Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Savings With Open Source in Schools

This has been a point of discussion for some time. Let's assume that none of your school's families have computers and the students only use computers at school, then I can see using open source for teaching computer skills. As long as little Sally's grandmother has a PC with Works and her uncle has a PC with Word, Excel, and Powerpoint-- I see a problem. For example, I have a student that uses OpenOffice at home. When he downloads a template from our Moodle server to create his weekly current event, OpenOffice can open the file with not problem. However, he has never mastered to extra step to save his OpenOffice document to .doc file format. I know it should not bother me that his document does not display the same as the other students, but it actually makes my assessment process more difficult. When teachers use a Word document to assess student's work, we can post comments that can be read and responded to by the student. This comment feature reduces me from having to single out mistakes students make in their writing. From personal experience, and having received many writing assignments with so much red ink marked on them that I could not read them, I try to attach my comments with post-its. It is just one of those quarks of mine.

Using Open Source software Noxon School District saved $92,675.20. Linux and Open Source software allowed this school district to provide cutting edge technology to students.

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I have been schooled on this topic today (Dec. 27th). Now I have a list of links to Linux distros that may work better than Novell's and a list of video editing apps for Linux. Several really good points have surfaced over on Miguel's blog: http://www.mguhlin.net/blog/archives/2005/12/entry_807.htm I have enjoyed replying to this topic. It has provided me with an enlightened view of open source. I still will continue to use our commercial software to edit video with our students and teachers. It works, it is paid for and the teachers know how to use it. Our students are learning how to use it too. As for a question of why we teach them to use video equipment, our state has a standard course of study: In accordance to Objective 3SC.05, "Select and use technology tools for class presentations". This is my justification. I will keep looking for open source software to use in my classroom.

I wonder this: how many people who advocate the use of Open Source in schools are actually using it as their primary OS? We've all got our excuses, but at the end of the day, who's actually walking the talk? I use Moodle and tikiwiki everyday with my students. But, my PowerBook running OS X is what I prefer. I have several apps that are open source running on it. Would I use Linux--absolutely. Should I use it- not without tech support. Would it help our school district- that is a good question and in my humble opinion is out of my realm of influence, yet is still food for thought.


Miguel said...

Sheesh...this sounds like pure laziness. We've all had to figure out what works with something else...that's part of being alive. It sounds like you're too lazy to help your student change the option on OpenOffice to auto-save to MS Word format.

In your 2nd example, the issue is not the Linux distro. After all, The GIMP image editing software is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The real problem was IGNORANCE. What network admin with any sense would install ANY new operating system without having considered possible support issues?

It sounds like he was experimenting on the new Dell and you made some assumptions.

Open Source is the way of the future for schools. I believe teachers--and the techs that support them--are smarter than your post implies.

Nothing is free? Do you know that by cutting MS Office cost ($70 per machine) from our work machines, my district of 18,000 computers could save a little more than what the State gives us for a technology allotment? Don't you think we might have enough money left over for the staff development you refer to here?

Thanks for letting me share. You can find more info on Open Source at http://www.mguhlin.net/blog/archives/2005/12/entry_783.htm

Take care,
Miguel Guhlin

Miguel said...

Yikes, I just re-read that first paragraph. No disrespect intended.


Tom Hoffman said...

Video editing for Linux is still a bit bleeding edge. That's a trade-off you have to consider.

Miguel said...

Posted a bit longer response at:

Thanks for the email from John where he makes some clarifications. In light of his email, I'd like to recommend that he consider Edubuntu (http://www.edubuntu.org) for use on his older machines, rather than Novell's Suse Linux.
As it is, Edubuntu may be too much for those machines, but I would start there.

I've posted an update based on John's email regarding video editing on Linux at:

Take care,