Linux Australia advocates the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in the education sector.
Just like education, Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is built on the principles of co-operation and sharing knowledge. This principle of standing on the shoulders of giants has successfully guided human development for centuries.
FOSS presents many benefits to educational environments:
- it is free to acquire and use
- updates (including new features, etc.) are available often, at no charge
- students can run the same software at both home and school, at a tiny fraction of the cost to schools or families
- it can be improved and modified to suit any environmental, linguistic, cultural, curriculum or other educational need
- anyone (teachers, students, parents, etc.) can take part in improving it — the users can also be contributors
- it provides an unparalleled degree of control: lock it down to prevent misuse, or open it up for children to experiment and learn
- through the use of open standards, schools and families are not held to ransom by vendor lock-in
By using Linux, you can extend the benefits of FOSS to all of your software. In addition, using Linux can give you even greater benefits:
- it is more reliable, secure and resistant to viruses and malware
- it is easier to administer, especially in large deployments
- it works well on older and cheaper hardware, so budgets don't have to be wasted on purchasing new, expensive computers
Linux Australia maintains resources and runs events to promote the use of Linux and FOSS in education. Feel free to get involved and help us to spread the message!
Linux Australia hosts two mailing lists for education-related discussion. Feel free to join and take part.
User groups often have members who are interested in education. For more localised discussion, it is also worth taking part in the Linux/FOSS groups in your own region.
Software Freedom Day (SFD) is a worldwide celebration of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). The goal of the celebration is to tell people about of the benefits of using high quality Free Software in education, in government, at home, and in business — in short, everywhere! The non-profit company Software Freedom International coordinates SFD at a global level, providing support, giveaways and a point of collaboration, but volunteer teams around the world organise the local SFD events to impact their own communities. Linux Australia encourages local user groups to organise Software Freedom Day activities around Australia in their own communities.
Visit our Total Cost of Ownership page for studies showing how FOSS represents a superior value proposition.
There are many fine resources on the Web that show how FOSS can work well for educational environments and families.
- Catalogue of Free and Open Source Software for Education, by Open Source Victoria and the State Government of Victoria
- Teaching Open Source
- Open Education
- Free Software in Education, and Why Schools Should Exclusively Use Free Software, by the Free Software Foundation
- 10 Reasons why Free Software and GNU/Linux should be used in schools
- Home Educators There Is An Alternative To Expensive Computer Software
The United Nations are a prominent supporter of FOSS. In addition to supporting the One Laptop Per Child programme, they have established an International Open Source Network (IOSN) to promote and foster the development of FOSS. Here are some education-related resources from the United Nations:
Some projects specialise in packaging software for educational use. This is the easiest way to get up and running with FOSS in an educational environement.
- the OpenEducationDisc is an version of the OpenDisc, with a focus on FOSS educational software for Windows
- Edubuntu is an educational add-on for the popular Ubuntu distribution of Linux
- DebianEdu is a variant of the venerable Debian GNU/Linux distribution, optimised for education
FOSS is gathering steam in Australia. Applications such as Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, VLC, Gaim/Pidgin, The GIMP, Inkscape, Tuxpaint, Scribus and Moodle are already in widespread use in Australian schools. The NSW Department of Education is weaning itself off its dependence on one supplier, installing OpenOffice on tens of thousands of school computers.
FOSS is already widely used throughout the world, and its presence is growing. Due to its unparalleled flexibility, it can be altered and modified to suit almost any given situation.
- Common uses of OSS in education, by the Australian Service for Knowledge of Open Source Software
- Educating Tux: case studies of Linux deployments in high schools around the world
- Case Studies from Australian Schools
- United Nations International Open Source Network
- Republic of Macedonia first nation to provide a computer for every student
- 23,000 Linux PCs forge education revolution in Philippines
- Linux reaches 52 million Brazilian kids
- Russian schools move to Linux
- *All* Russian Schools to Use Free Software
- Kerala (India) shuts windows, schools to use only Linux
- Tamil Nadu (India) may shut door on Microsoft
- China to install 142,000 Linux PCs in classrooms
- North, South Korea Unite Over Linux
- Skegness Grammar School, using GNU/Linux and thin-clients across the school
- Goshen (USA) High School offers free software to students
As can be seen in the case studies above, FOSS has been successfully used across educational environments around the world to achieve real educational outcomes.
Vicki Burke, Assistant Principal at Shell Cove Public School in NSW, has put together a list of the NSW Education outcomes met by the sections within the "Tux, of Math Command" (AKA TuxMath) educational game. You can download it as a PDF or ODT file.
The One Laptop Per Child programme aims to develop and deliver educational materials for children aged 6-12 throughout the developing world. Especially designed for the wide variety of rigours seen across the planet, the project's XO laptop maintains openness as a fundamental goal. The hardware and the software is totally open, empowering anyone to create, improve and share content. Translations can be made by people on the ground (the stakeholders) to suit local languages and cultures. This would not be possible with proprietary software.
Children are given the genuine opportunity to play and learn in a collaborative environment. Through this design, learning is made fun and engaging. The XO laptop accentuates the fundamental strength of children — their creativity and curiosity — rather than turning them into office drones. Instead of giving them a fish, why don't we teach them to fish for themselves?
Supported by the United Nations and a consortium of governments, corporations, NGOs and individuals around the world, One Laptop Per Child is a truly global project.
One Laptop Per Child is represented in the Pacific region by OLPC Australia.