On Wed, 09 Apr 2008, Cian Brennan wrote:
> Given a choice between state sponsored teaching of open or closed
> technologies, I would think it should be fairly clear cut that we should
> aim towards open technologies.
By "we" do you mean ILUG, the government, the country at large or some
other group? I'd certainly agree that linux advocates should aim towards
open technologies in schools. How will students benefit from this choice
though -- in reality, not the idealistic "all students could be hackers!"
> > > - It's free as in "free beer". So students don't need to spend any
> > > money (or break any law) in order to use it
> > As JH said, schools are not necessarily breaking any laws now. The cost
> > involved in administering and training teachers to use open source could
> > well outweigh the benefit of using it. This is the same debate that is had
> > in businesses and it simply isn't as clear cut as people are making out.
> You're talking about schools, he's talking about students. Even if the school
> can afford enough copies of MS office, up to date machines to run a recent
> version on, and so on, your students almost certainly can't all.
It is schools not students who you propose to convince though, right? I'll
ask more directly. For a school using standard proprietary software now,
can you support the assertion that it would be cheaper to provide the same
standard of education by moving their desktops to free software? Most
schools don't have enough money to be worrying about what goes on in
people's homes. They need to keep their own ship afloat, so they are
unlikely to spend time and effort (aka money) moving to OpenOffice so that
students can have it at home.
OpenOffice seems like a reasonable suggestion alright and I gather
StarOffice has been given out to many schools but without any training of
The ECDL, while translated into OpenOffice by the Blackrock Institute, is
mostly taught in Microsoft Office (whether it should be taught at all is
another debate). There is an ECDL equivalent promoted by Microsoft which
as you'd expect can only be done on Microsoft Office, but it apparently has
far better automated testing/marking which saves teachers a bunch of time
(at the apparent expense of sending the data up to an online server). I
know a school where Microsoft came in and offered free licenses and setup
of this system. You may see this as a cynical ploy to win mind-share, but
the teacher sees a busy life and time saved at no expense to the school.
> Teachers don't need a large amount of knowledge of linux. I've never seen
> anything more done in a school than web browing, or using office or the like.
> Most of these tools are almost identical, irrespective of platform.
How much have you looked? How about AutoCAD (currently being adopted in a
school near me and definitely used in others too), video editing (also
something they like to do), animation etc? I realise similar programs
exist for linux, but are they sufficiently developed?
A lot of educational software is windows-only. They'll just need to drop
that stuff right?
By the way, who is going to administer all of these linux desktops? A lot
of schools have to rely on their most computer-literate teachers (who
usually know windows or macs) to look after their computers.
> There's the other rather large point that linux will continue to run
> quite happily on machines that owuld have long since been thrown out as
> too slow/underspecced for windows use, with an up to date browser/office
So again we're back to cost but there are substantial unquantified costs on
both sides so that's not a clear argument.
I'm not saying you're necessarily wrong here, but the question is more
complex that a lot of people realise. There are UK studies which suggest
free software would be cheaper, but they're based on UK schools where every
teacher gets a laptop, often 2-3 full-time staff look after sysadmin work
(and still they mostly use windows AFAICT),
It's understandable for open source advocates to want to get open source in
schools as that's where mind-share is won and if that's what you're doing
you should be open about that. Proprietary software vendors think exactly
the same way. If you're purely trying to improve schools use of computers,
it's not clear to me that free software is necessarily the answer.
I'm going to bow out of this argument now as I've said far too much
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