Open source software for education

Students need access to technology, but they need Windows and Office? Is open source software good enough for most student needs?

As I was writing about the opening of the 2007 Utah legislature on my UtahPolitics.org blog, I mentioned in passing that open source software may be a better fit for education than commercial software:

Do we need more technology? Sure, but Linux and OpenOffice on 4 year old computers would put more computers in students hands than Windows and new computer purchases.

The thought has stuck with me, so I wanted to expand on it. Here's my argument in a nutshell:

  • In a world with unlimited resources, you'd put a brand new machine on every desk loaded with all the software you could that students might need to know about or learn something from. But we don't live in that world.
  • The most important things students need to learn is how to use the Internet and basic skills with a word processor and spreadsheet.
  • You can meet those needs with 3-4 year hardware running Linux, Firefox, and OpenOffice for 20-30% of the cost of new hardware running Windows and Office.

What do you think?

[poll id=43]

Do you know of open source success stories at your local school district? Leave a comment.

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