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.


  • At 6:19 am, Blogger Bill Kerr said…

    At the moment government Schools and teachers are pretty much locked into the proprietary system through the MS agreement, imposed on us by the government (with the notable exception of your school). In practice nearly Schools are too busy and underskilled to run a dual system.

    I'm thinking now that the real leverage for the death of proprietary software will come through the 100 dollar laptop. As millions of these computers, which run on linux and have a different user interface, flood onto the market in the third world then the dynamics of the current balance b/w proprietary and free will start to alter dramatically.


    I think we need to explore ways to link up what we can do in the industrialised countries to support and link up the huge change that is about to happen in the developing world. Exciting times!!

  • At 1:19 am, Anonymous Chris Harvey said…

    Hey Wara, I thought you were in talo egroup. I had better tell you that your blog feed is aggregated on planettalo , it has been for a while now so I hope thats ok.

    The other thing is that Bill Kerr uses his grant to showcase and distribute proprietary software that only runs on windows to teach children programming, we cant blame MS or the government for that.

    If he's sincere about exploring ways to support Alan Kays plans he should start using Squeak.

  • At 8:01 am, Blogger Wara said…

    I actually put a subject line on this entry last night and all of the comments and conversation that was there fron lucychili have disappeared. Bugger.

    Thanks for that Chris. I was aware of TALO and been very interested in its method of operating. For example, the method of developing the meeting agenda for the meetings in the Blue Mountains. I was not aware that a Google group had been formed or of the existence of the aggregation at planettalo. So it seems that things have moved on in that group since I last visited - very nice. So I guess that I'm honoured that my blog is being aggregated there. I will have to go and check out TALO and its tenticles more fully.

    Re comments about Bill. I am not a proprietary basher as such and see a place for this stuff. 'Learning with the free stuff first' is my goal and there are many times where I don't achieve my target, never the less, it remains as my target. I reckon that Bill might be similiar in his thinking.

  • At 11:34 pm, Blogger Bill Kerr said…

    Chris is referring to my use of game maker software. I've written an evaluation of that software here , it's good and bad points.

    IMO Chris doesn't understand the dynamics of situations in schools or society for that matter. Both Alan Kay and Seymour Papert, who he never criticises, have been involved in proprietary from time to time, in significant ways. But in response to other public criticism in the past (at TALO) I've invited him to dialogue (so have others) but he just ignores the mail and then continues with the public criticism, as here. He's more interested in waving a flag than having a conversation.

    I'm very interested in squeak and have started to learn it. One goal is to produce the africa map game in squeak. Another is to understand the dynamics of the OLPC, including the new user interface (sugar UI), which seems to be a further evolution of the squeak morphic UI. Well worth checking out.


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