Open source software is becoming more and more common in education, as school districts grow to learn the benefits of this type of software. In this article, we look at some of the advantages of open source software in schools, what different advantages can be found, how open source software can benefit modern classroom settings, and more.
There are many benefits to using open source software in education. Open source software is freely available to students of all ages. Administrators, educators and students each have their own favorites, so there is a lot of open source education software to choose from. Below are some tips for choosing the best education software for your classroom.
Learn computing concepts, instead of products
Since the early days of introduction of computers in education, the focus has been to learn how to use Microsoft software or other similar proprietary products. Instead, one should lay emphasis to learn computing concepts. There have been many justifications for this dated approach which are debatable today but we won’t delve into them herein. We shall rather focus on the rationale behind the conceptual learning approach with open source software.
Available at minimal cost
Free software does not mean zero cost software. It is true that most current open source projects are available for free of cost, which leads ambiguity around the commonly used term “free software.” So the common saying is, “Think free as in free speech (freedom) and not free as in free beer (zero cost).” Free software lowers the production cost. Making a system like MS-Windows costs millions of dollars. But if you produce the same kind of system using a free POSIX version, it would probably cost less than a hundred dollars.
Customise and reuse software
Majority of proprietary software is sold on an as-is basis. Nowadays most software also offer an evaluation period which is a partial safety net for the buyer. However, once you have bought one and you realise that it doesn’t quite do everything you need, you either would like to change to another software or modify the software itself to suit your needs. Fortunately, open source software allows you to customise it which the proprietary ones don’t or not to the same extent.
No spying on users
If users have no control over the software they are using, it can easily spy on their activity. The company behind proprietary software often installs features that restrict users from sharing it with others. Since anyone who buys proprietary software must sign a licensing agreement before using it, they are agreeing that the vendor has the right to inspect hard drive content without warning. This violates our privacy because our computers hold our personal information and daily activities.
Lucrative career opportunities
Several business and government organisations have embraced open source software. And cost savings are not the only reason. They see its value in better security, quality, customisation, zero vendor lock-in, interoperability by virtue of adherence to open standards and auditability. Hence, proficiency in Linux and open source technologies opens up lucrative career opportunities.
Provides better security
It is a commonly known fact that proprietary software threatens users’ security. There is a long history of security vulnerabilities. Proprietary software doesn’t necessarily stop the spreading of viruses and letting hackers to take over people’s computers for sending spam. Because the software is secret, all users are dependent on the corporation to fix these kinds of problems.
Learn a new language
With most students working from home, great educational content is more important than ever. Correspondent Jess Weichler shows how to teach students to use Scratch to code their first algorithm. In the article, part of a series about teaching kids to code, Jess says, “with more kids learning from home this year, it’s important to engage them with unique learning opportunities. The classroom looks very different than it did before, and it’s going to continue to evolve. So should the lessons we teach.”
Once your students have mastered Scratch, you can introduce them to Python, the most popular programming language out there. Correspondent Moshe Zadka offers a full tutorial on building an interactive game using Python. Python has earned its reputation as a wonderful programming language for beginners. Playful learning is a great way to learn, and Moshe shares all the information you need to get started.
And when you’re getting started with Python, I recommend you use the Mu editor and Python’s turtle module. My article includes step-by-step directions for installing Mu on Linux and some sample Python code to get you started.
Programming languages aren’t the only new type of language you can learn. One of Joshua Allen Holm’s goals in 2020 was to improve his Spanish, and he used open educational resources to do it. Try his six open educational resources for learning Spanish to add a valuable new skill to your resume.
Part of social movement
Free software is not just for the individual user’s sake. It promotes social solidarity and represents society as a whole through sharing and cooperation. Since our activities are progressively digitized, free software is becoming an even more essential part of our culture and life activities.
Affordable computing at student homes
More the time spent practising at a computer, better is the usage skill. Unfortunately, computer usage skill is measured as the ability to run some popular proprietary software even today. Not every student has access to a sufficiently powerful computer to run such software. As schools across the country include computer skills in the curriculum, parents feel compelled to provide computers at home. But children in lower income group households, who can’t afford the latest systems, are being disadvantaged. Thus there is an pressing need for affordable computing at student homes.
Educational innovation rests on open source
Open source provides nearly endless opportunities for students, teachers, and families to innovate and take advantage of rich educational content. The open source ethos encourages people to make educational resources available to their communities at a reasonable cost. When the open source community connects developers and learners of all ages around the world, the opportunities are practically infinite for elevating education for all.
Using open source software in education is possible, challenge free and it can save school districts money. Open source software has its origins in the open-source software movement that started as an outgrowth of the free software movement. It has developed slowly, but has now achieved wide recognition and acceptance.