Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Learn with the free stuff first

This year we gave all staff and students a copy of the Open CD. All new students for 2005 will get a copy of the latest version of this CD with their induction package. The software on this CD is excellent quality and free. Of particular note is the Open Office (basic office functions – wordprocessor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing) and Gimp (advanced graphic manipulation) packages.

Some facts that influence the way that we do business

  • We have a significant proportion of our population that are school card holders

  • We are a public school that strives for a free and open education for all

  • First impressions are lasting impressions – the software that people use to learn with first leaves a lasting impression (are we being paid to make this lasting impression commercial/propriety software)

  • Process skills are more important – the process of, for example, document development, graphic manipulation and design is more important than skills in using a particular software tool.

We are advertising to our clients that we create learning situations that use the free software first because we are

  • keen to allow them to continue with their learning outside of school

  • wanting to promote free and open education for all

  • not wanting to advantage a particular commercial enterprise because students have learnt first with a particular commercial package

  • community minded and wish to assist our community with cheaper methods to achieve their goals

  • concerned more with process skills (these are life long skills)

  • wanting to put the students in a position where they do not feel the need to breach copyright and steal to get their work done at home

We believe that it is most ethical to, where possible, use the free stuff first.

There are implications here for things as small as the language that we use – eg.


Good way (for now)– adds weighting to counteract existing bias

Bad way

please prepare this using a wordprocessor

Please prepare this using Open Office write

Present this in a word document

Produce a presentation

Produce an Open Office Impress presentation

Produce a powerpoint

Use a graphics package to

Use Gimp

Develop it using Adobe Photoshop

Use a web browser

Use Mozilla

Use internet explorer

Use a spreadsheet

Use Open Office Calc

Use Microsoft Excel

Use a child's graphics package

Use Tux Paint

Use kidpix

I recognise that this position might seem a bit different but in the international community it is not. This position, in global standards, is a compromise. This statement is about using the free stuff first. Others believe that schools should be using free software exclusively. For example “Why schools should use exclusively free software”. We just want our students to use the free software and be exposed to the commercial alternatives.

Nick Oliver of the ACT states

Because teaching is a fundamentally social activity it stands to reason that teachers should have an interest in the social impact of using non free software in schools. As there are very good alternatives to using non-free software that encourages users to engage in the four freedoms we are duty bound as public servants to teach this knowledge and model its practice.”

The ACT passed its Open Source bill last december that makes law the consideration of Open Source software in purchases across government sectors

Support free and open education.


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