OSS in Schools

It has been wonderful hearing all the feedback about how people are using OSS in their schools and personal lives.

Through these conversations, I am curious to know if people are using or exploring open source out of their own initiative or if people are encouraged to use open source by their school or workplace.

Many people have mentioned that their schools are making OSS (such as OpenOffice.org) available as it is more cost efficient, and many of you have mentioned that you are using several programs (such as GoogleDocs, Scratch and Prezi) in the classrooms.  This made me wonder: how supportive are schools in using open source and how much support is given to the teachers who are using them?

Some of us also mentioned that although we like to help, we do not want to be the “tech guy”.  I wonder if the “tech guys” are as fluent in working with OSS as we want them to be – and should we hold them responsible for learning OSS as part of their “tech support”?  With so much open source out there – and maybe with my lack of tech savvy skills – I do not want to be one of them. =)

So – my question is – is there enough support out there or all we doing this because we’re amazing METers?  I know I have strayed from our OSS vs PS conversation – but I think support is a factor that also determines the choice of choosing one over the other.


1 Annette Smith { 10.25.09 at 4:53 pm }

I agree that this is an issue that needs to be addressed at some point if OSS is to be successful in educational environments.

But I do think that this issue exists just as much with PS. How many of us have had to help out a less tech-savvy colleague with email, or report card software, or ordering stock over the internet? Have you ever been called off your prep period because someone couldn’t figure out how to print from the networked printer?

I think we underestimate the difficulty of introducing any new PS into a school. For example, in my office we went to the new MS Office. The most support that Microsoft provided was some online video tutorials which my boss couldn’t make sense of. Our IT guy is still, a year later, answering questions about how to ‘select all text’ in Word.

I think resistance to change, and not the perceived increase in difficulty, is the biggest hurdle to implementing OSS.

2 Ernest Pao { 10.25.09 at 7:41 pm }

“I think resistance to change, and not the perceived increase in difficulty, is the biggest hurdle to implementing OSS.”


Your final statement there probably sums it all up. Many people who have gotten used to using a particular software are most likely resistant to change. Unless the new software can offer something more snazzy, has better features, is more stable etc, then people are going to resist change. Why mess with something that works? From a teacher’s point of view, why learn to use a new piece of software if it isn’t any better…who has time to do that?

On a related note, new OSS applications that aren’t trying to replace existing commercial ones (e.g. Open Office vs. MS Office) perhaps may have better success.

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