Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why Linux in K12?

Minhaj Rehman, whom I met via Worldbridges and the Webcast Academy, sent out a Facebook update today with a link to an article titled, "100 Reasons Linux Beats Windows." I'm an open source evangelist and for years, I've been attempting to convince IT folks that Linux and open source software need to be a part of the K12 computing mix. Inspired by Minhaaj's update and David Williams' excellent column over at the IT Wire, I thought I'd take a stab at listing out reasons why Linux and open source need to be a large part of the K12/K20 experience:

1. Equity-schools have always been about equity. Whether it is a school serving low income families or a private, tuition based schools, all schools deal with issues of equity on a regular basis. Linux evens the game, giving all students the opportunity to use the same powerful tools at home as they use at school.

2. At a minimum, students need to be exposed to the open source software development model. This model is growing rapidly and providing more and more opportunities to those who understand it. Last year we had a doctoral candadiate in robotics come speak with our student body and she mentioned that they primarily use open source software in the world of robotics. She asked the students if they knew what open source software was and out of 350 students, I don't think one hand was raised. This needs to change.

3. Open source provides students with highly authentic learning opportunities. Imagine young students who create a game using Scratch and then upload it to the online Scratch community so others can take the code, modify it, and improve on it. These are the kinds of authentic opportunities that young people may participate in NOW.

4. Let's face it, schools don't have the budgets that they should have...and this probably isn't going to change any time soon. Why not take all of the money that is spent on proprietary software and use it for the things that really count?? I'm talking about professional development and teacher salary enhancement.

5. "Linux plays well with others." Linux runs efficiently on old hardware and schools have alot of old hardware. Vista, on the other hand, is ridiculously high maintenance when it comes to hardware requirements. As a matter of fact, if you don't have the latest greatest hardware, Vista won't play with it. At some point in the near future Microsoft is going to stop its full support of XP, which will undoubtedly make many schools feel compelled to jump to Vista (or whatever is the next flavor of their OS). This means refreshing hardware in the school if this is the direction they will go. Instead of refreshing the hardware line, how about dumping Windows on the desktop in favor of Linux, which will play nicely on older equipment.

6. Do we really need all the garbage that comes with Vista?? 95% of the creative things that we do with our students can be done with a browser and some no-cost client software.

7. Like David Williams mentioned in his article, "Do we really want to give Jerry Seinfeld 10 million more dollars?"

Please feel free to add any additional reasons why Linux and open source should be a part of the K12 experience for students...

**Photo courtesy of Pitel on flickr (creative commons non-commerical)