Linux is a win-win for education

Summary:Articles on the use of Linux for educational purposes have come up frequently, some focus on the use of Linux in educational institutions. Often times, these institutions are looking to save as much money as possible, and using Linux can be a good option for just that reason.

Articles on the use of Linux for educational purposes have come up frequently, some focus on the use of Linux in educational institutions. Often times, these institutions are looking to save as much money as possible, and using Linux can be a good option for just that reason.

But there are other advantages of using Linux in educational environments, that we may not realize. It can save a considerable amount of money if a school or institution cannot afford to upgrade hardware every few years, to stay up to high standards that Windows requires. Linux is known to run very well on older hardware, which means the PC hardware can have a longer lifecycle. For instance, obtaining the latest version of Fedora 14 Linux, and installing on a Pentium II machine, will work just fine. It isn't the fastest, but it works, and will allow the user to keep updated with the latest and greatest versions of software like Firefox, Thunderbird, or system related tools like rsync, ssh, etc.

It is a well known fact that learning multiple languages aids in becoming more fluent in those languages. The same concept can apply to operating systems. Learning Windows is key for getting out in the world since it is predominantly Windows-based, but learning a second operating system like Linux is also very valuable as well. Getting to know both increases knowledge of their different behavior and increases general knowledge about operating systems as a whole.

There is a wide range of software available as well. For example, GCompris is a suite of educational games designed for children age 2+. There are other scientific programs and a while range of applications available that all run on Linux. Fedora (and I'm sure other distributions) have a spin released that is specifically targeted for educational use. The spin includes software specifically designed for teachers and students. You don't have to use a spin, simply add whatever software you want to the distribution you already use. Fedora and Ubuntu are excellent with this, by using graphical tools that download, add/remove software with a simple click. The best part is that a test PC can easily be set up and looked at, with no cost other than using the hardware. And keep in mind that since all software is open source, teachers and students are actively involved in developing and improving the software.

And finally, one thing that I think is extremely valuable about Linux that proprietary software cannot offer is the fact that it is open source. This means anybody, including students, can download the source code and study it. It can be modified and tested, and even distributed to friends in that fashion. Now I am not a programmer, but I have cracked open some source code and fixed problems on my own, and it has further increased my knowledge of how things work. Simply installing software and using it is one thing, but finding out how and why it works the way it does, is another. This is the beauty of the GNU General Public License, that the Linux kernel and 99% of software within most common Linux distributions fall under.

A lot of educational institutions ranging from grade schools to colleges and universities use Linux today. Both in classrooms and public labs. I expect to see more and more pick it up in the future, despite the lobbying from Microsoft and others. Linux is a win for teachers, and a win for students.

Topics: Open Source

About

I have been a systems administrator of both Windows and Linux systems for over 17 years, in educational institutions, enterprises, and consumer environments. Throughout the years running Linux and Windows side by side, I have seen Linux countless times surpass Windows in performance, reliability, cost savings, and more recently user expe... Full Bio

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.