Teaching and Learning in IT

One objection I hear many times around here but only rarely in the field of education is “It’s out there.” referring to that other OS. That is given as a reason to retain that other OS in schools.
Usage: Education, properly a drawing forth, implies not so much the communication of knowledge as the discipline of the intellect, the establishment of the principles, and the regulation of the heart. Instruction is that part of education which furnishes the mind with knowledge. Teaching is the same, being simply more familiar. It is also applied to practice; as, teaching to speak a language; teaching a dog to do tricks.

Training is a department of education in which the chief element is exercise or practice for the purpose of imparting facility in any physical or mental operation. Breeding commonly relates to the manners and outward conduct.
[1913 Webster]

Let’s be clear. Education is preparation for more than the current version of some product currently used in IT. Our students will likely be employed long after current products expire. A student exposed to FLOSS in school will certainly be able to compute for himself using his own equipment indefinitely and will achieve all the objectives of the curriculum being knowledgeable of the functions of computers and how to find, create, modify and display data.

It is possible that having a certification for use of a particular product may be valuable to a student but they can take such courses of study after school hours. There is no particular need for publicly funded schools to provide such courses as only a few students will benefit. Everyone can benefit from exposure to FLOSS because there is a low barrier to acquisition and use that students can use the software immediately in their lives.

Schools should choose appropriate IT. FLOSS is very suitable for education because the licence permits installation on multiple PCs and copying to share with students. Teachers and students can more rapidly implement applications because no shopping, purchasing or transportation is involved. FLOSS is certainly easier to use because there is no “activation” required by non-free licensing. FLOSS licences like the GPL permit use, examination, distribution and modification freely. With a distribution of software like Debian GNU/Linux schools also get a package management system that helps take care of all the software needed for their PCs.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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2 Responses to Teaching and Learning in IT

  1. Every school I have been in saw GNU/Linux as an improvement in performance. Change the old CRTs that are still kicking around into LCDs and they see it as a new/improved system. Schools around here tend to spend little or nothing on software so price is not on the radar.

  2. Contrarian says:

    I think that a school can make use of almost anything today with the same measure of success. Linux is every bit as efficacious as Windows when it comes to doing life’s work. The only problem is that it is obscure in terms of general recognition. That will create a certain degree of suspicion in the minds of students and parents when the reason is presented as some form of cost savings, the natural fear being that they are being short-changed due to some economy effort.

    I think that a great approach for schools would be to go after this in a more proactive way. With Windows 8 being disclosed as a sort of bridge from the old PC world to the “app” world of phones and tablets, it seems to me that a leap to a ‘Droid environment using Android could be seen as a progressive and highly desirable move, given the high popularity of Android on smart phones.

    Of course the schools would have to invest in touch screen monitors or even tablets to support the change, but it would come off as an improvement rather than as a belt tightening.

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