Using Open Source Software

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The fifth issue that schools should consider is the use of open source software.  The open source community is quite different from the former “freeware” software.  Quality is improving.  The development community makes improvements and supports new ideas in increments that are similar to paid-for-software.

As with the other considerations (cloud computing, students’ personal devices, increased bandwidth, and social media), the marketplace in open source is maturing and improving.  The heavy-handed licensing agreements of the major software companies are unrealistic for schools.  While schools get great discounts, on-demand inspections and agreement language that only favors the companies are becoming obsolete.

Some of my peers state that “free is not free.”  Paid software that is really not supported, except with extra costs or stonewalling by companies that the issue “will be fixed in the next version, is unacceptable.  In practical application there are issues that should be addressed:

  1. Some open source software does not have some advanced features that some users need.  Ok, buy the software version those indivuals need.  I project that this is a very small percentage, less than 5% of the computers in the organization.
  2. Test the open source software in actual school experiences before implementing broadly.

There is some great open source software for web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, image editing, and operating systems, among others.  Schools should strongly consider the implementation of this software over paid software.

As with other issues with technology in schools, budgets are being cut.  The market across many areas provides the avenues for school technology departments to reinvent high performing systems at lower costs.  Take a look at using open source software in your schools.

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