|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [hangout] Free Software in Primary School Education
Linux Makes Headway in Primary Education
Linux Makes Headway in Primary Education
By Susan B. Shor
12/25/04 5:00 AM PT
A recent Quality Education Data report found that 19 percent of schools
surveyed were beginning to experiment with Linux on their servers.
That's not many compared to Windows-based systems' presence in 86
percent of schools and the availability of Apple's OS9 and OSX in 34
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Computers are becoming pervasive learning tools in K-12 education,
whether in individual classrooms or in a shared media center.
Both Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) Latest News about Apple and Microsoft (Nasdaq:
MSFT) Latest News about Microsoft have donated millions of dollars worth
of equipment to schools in order to aid education and spread their
doctrine. But what about the growing influence of Linux Relevant
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students exposed to the open-source operating system as well?
Linux would seem to have great benefits over either Apple or Microsoft
in that its license is free, as is much of the software that sits on it.
But if schools are receiving donated equipment, they are unlikely to
care whether it runs on OSX, Windows Relevant Products/Services from
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News about Red Hat Linux.
In fact, for the most part, what educators care about in K-12 education
is not the guts of the computer or its foundation, but the software they
will use as a tool to teach their students.
"If you think, 'What operating system does my cell phone Relevant
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care,'" Efrain Rovira, Hewlett-Packard worldwide director of marketing
for Linux, told LinuxInsider. "In K-12 it's more about whether the tool
works or not. Linux today is not as pervasive, because the functionality
is not there yet. Microsoft and Apple have much more robust solutions
That appears to be changing. A Quality Education Data report released in
September found that 19 percent of schools surveyed were at least
beginning to experiment with Linux on their servers. That's not many
compared to Windows-based systems' presence in 86 percent of schools and
the availability of Apple's OS9 and OSX in 34 percent, but it does show
that Linux is gaining ground.
Resources are now available for school administrators and teachers to
help them break into the open-source community, such as The Linux
Terminal Server Project. The organization offers step-by-step directions
for educators interested in building a Linux box, installing and using
the K12LTSP distribution of Linux.
SchoolForge brings together groups from around the world that are
working to bring open source Latest News about open source to the
classroom. Its almost 200 member organizations include schools systems
and software developers such as KDE-Edu, a project of KDE (K Desktop
Environment). KDE's software engineers work to create educational
software for ages 3-18 and programs for teachers to aid lesson planning
-- all for Linux and Unix operating systems.
Even with these advances, Anne-Marie Mahfouf, who focuses on education
software within KDE, told LinuxInsider that it's not an easy road,
particularly when it comes to software.
"The KDE-Edu project is quite young and we need more developers," she
said. "Programmers are usually quite young and have no children and are
not attracted to developing educational software."
There are several programs already available from KDE-Edu: KStars, a
planetarium with telescope Support; KTouch, a typing trainer; and KiG, a
geometry program. KTurtle, a LOGO programming language interpreter is in
the works as are some small languages and math programs. Still, Mahfouf
said, "There is not enough educational software available."
Meanwhile, many of the hundreds of open-source educational programs that
do exist are untested in classes, perform one niche function or have
The SchoolForge site lists more than 70 case studies -- just over half
from outside the United States -- of schools that have installed Linux
servers and/or are using Linux in classes.
Computer science teachers at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va.,
were pleased with their open-source project, but echoed Mahfouf's
assertion that Linux is lacking, though moving in the right direction.
"Linux is only now beginning to be ready for use in a general purpose
lab. At the rate things like OpenOffice and Gnome and KDE are
progressing, it will be fully ready for the general purpose lab within a
year," teacher and project coordinator Jeff Elkner wrote in an
assessment of his school's experience.
Benefits for High Schoolers
While software may be the main focus of most educators, advanced
computer science students at the high-school level could have a great
advantage by working with Linux.
"As a platform for teaching computer science, [Linux] is without equal,"
Elkner wrote. "Compilers/interpreters are available for almost any
language you can think of, and they are both high quality AND open
Linux also offers the same advantage to high school computer science
students as it does to university students who have helped make it so
popular: The code is available and can be tinkered with and experimented
on at will. Programmers also have the luxury of being able to do the
same with any open-source software.
Despite Linux's advantages, the number of schools using the system in
the U.S. remains very small. "Part of the problem is that usually
governments control schools and have contracts with Microsoft," said
Developing nations may be more likely to use Linux because it requires
fewer resources. Although it is difficult to track figures because
distributions are open source, Mahfouf said she has heard that as many
as 250 schools in Namibia run their computers on Linux.
Linux, of course, is attractive when budgets are tight, and Rovira said
he believes more systems both in the U.S. and worldwide will turn to it
"As budgets get cut across the board, educators have to find ways to
teach with relevant tools," he said.
If the software follows, "Linux provides great value proposition," said
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