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.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Open Source in SA Parliament

Thanks to Bill Kerr for pointing me to the blog of lucychili. The entry providing a speech made by The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD providing some convincing reasons to parliament about why our state should be giving Open Source software more attention. In my opinion he should also have included some more depth to the reasons why this software should be used in public education.

The monopoly that proprietary software has in schools is of concern and this should be mentioned at these political levels as well. Teachers are using words like – “Make a powerpoint”, “Create a Word document”. By and large, students could well leave school believing that Microsoft and Adobe are the only options for their operating systems and application software. For the pleasure of indoctrinating our students we, the tax payers, spend large sums of money in licensing fees.

In addition to that, humans tend to resist change so the tool that we learnt with is likely to be our tool of choice in the future. So our students not only could think that they have no choice, but should they get wind of alternatives, they are going to be reluctant to change anyway. We would call that cornering the market.

Public schools should have the free software on all computers in schools. Proprietary companies might choose to have our students exposed to their product for which they should pay a fee to assist with maintaining their product on the schools’ computers. At the very least, it should be made available to schools for free so that teachers can ‘teach with the free stuff first’ and then expose the students to the costly alternatives later.

Schools should also be teaching students about the value of open data standards so that the products that they create now and into the future are transferable and unencumbered.

Finally, Government groups that are making products for educational use, like learning objects, should be developing these so that they work independent of the program being used to run them. For example, a learning object that will only work with Internet Explorer is not as good as one that will work with any compliant web browser.
Thanks for bringing this speech to our attention.