ever gave you that idea? Non free software cost more in every way. The hardware is always more expensive and you have to replace it more often. It always takes more time to keep up, so you get less for the money spent on staff. Staff that's not busy with the patch time of the month, rolling out "upgrades" and fighting virus infections have time to work on tools the school actually wants. Finally, licensing costs are an issue no matter how "good" a deal you get. All of the issues you mention, easy roll out, fewer "upgrades", and local spending are cost and convenience issues in free software's favor. It's hard to imagine free software will ever be as expensive and inconvenient as non free software and experience is making the case clear [slashdot.org].

  • by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:33PM (#19485415) Homepage
    I believe there is a place for open source and commercial software in schools. I better since I work for a commercial Educational software publisher.

    I'd love to have our stuff run on Open Source platforms, but we currently only release for Windows/OSX. We don't produce for OS platforms for the simple reason that nobody asks for it. Ever. I talk to our sales guys from time to time. I ask them if people ask for Linux versions. The answer is always no.

    So Educators, administrators, curriculum people, make sure to ask your software vendors for versions that run on open platforms. You'll probably get a "no". But keep asking. It's not that they can't, they just don't know you want it.

    • There's probably a chicken/egg issue in there as well. If the sales guys initially mention "windows/osx" and the people doing the buying know "ahh, we have those" there may be no further questions about requirements. I can certainly understand there may not be much *demand* for it, but would people buy it if it was available? Probably some - the question remaining being is it worth it to do a linux port?
    • Actually a Linux port would probably be in the company's best interest and here is why. Say I am a educator and I want to run Linux on my schools network. I come to you and say hey does your software
      run on Linux? Your salesman tells me no and it is not likely to ever be ported, besides who would want to run Linux anyway. I say ok and go on my merry way, however that salesman left me no choice but to look for a alternative solution. It just so happens that I am a educator but also a programmer and now I have
      • You see open source is the great equalizer all it takes is one man with a mission and the software that you currently produce can be obsoleted nearly over night.

        Unfortunately, most guys with a mission programming will run headlong into the wall of school board politics.

        Man: I rewrote all our school districts programs over summer vacation
        Board: But we've already budgeted the purchase of software
        Man: You don't understand, with this you don't need to buy the software
        Board: No you don't understand, it was budg

      • by cp.tar ( 871488 )

        While generally on the right track, I do think you're being a trifle... idealistic.

        More often than not, you will calculate how much it would cost in both time and money to make a port to Linux. Either if you do it yourself or if you pay another programmer to do it.

        Remember, you have a school and you need the software.

        Then you compare that cost with the cost of software and accompanying Windows licences.

        Then you see that the latter is a lower and apparently more hassle-free one and you decide to run Wind

    • by gosand ( 234100 )
      I'd love to have our stuff run on Open Source platforms, but we currently only release for Windows/OSX.


      What does the operating system it runs on have to do with whether it is closed source or open source?


      • "I believe there is a place for open source and commercial software in schools."

        Commercial software for specialized learning applications. Open source for OS and general tools (office, graphics, web, etc). It's hard for a school to use OS operating systems when the software they need is not written for them.

        • by gosand ( 234100 )
          Apart from your use of OS to mean two different things, as well as expanding the acronym, I understood what you said.... ;)


          But my point was that you can create Open Source Software regardless of the Operating System used... OSS != Linux, which a lot of people seem to forget. The article was about Open Source in schools - that doesn't mean they have to run Linux.


          I think that too many times people just equate the two, when that isn't the case at all.

  • by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:34PM (#19485421) Journal

    Proprietary software at educational pricing is, in most cases, dirt cheap. Almost every single software company I know provides software to schools at a significant discount.
    from TFA:

    Training teachers and students to use a piece of software makes that software more valuable. Vendors know this. Business sense, not altruism, is what drives deep discounts on software for education. I once spoke to a vendor of an online grade book who, upon learning that I train teachers, was very interested in my using it in my classes. "What does it cost?" I asked. "It will cost you nothing. You can use it for free for as long as you like." "And once I addict my students to your software," I asked pointedly, afraid that I was being rude, "what will it cost them?" The vendor became excited. "That's exactly what we were talking about in our last sales Free White Paper - What Retailers Should Know about M-Commerce meeting!"

    In Short Because it is the norm in most schools, businesses and homes, many of the costs of proprietary software are difficult to see. There are now alternatives to the most commonly used applications in schools. When these open source alternatives are nearly equal to -- or better than -- their proprietary competitors, the significant advantages of F/OSS make them the better choice.

    the scools can get FOSS for free and MS software for cheap but later when students want to/need to use the software their school uses they end up paying for MS. at least with FOSS they wont need to spend their already limited student cash on MS software. Lastly, this isnt just limited to K-12, in college, office software is very important to have, for homework, projects, research etc. so any cost savings is greatly appreciated.
    • >> Lastly, this isnt just limited to K-12, in college, office software is very important to have, for homework, projects, research etc. so any cost savings is greatly appreciated.

      There are deep discounts for college students as well. For example, every student in the University of Texas system can get most MS software for $15-$30 if I remember correctly - Windows, Office, Visual Studio, etc...
      • Oh, and I would add that in college you should start to some extent focusing on learning stuff that business will require of you. Right now that means learning Office. It's probably not that big of a deal for K-12, but in college the average non-technical person should start focusing on Office because just about any job for a college graduate will require this. Non-technical users take longer to grasp certain concepts, so they should get started in college.
  • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:34PM (#19485423) Homepage Journal

    The following is a typical frustration for free software advocates:

    Recently I gave a conference presentation about the benefits of F/OSS for educators -- how all teachers and students could use these tools and that they were free and would remain so. I distributed copies of TheOpenCD and talked about the F/OSS programs that it includes. Near the end of the hour-long presentation, a participant raised her hand and asked, "So I can use this software for free?" Even after an hour, F/OSS still did not quite make sense to her.

    Every other source of information teachers have is full of non free propaganda. Don't copy that floppy (flash warning) [youtube.com] is an annoying classic. The basic tenants were laid out by Bill Gates in his famous 1976 whine [blinkenlights.com] which says, "if you don't pay me, your computer won't work". Broadcasters and publishers justify their existence with a similar but more realistic story that reinforces the software lie. The lie is reinforced with confusing language [gnu.org], bogus arguments and, ultimately, name calling. The tactics are covered in detail here [gnu.org]. Microsoft spends a billion dollars a month on marketing and each piece of that marketing conveys their propaganda.

    It's very effective and can only be eliminated by free software use. The idea that software can be shared and improved is so completely foreign to them, so much that you can perform almost any demonstration with free software and they still won't understand, as evidenced above. It's only after they use free software, like Mozilla, that they can see that it is not only good enough, it's what they want and that's what free software is all about. At that point, the rest of the lies start falling down and they get very angry.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:49PM (#19485553)
      Broadcasters and publishers justify their existence with a similar but more realistic story that reinforces the software lie.

            Of course they do. They are middlemen trying to protect their (obsolete) position. What does a publisher add to a product, besides mark-up? 20 years ago they could claim "distribution", but now, they add NOTHING. Anything that can be translated to an electronic format can be sent anywhere in the world. And they can't even claim bandwidth costs - bittorrent has proven that the masses will help with the distribution if there's demand for the content.

            Publishers - of books, software and music (which are extremely well suited for "electronification") are now parasites.I'd much rather pay the creator $1 a copy and get the electronic version than pay the publisher $5 for a DRM infested piece of crap that likely as not won't work with some of my equipment. I bet the creator ain't getting a 20% cut anyway. More like 5 - 10% if lucky.
      • What does a publisher add to a product, besides mark-up? 20 years ago they could claim "distribution", but now, they add NOTHING. Anything that can be translated to an electronic format can be sent anywhere in the world.

        Actually, publishers still add something potentially valuable--their names and reputations. Take Ambrosia Software [ambrosiasw.com]. Every Mac user knows about Ambrosia Software and about the fact that they only release quality products with their name on it. Yet, in recent years, Ambrosia has only release

        • by bit01 ( 644603 )

          All you've described is a seal of approval. Redefining publishers to that limited and very low cost role might be reasonable however it can equally be done by more general internet friend and acquaintance networks (e.g. stumbleupon etc.), as long as those networks have not been too compromised by fraudulent astroturfers.

          ---

          Windows and closed source software. The US intelligence [washingtonpost.com] agencies back door [wikipedia.org] to every network connected country and business on earth.

    • "It's only after they use free software, like Mozilla, that they can see that it is not only good enough, it's what they want and that's what free software is all about."

      I agree with your point, I'm just not sure Mozilla is the best example to use. Their 90 million USD revenue is dependent on routing the default search through Google. 90 million pays for a great many developers hours. There are only so many applications that can depend on revenues (especially that degree) from advertising.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )
      Near the end of the hour-long presentation, a participant raised her hand and asked, "So I can use this software for free?" Even after an hour, F/OSS still did not quite make sense to her.

      Name one other thing that people produce that can be used and copied for free.

      It's not so much that she didn't get it, as that it no doubt sounded too good to be true, so she felt that she had to make sure that she hadn't missed something. Much like the "free" benefits my company offers its employees, that you have to pay
      • Name one other thing that people produce that can be used and copied for free.

        A teacher should know that ideas are free. Songs, stories, facts, concepts, associations, recipes, laws and software programs are all things that can be coppied and used without cost to the creator. The means of conveying those ideas have been more and less expensive but electronic publishing brings the cost close to zero. The only reason a teacher would miss that is because publishers have tried to convince people that ideas

  • by fitten ( 521191 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:48PM (#19485535)
    I read both links... here is my take on what was published:

    Myth: You get what you pay for.

    Author does not assume the cost of IT/training actually costs time or money and implies that neither are necessary. Most schools don't have IT staff or the money to hire IT staff (particularly qualified staff in something other than Windows... Unix/Linux administrators typically are hired at higher salaries. One option is that the school may get volunteers from either the higher level grades or from parents/supporters, though.

    Myth: F/OSS software is created by amateurs and must be inferior.

    This passage sounds very whingy. It then uses examples of one similar group (amateur astronomists) but then uses musician/art and then a genius (obviously an exception, not the rule). Instead of touting the strengths such as professional programmers who contribute in their spare time, college students who work on projects because they are eager, etc.

    Myth: With F/OSS I cannot get support.

    The only option the author gives is to go talk to someone else in your building who, if they have a different version than you, can upgrade your software to the latest version without cost. What about drivers? What about any number of other issues like bugs? What about turning to forums, actually buying support, newgroups, mailing lists, etc?

    Myth: Moving to F/OSS will require retraining and relearning.

    So... you've nailed down Office.... what about the host of other applications that people use? Like Photoshop, etc.? What about switching from IIS to Apache? MSSQL/MSDE to MySQL? Exchange to whatever (plain email?) Windows point-n-clicky to something different (point-n-clicky with some side helpings of editing text configuration files)? Drive mapping to NFS?

    Myth: Students need to learn the standard applications.

    Again, you nail word processors and spreadsheets... what about everything else?

    Educators Pay for Software - Twice

    Author mentions that the first round is given to the school like the first taste of a drug... Then they buy it for home use... where is the second buy?

    Training Teachers on Tools They Do Not Have

    Finally a reasonable paragraph.

    On the Allure of Free Proprietary Tools

    FUD. Companies that tend to offer free trial offers don't back out on that in anything other than extreme circumstances (being bought by another company that changes licensing agreements) and even then, it is very rare. This section is pure FUD.

    Productivity Applications, Internet Applications, Content-Specific Applications, Server-Based Applications

    Finally... some concrete and founded sections but mostly it's just listing alternative software.
  • For those who do not already know it, Microsoft has settled its anti-trust case in California, resulting in a settlement fund that allows every school district in California to get a set dollar allotment per student per school district. This website has all the deets:

    http://www.edtechk12vp.com [edtechk12vp.com]

    So if you have been wanting more FOSS in your school district, but haven't had the budget, step right up!
  • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:55PM (#19485611)

    First, the executive summary: In spite of starting by explaining the difference between free as in speech and free as in beer, let me outline why educators should use F/OSS: It's free for the teachers, the students, the insititution, the graduates, and will remain so in the future. Oh, and it's almost as good. Then here's a laundry list of applications that you may want to use that I started tunning out during.

    The more detailed summery using his bullet-points:

    • The Power of the Source: Free as in speech is good
    • Property Rights Turned Upside Down: Copyleft is good
    • On the Annoyances of Proprietary Software: Buying licenses is annoying, and people asking if they can pirate off your legit copies is annoying.
    • Understanding Open Source Software: Filler
    • Myth: You get what you pay for: With F/OSS you can buy your documention and tech support piecemeal.
    • Myth: F/OSS software is created by amateurs and must be inferior: Both parts of this arguement are wrong.This marks the last non-poor argument
    • Myth: With F/OSS I cannot get support: The best support is friends/teachers. Hey, we might have different versions, let me rehash the licensing point.
    • Myth: Moving to F/OSS will require retraining and relearning: All software UI is practically the same. Look for him contradicting himself soon.
    • Myth: Students need to learn the standard applications: All the applications you learn now will be out of date when you use them. I'm sure all the artists who spent forever learning Photoshop will love to hear that. Oh, what, it has so much monopoly power that professional computer artists have to learn it to work? Nevermind.
    • Page 2
    • Educators Pay for Software - Twice: Complains about licensing costs again. Contradicts his retraining point by insisting that you are teaching students to use only a proprietary solution and getting them locked in or making them throw all their years of training away. But that was the page before, who expects that much consistancy?
    • raining Teachers on Tools They Do Not Have: Has he mentioned that teachers can use this software free of cost?
    • On the Allure of Free Proprietary Tools: Sometimes, companies that offer free versions of their program no longer do so. With F/OSS you never have to worry about the dreaded licensing costs
    • Productivity Applications: OpenOffice is almost as good, all it needs is a grammar checker. It's not as bad as it used to be!...

    He then goes on listing applications and their uses, organized fairly well, but I got tired of paraphrasing.

    Isn't the F/OSS community capable of having a better spokesman? Or at least reasons that refer back to letting students tinker with applications so they can see how the code/math/grammar checker works? And that teachers can customize the code to tailor fit the school's needs? And... actually, now is when I stop preaching to the choir.

    • (And yes, I am the author of the article.)

      Isn't the F/OSS community capable of having a better spokesman?

      I think there are several examples of better F/OSS advocates, and even a few who do educational research.

      Or at least reasons that refer back to letting students tinker with applications so they can see how the code/math/grammar checker works? And that teachers can customize the code to tailor fit the school's needs? And... actually, now is when I stop preaching to the choir.

      No. That's exactly wrong, and

    • by petrus4 ( 213815 )
      The Power of the Source: Free as in speech is good

      Fine and good, but if you're not going to teach them the value of actually using source code, then there isn't much point to this. If you're going to presumably put them on Ubuntu, make sure they know about whatever source compilation options exist for apt, and also place emphasis on the fact that with open source, precompiled binaries are a convenience rather than a necessity. Emphasise the idea that like free speech itself, free source is only likely to
  • well written (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:56PM (#19485619)
    The article was well written and does make an excellent case for using F/OSS. I kind of consider it a pain factor. In my most recent project of phasing out a small special ed school's Win2K SBS Active Directory server, pain was the motivation. We were lucky to have reliable uptime. I went to diskless freebsd workstations running GNOME, FireFox, and Evolution. Teachers were amazed that F/OSS was so good. After using the system for only a few weeks teachers and students raved about the system. Since december, we have had only 8 hours of downtime due to total power failure. Plus, I could get students input into customizing the system with snappy login screens and desktops. You can do this with Microsoft, but it is *unsupported* and *discouraged* We can provide a high degree of customization of look, feel, and security.
  • hi,

    I am a level one tech support volunteer for a public middle school in San Francisco. We have money to spend pursuant to the Microsoft California Anti-Trust Settlement [edtechk12vp.com], and we are trying to figure out the best way to make our creaking old Xeon server move a little faster. If you are in San Francisco, and would like to join our little school LUG, please feel free to email Christian Einfeldt at einfeldt at digital tipping point dot com. Thanks!
  • I work part time as a school teacher Saturday mornings. We have old Celeron 800 Mhz computers with 128 megs of RAM, an nVidia TNT 2 16 meg VRAM that just barely manage to run Windows XP Pro SP2. Weak frackin' hardware, I know. So I burned several copies of Ubuntu 7.04 hoping I could demonstrate that version of Linux to the students, and after the initial menu selection, all the machines (the hardware is identical) got to where the X Server is coming up with the tan color, and then nothing else happened.
  • Companies like Apple, Lenovo, HP actually give money to schools just like Nike does. I supposed Microsoft at least gives a discount in lieu of payment. So there's not a lot of incentive to stick with them if there are any alternatives.
  • Just two days ago, there was a front page story here on a Kamloops, British Columbia school district success story with Linux and thin clients [slashdot.org].

    There are many benefits to using Open Source in schools, such as: local tax money does not go to a foreign country (for most of the world at least), no licensing fees, just pay for local contractors/consultants, if that, and kids learn transferable skills not products (they use Open Office and can make their way thru MS Office when they work, if needed).
  • My software: http://www.bingocardcreator.com/ [bingocardcreator.com]
    A similarly featured bit of OSS: http://sourceforge.net/projects/bingo-cards/ [sourceforge.net]

    Capsule summary: Like the name suggests, it creates bingo cards, and that is all. At least, that is how most computer programmers perceive the problem, and that is why Bingo Card Creator is in use in a couple hundred classrooms and bingo-cards sees about as many downloads in a year as my free trial sees in a mediocre week.

    Programmers hate writing boring code, which is one of the reasons
  • In order to complete a degree in graphic design, engineering, game development or architecture (for instance) you are commonly expected to do homework (at home) using expensive proprietary software. Even at educational discounts (if you're lucky enough to have them) the costs are simply absurd on the average student budget: far outweighing that of books and in some cases the annual course fees themselves. An 'Interactive Media' degree at a university I teach at has students developing accredited projects in

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