Open source booming in K-12 education

Schools which got burned by courseware in the 1990s are now burning themselves with censorware, delivering a neutered Internet experience and teachers who are as skittish about technology today as they were 25 years ago. It's hard to see how open source will change this. Free access to resources won't matter if your kids' view of it is worse than that in China.

eSchools report cover
Can open source succeed where Windows and the Mac have failed?

I'm talking here of K-12 education. An eSchools report (right) says open source spending is growing 70% per year, and will be up 800% in 2011 from last year's level.

The harsh words of past failure above, however, are heartfelt. I've raised two kids during this computer revolution, and if they hadn't had PCs and networks at home they would be computer illiterate.

Schools which got burned by courseware in the 1990s are now burning themselves with censorware, delivering a neutered Internet experience and teachers who are as skittish about technology today as they were 25 years ago.

It's hard to see how open source will change this. Free access to resources won't matter if your kids' view of it is worse than that in China.

Fears that the Internet is going to poison our kids, and the knowledge that some kids are poor while others aren't, means teachers just don't use it. My son, now a high school junior, was just given an assignment to annotate a scientific journal article each week and pointedly told not to use the Internet.

Why? Many of our best peer-reviewed journals are now available online. If such journals got together and offered top high school science programs free access a wealth of material would fall open.

Since printed journals aren't often found in public libraries, my son's classmates are getting credit for reading National Geographic articles. Nothing wrong with the Geographic, but it is meant to popularize what scientists have already worked on, and it's written in a popular, accessible style. Real science is dense, meaty, and hard.

But even for the brightest kids that will have to wait for college. If then. Free software without a free Internet is worthless.