- Free beer doesn't exist: there must be always a business model for maintenance.. if the content is not mainstream (like wikipedia) and it changes very fast, you must pay someone to maintain that content: for that reason you pay the publisher.
- A happy slave is the biggest enemy of freedom: Students are not the problem, teachers are: they buy a Mac: one laptop for the price of two, a limited set of pre-installed software... and they are happy, no need to choose software, to learn install procedure, just start to use..
(And yes, Tim I know you have a Mac )
The issue of the term free is that in English it can refer to both liberty and absense of cost. His main argument is about liberty not absense of cost. This is one of the reasons I like the term Floss (Free Libre and Open Source Software) with its inclusion of the word Libre. Mr Stallman however does not like the term Open Source at all.
With reference to the Mac, it was always the monetary price that held me back from going down that route...
Chad, Richard would probably agree with you. Which is why the term Freedom or Libre software would possibly make more sense. This debate is often used in discussion of Moodle in that it is suggested that even if obtaining the software itself is Gratis (without direct financial cost), running it is not. There is then the issue of if the cost of running such software is more expensive than running commercial software with a financial cost to purchase and limitations on its use. So if (as sometimes the argument/suggestin is made) using Moodle involves hiering expensive support staff the overall cost of ownership will exceed that of commercial software.
From my direct experience of both alternatives this concern is not warrented.
A school is a place to teach about lots of things. In as much as technology and software appear, it's much better if it is hackable (source-available) software and hackable hardware.
But the software has to be useful too. So it is upon us to build high quality, usable software.
This bit of common sense is probably a given for many here, but in some circles where the software is always the center of things, it is hard to picture the software as a tool for something else, and the fact that you'd choose the software that gets the job done.
So in short: it has to get the job done.
A popular argument in favor of using one product only is:
"But this is what is used in the real world so we must teach it."
I believe this to be a fallacy, especially looking at examples such as how MS changed their UI for Office in 2007.
To teach skills, and encourage a healthy bit of critical thinking it would be beneficial to expose students to several ways of solving problems and achieving tasks, both commercial and free.
Students should be exposed to a variety of OS's: Windows, OSX and Linux.
Students should be exposed to a variety of different office suites: MSOffice, OpenOffice, iWork
Students should be exposed to a variety of browsers, search engines etc
Students should use Photoshop but also the GIMP
Obviously this is far from ideal as it increases purchase costs, admin costs, training costs and time etc. It has the potential to help create students that are much better problem solvers though and to help illustrate the underlying principles and how and why they work.
I also believe that learning about open source might decrease student software piracy. If we as an institution expose them to learning and working with expensive software and then they leave to learn and work on their own they may not be able to afford the software and so turn to piracy (arrr!). If they know that there is legitimately free software, then they have another option. I like the fact that I can tell our students- "If you start a school in a poor neighborhood/country you can use Moodle to help you because its very cheap."
Open source and education are philosophically aligned. There is a sense that we are working together for common improvement. Public education isn't free (tax payers pay for it all) but it is mostly free to the end user (student) and many people volunteer to help make education better. Open source software isn't free to develop but there is a lot of community volunteerism and everyone benefits from the work.
> but there is an array of very powerful interests aligned to prevent any damaging inroads to their profits that Open Source may make. Consider the case where a State put out for tender the supply of
I thought, I heard something similar.
Seriously, there was an ugly case in Switzerland, where the practice of the Swiss government to "update" expensive licence agreements with Microsoft without any tender procedure came to light. See http://blogs.fsfe.org/tonnerre/archives/38
The most detailed reports are in Germen:
Don't miss the TV-Interview given by the top software architect of the govt, calling OSS "fancy gadgets" (German). http://www.sendungen.sf.tv/10vor10/Sendungen/10vor10/Archiv/Sendung-vom-05.05.2009 (Part 4 "Teure Computersoftware für Bund" 3:30/3:45)
The final stand is that the gov. in a power play decided in favour of M$.
technology, in schools, is merely a vehicle and its main responsibility is to transport people over the education road in a comfortable way. So, just get the best vehicle you need to make your educational experience as positive as possible.
In the other side, technology, can be also one cultural/religious/politic/idiot thing (why the hell I always type "idiot" near "politic"! ) , one end by itself. I think it's highly necessary to let the world to know both about the Free/Open (libre) Software movement and the Proprietary Software immobilism (yes, I'm tendencious, ).
And schools are a good place to start making people to learn about those alternatives, of course, from the beginning (hopefully towards a cleverer guys generation) but, as said, preferably always using the best (technology) tools.
So, go, go, "Using Moodle" courses in BB format, go!!
PS: As a Mac enthusiast since ages ago... I'd want to discuss some of the points exposed above in this discussion, but I'll leave that for another day...
The perceptions of those people who make decisions: If you do not pay for it, how is it possibly better? You only get what you pay for. TANSTAAFL!.
The perceptions of those who have to learn how to use the programs: What, yet another thing to learn? I do not have enough time now to keep up with what we have, let alone learn something new. This is computer geek stuff.
The perceptions of those newly qualified MSCEs: You want me to what? hahahahaaa! Open source - hahahahahaaaaa!
Reality check: Gnu cannot possibly match the marketing levels of Microsoft. Gnu cannot offer systems that are slowly taking over from the user, notice how in Office 2007 more and more options are offered, templates to do things for you. Why should anyone change when the learning curve of Linux is a lot steeper.
"Schools have a social mission: to teach students to be citizens", Yeah, right. Why do you think that public education in the West is in severe crisis? Listen to Ken Robinson, very interesting. Read John Ralston Saul - incredibly insightful. Free software? Not a chance.