should education use free software?

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    Linguistic Engineer... doubleanti's Avatar
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    should education use free software?

    Do you think educational institutions should use free software for technology education?
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    C++ Witch laserlight's Avatar
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    What exactly is "free software" and "technology education"?
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    I don't think there is a clear cut answer.

    There are many factors involved in choosing educational software.

    Functionality, price, adoption, compatibility, teachers' knowledge, etc.

    Free or not is just one of them.

    But all else being equal, sure?

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    Not stupid, just stupider yaya's Avatar
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    I used to work at a school as a computer technician. We always wanted teachers to take up using free software (eg: OpenOffice.org, GIMP, etc) but there were always a number of reasons why it didn't work:
    -Teachers didn't know how to use the software and weren't willing to learn
    -Students were already used to non-free software and didn't want to make the change
    -The school already purchased software, so they didn't want to waste it
    -In the "real world", companies rarely use free software, and school is supposed to be preparing kids for this "real world"

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    the hat of redundancy hat nvoigt's Avatar
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    I think education should focus on aspects that are vendor-agnostic: writing skills don't need a specific office suit, programming skills don't need a specific IDE etc.

    Students should be told about all packages that would fit their needs so they can decide for themselves and so they have heard about it when their future employer asks for the specific tool to be used.
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    Agreed. Students aren't supposed to be "dumb." They are supposed to learn, and how can they learn if you shut them in a limited world?
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    Devil's Advocate SlyMaelstrom's Avatar
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    I don't really think most educational institutions avoid free software because of the lack of teacher or student understanding... this to me seems like an assumption based on one poster's assessment of why the institution he worked at didn't accept free software.

    In more cases, I'd imagine the reason is because free-software doesn't carry with it a level of liability from the publishers that proprietary software does. That is to say, if a bug in Microsoft Office somehow corrupts the entire school's network and deletes important data then Microsoft would face greater liability than say Oracle would if the same thing occurred with OpenOffice.

    I certainly wouldn't say that most institutions restrict their students vendor-base simply because they want what's most popular regardless of other aspects. In formal education I've used Windows, Solaris, Unix; Microsoft Office, Lotus; etc, etc... Popular never really seemed to be the issue in my education. That just seems to be the warped viewpoint of developers who feel they are above the standards and that the mainstream are a bunch of squares.
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    the hat of redundancy hat nvoigt's Avatar
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    In more cases, I'd imagine the reason is because free-software doesn't carry with it a level of liability from the publishers that proprietary software does. That is to say, if a bug in Microsoft Office somehow corrupts the entire school's network and deletes important data then Microsoft would face greater liability than say Oracle would if the same thing occurred with OpenOffice.
    Matter of fact, neither Oracle nor Microsoft would care at all. However, buying from a vendor recommended by a salesperson offers a very very important thing to companies and CIOs: somebody to blame. Who's fault is it? Microsoft's. Why did we use Microsoft? Because this guy that we paid an enormous sum said so. It's their fault. "Their fault" is something that you just don't get with open source software. When it fails, it's your own fault. And nobody in the corporate world wants to be an easy target for blame.
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    Devil's Advocate SlyMaelstrom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nvoigt View Post
    Matter of fact, neither Oracle nor Microsoft would care at all.
    Depending on the circumstances, I'd say... If a little bug occurs in Windows simply because you didn't use it correctly, then sure... Microsoft would have little to say about the matter. They'd apologize for the inconvenience and promise to patch it in an upcoming hotfix (which won't actually happen). On the other hand, if Microsoft released proprietary software and advertised a feature not actually found in the software, then they would have some fair legal liability where as an open-source software would not. Free-software can pretty much advertise whatever they want and if it's broke at the time of release all they are really liable for is a public announcement of "Oopsie-daisy."

    I do agree with your assessment, though... as much as institutions purchase proprietary software in order to alleviate true liability, they also do it simply so they can have a false sense of security and ultimately a person to point a finger toward at the end of the day.
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    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by doubleanti View Post
    Do you think educational institutions should use free software for technology education?
    I'm assuming here the university own software infrastructure. For teaching materials and pedagogic considerations, see nvoigt first answer on this thread. It's my opinion too.

    To me it is simply a matter of finances and the role of a university. If the university can achieve deals with commercial companies giving them software free-of-charge, post-graduation hiring opportunities, or other similar deals common in Universities, ignoring this over some dogmatic approach to free software, will only damage the students and their future. And the same goes for free software versus commercial software.

    In the end it should choose neither. Instead it's choice will be determined by its current know-how and opportunities. Invariably this means universities should adopt a mixture of both, since that's where the good comes from.
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    Registered User whiteflags's Avatar
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    It really doesn't make a difference to me. Most schools have MSDNAA subscriptions. For those that appear not to have them, the students buy their own software anyway if they want to work from home. It is the student's responsibility to select software that meets requirements. Of course I use Open Office to write papers and stuff: it handles docs fine. But if I need something retarded I could probably get it deeply discounted from the bookstore. :V

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