Wednesday, April 11, 2007

free software: the best pedagogy

Miguel asks "others to speak up". Here's what I have to say.

Schools should spend their money on free software. When money is spent on proprietary software instead of free software alternatives, schools are choosing the pedagogically inferior option.

What makes free software the right choice for schools are educational and economic opportunities provided for students/citizens. Free software provides students the opportunity to learn how software works and to contribute improvements back to the project. As students age and increase their participation as citizens, some will continue honing their programming skills and the best can receive pay for working on free software. That software can then be utilized by the country without any foreign dependency. This process sustainably feeds itself as money (and talent) is not siphoned to an outside (i.e. proprietary) entity. Indeed, the product is global and therefore includes the country and school making the original investment.

Unfortunately, when schools implement proprietary software they discourage curious students wanting to know how such tools work. This discouragement comes about as students are typically not allowed to get a copy of the source code. The inquisitive are told to go hack on free software tools while their peers use a different set. This segregation is pedagogically unsound due to its inherent opposition to curiosity and peer relationships.

"Peer relationships?" one may ask. How so?

Really want to tap the talent some students possess? Have them hack the tools their friends use. It's well known that part of the joy of programming is recognition. Imagine the teen who puts a new feature or design into a program her entire school uses. By contrast, imagine the teen who puts a new feature or design into a program nobody in his immediate community uses. If you were an educator, parent, or student, which would you like to see happen in your community?

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Blogger Miguel said...

Peter, I agree with your assertions. Why aren't they obvious to others?

Around the

Blogger Gnuosphere said...

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