[lug] Free Software in Schools

Maxwell Spangler maxlists at maxwellspangler.com
Fri Dec 21 18:46:15 MST 2012

Thanks for answering my question, Davide.

>From what I read below it looks like the root of your frustration is
that these schools don't have any FOSS resources.  So perhaps its not so
much that they have Mac or Windows but that they have ONLY Mac or
Windows.  I get that.

My ideal environment would be a school that can provide support for Mac,
Windows and Linux systems.  The goal of providing these resources is,
after all, not about the operating systems but about the applications
that these OS's provide access to.  If you can connect a student with an
application that recognizes and engages their talents, you've
successfully put them on the path to a happy and successful life.

In my case, We had a few early Macintosh computers in my high school and
I loved using these for graphics design and page layout.  But it was
access to an HP minicomputer via dial-up modem that got me sucked into
professional computing.  This wasn't something the school system
expected when they put these resources in place.  But because a single
teacher made them available to us I can count about 20 people who are
successful employed in IT today.

I wouldn't worry about students being locked in as much as you might
think.  What we're seeing at the RMSEL school in Denver is that kids are
very comfortable with computers and easily slip between Mac, Windows,
Linux, Tablet and Cell Phone environments.  Their minds are primed for
learning and switching to a new environment is like solving a new
puzzle.  One kid learns how to do something they rapidly share it with
each students.  It's later, when they start working and stop learning
that the methods and practices they're familiar with get sticky and they
start to become really locked in.  But in K-12, it's not much of a
problem.   And they're highly comfortable with web apps, so operating
systems are far less relevant today than they were 5 to 10 years ago.
Poor, Microsoft!

Logan's excellent posting about his middle school computer club being
put together by one staffer and interested students using Linux is where
your opportunity is.  Especially in the Boulder area, there is a
tremendous amount of Linux talent.  If you can find opportunity for a
Linux lab within a school to teach computing, virtualization, cloud
computing, big data, etc., there are plenty of people in *this*
community that would help support it.

On Fri, 2012-12-21 at 13:59 -0700, 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)

Maxwell Spangler
Linux System Administration / Virtualization / Development / Computing
Photography / Graphics Design / Writing
Fort Collins, Colorado
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