[lug] Free Software in Schools

Logan Garbarini logangarbarini at gmail.com
Fri Dec 21 14:26:39 MST 2012

I am a big fan of open source software and use both a Linux box and a Mac at home. I am also a student at Fairview High School and I think I can help respond to some of the issues. 

The issue of choosing favorite companies often stems a lot from salespeople. If you ever feel inclined read the reason for BVSD moving from Mac to Windows, you will see that it sounds like a carbon copy of Microsoft advertisements. However, there is also the issue of systems administration. I have tried to setup managed linux networks (with networked drives, storage permissions, as well as various other security settings) and I have never had much success (that could just be me though).

Also, as much as it pains me to say it, at this point Windows is a decent fit for schools. There is a lot of software only available for windows or mac and not linux. Many students need the Adobe Creative Suite for various projects. Open source has come a long way, and I like to use programs like GIMP for most photo editing tasks, but there are some thing photoshop does better. Also, there are not that many great video editing suites available for linux. In Science classes we are required to do lots of statistical analysis, and while Libreoffice is great, it is difficult to switch between using gnumeric for some statistical calculations and Libreoffice for formatting the data.

I know the above sounds very generic and a general argument against open source, but the ease of use of some of these programs is crucial. Sure I can do everything that someone can do in photoshop in GIMP, but it takes longer and there is a steeper learning curve. Classes already take an inordinate amount of time to do simple tasks that many people here could do in seconds. Teachers usually have to explain how to get to a website and then how to do the most basic tasks, even in high school. This is no one's fault, it is just a problem with having one instructor for 30 students who may all run into different issues.

All this is beginning to change. More and more students are moving their documents to google documents and BVSD recently moved to Gmail. Yes, neither of these are open source, but google docs works great on any Linux box. However, while many of the students have no trouble moving between these platforms, the transition for many teachers has been rough. As a member of the Fairview Web Team, I am responsible for helping support the Fairview High School Website (https://www.fairviewhs.org) (which I can proudly say is served from a linux box) as well as help teachers with many computer problems. Teachers are busy and trying to even get them to use a new browser is very difficult.

I know that anyone could argue that most of the above barriers to open source entry don't actually exist. Rather than get into a philosophical argument, I was just trying to help explain, in my opinion, why things are the way they are.

Logan Garbarini

On Friday, December 21, 2012 at 1:59 PM, Davide Del Vento wrote:

> > > As a parent trying to decide where to send my kids next, I've been horrified by many schools proudly calling themselves "mac-school" or "microsoft-school" and the likes.
> > 
> > Can you describe your complaint here in more detail?  Why does this matter to you? 
> Many reasons. A partial list:
> 1) Schools should pick what is best for their needs and should *not* behave like fanboys (some are as I wrote)
> 2) They may use Microsoft Word just to type an essay when they only need justification, boldface and italics, not hard-to-meet business needs that sometimes may make MO a better choice than LO
> 3) Often times this is unnecessarily more expensive and shouldn't be done in times of tight budgets with taxpayer dollars
> 4) In fact the budged is to tight that many public schools ask parents to contribute money or labor (!)
> 5) I'm fine if an adult freely decides to use something that will lock him in. I'm not ok if that same adult is a teacher and pretend to lock my kids in 
> 6) Kids will soon ask me to buy them the same machine they use at school because they won't like what we have at home (in my case that would be likely microsoft vs gnu/linux, but this applies in the same way to apple vs microsoft: diversity, not monoculture should be allowed and actually encouraged)
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