Why Education Needs to be Open Source

If you stop and consider a world where we adopted open source across all facets of life…. who know what could happen? I just read about new efficiencies in solar panels reached by Panasonic… that technology will remain with them (for them to profit off of) until made redundant by another. But what would happen if the tech behind it was open source? I have a feeling ideation would indeed accelerate to crazy levels. Sorry… I digress….

Economically, open source just makes sense, particularly in education. I just finished teaching a class in graphic design, wherein I used Inkscape. The choice was obvious: here was a powerful tool with great online tutorials, and I can download it ad nauseum on computers owned both by the school and my students. How much did it cost the school? Aside from some tech support for an hour to install it on the computer lab computers, nothing. The same goes for Libreoffice, and for the adventurous kids… Linux. As I live in a developing nation, computer users have three choices… go without food for a year and buy a macbook, pirate a copy of windows for the cheap laptops available, or install a completely legitinate and free copy of Linux (which more than likely comes in their own language).

Beyond software, you can see great horizons with open source hardware as well. I would like to work on an automated watering system which takes into account rainfall using a controller called an Arduino. I know next to nothing about them, but the kids get into them really quickly, and with some solid guiding questions you see them produce meaningful and impactful applications of technology. This is at the core a fundamental part of the Maker movement, an area where I believe educational technology will progress faster than any other in the coming years. 

And politically… this statement from (Mackenzie 2011) said it best:

Open source is a process of promoting inclusive participation, individual freedom and public knowledge. It is against closed source that enshrines exclusive participation, economic profits and private knowledge.

When I look back to what makes a good educator, it is one who equips their students for the world of tomorrow. The three assets mentioned above sound like tomorrowspeak to me. Geez, it may be todayspeak… to reference recent (somewhat) news events as evidence: the Occupy Movement (inclusive participation), Gay Rights (individual freedom), and Edward Snowden (public knowledge).

We still have a ways to go… this LMS has a cute button above to do this: © and this: ™

but it takes a bit of legwork to get one of these at the bottom of your page:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Leave a Reply