Question: Why should open source software be used in schools?
Student E-mail Posting
This article discusses the injustice that school systems are doing to their students by using purchased software rather than open source software in the learning environment. The two main points of injustice are wasting school resources and limiting the students opportunities to understand the inner workings of technology. The author basically says that a school should only purchase software if there are no open source software alternatives available for the cause at hand and that aside from that circumstance, purchasing software is just a waste of school resources. Purchased softwares use of proprietary data formats is criticized as a way to simply force users into purchasing the next version of that software, thereby continuing the cycle of wasting school resources. The author is also very critical of the way purchased software intentionally hides the inner workings of its code and technology, and claims that requiring a software license is actually a form of censorship. The idea behind the accused censorship is that the technology tools that people need to know and use to contribute to the Information age are being withheld from them. The author feels that students deserve the opportunity to learn the inner workings of software, so they can take that knowledge and combine it with their imaginations to utilize the tools in new ways. That opportunity lies in open source software.
The author of this article definitely has a strong opinion about why open source software should be used in schools. I agree that open source software would add value to a schools technology curriculum, but I do not necessarily feel that purchased software in the classroom is quite the root of evil described above. I do think open source software gives students an opportunity and maybe even some inspiration to get more technical. I have never thought of software licenses as a form of censorship. Instead I viewed them more like protection for the software industry.
Reference: Vessels, T. (2001). Why should open source software be used in schools? Retrieved January 30, 2003, from http://edge-op.org/grouch/schools.html
I agree with Ash's assessment that monitoring by teachers and other students is an acceptable method for restricting user access to inappropriate content. The issue becomes on how an instance of inappropriate access will be reported and how it will be "punished." Teachers are clearly the front line in monitoring student access to information on the Web, but placing the burden on other student can create an atmosphere of "narcing." The intrusion by the government and their strong-arm tactics of withholding funds in lieu of compliance are examples of the governments inability to effectively address issues that should be left to local authorities. The best method for insuring that students can use the Web as a resource for information without accessing or downloading inappropriate material is through education. Educating students to proper search methods and recognition of inappopriate material lessens the problem of inappropriate material being accessed or displayed and prepares students for a lifetime of Web usage. The determination of what is inappropriate should be left up to the local school organizations with input from educators, students, and parents. Only these parties working together can arrive at a solution that works best for their environment, not some distant government agency imposing the use of inadequate, restrictive, and expensive technology such as filtering software.