Empowering Education and Learning

Linux Australia advocates the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in the education sector.

See our guide to learn more about free and open source software, in particular the section on education.

Just like education, Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is built on the principles of co-operation and sharing knowledge. This principle of standing on the shoulders of giants has successfully guided human development for centuries.

FOSS presents many benefits to educational environments:

  • it is free to acquire and use
  • updates (including new features, etc.) are available often, at no charge
  • students can run the same software at both home and school, at a tiny fraction of the cost to schools or families
  • it can be improved and modified to suit any environmental, linguistic, cultural, curriculum or other educational need
  • anyone (teachers, students, parents, etc.) can take part in improving it — the users can also be contributors
  • it provides an unparalleled degree of control: lock it down to prevent misuse, or open it up for children to experiment and learn
  • through the use of open standards, schools and families are not held to ransom by vendor lock-in

By using Linux, you can extend the benefits of FOSS to all of your software. In addition, using Linux can give you even greater benefits:

  • it is more reliable, secure and resistant to viruses and malware
  • it is easier to administer, especially in large deployments
  • it works well on older and cheaper hardware, so budgets don't have to be wasted on purchasing new, expensive computers

 

Get involved!

Linux Australia maintains resources and runs events to promote the use of Linux and FOSS in education. Feel free to get involved and help us to spread the message!

Linux Australia is active in education-related conferences, such as the Education Expo and Open Edge.

Mailing lists

Linux Australia hosts two mailing lists for education-related discussion. Feel free to join and take part.

User groups often have members who are interested in education. For more localised discussion, it is also worth taking part in the Linux/FOSS groups in your own region.

Linux Users of Victoria has an active Education Special Interest Group, with a mailing list for discussion.

Software Freedom Day 2009 - Saturday 19 SeptemberSoftware Freedom Day - Sat 19 Sept 2009

Software Freedom Day (SFD) is a worldwide celebration of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). The goal of the celebration is to tell people about of the benefits of using high quality Free Software in education, in government, at home, and in business — in short, everywhere! The non-profit company Software Freedom International coordinates SFD at a global level, providing support, giveaways and a point of collaboration, but volunteer teams around the world organise the local SFD events to impact their own communities. Linux Australia encourages local user groups to organise Software Freedom Day activities around Australia in their own communities.

 

Resources

Visit our Total Cost of Ownership page for studies showing how FOSS represents a superior value proposition.

There are many fine resources on the Web that show how FOSS can work well for educational environments and families.

The United Nations are a prominent supporter of FOSS. In addition to supporting the One Laptop Per Child programme, they have established an International Open Source Network (IOSN) to promote and foster the development of FOSS. Here are some education-related resources from the United Nations:

Some projects specialise in packaging software for educational use. This is the easiest way to get up and running with FOSS in an educational environement.

  • the OpenEducationDisc is an version of the OpenDisc, with a focus on FOSS educational software for Windows
  • Edubuntu is an educational add-on for the popular Ubuntu distribution of Linux
  • DebianEdu is a variant of the venerable Debian GNU/Linux distribution, optimised for education

 

Case Studies of FOSS in education

FOSS is gathering steam in Australia. Applications such as Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, VLC, Gaim/Pidgin, The GIMP, Inkscape, Tuxpaint, Scribus and Moodle are already in widespread use in Australian schools. The NSW Department of Education is weaning itself off its dependence on one supplier, installing OpenOffice on tens of thousands of school computers.

FOSS is already widely used throughout the world, and its presence is growing. Due to its unparalleled flexibility, it can be altered and modified to suit almost any given situation.

 

Meeting curriculum outcomes

As can be seen in the case studies above, FOSS has been successfully used across educational environments around the world to achieve real educational outcomes.

Vicki Burke, Assistant Principal at Shell Cove Public School in NSW, has put together a list of the NSW Education outcomes met by the sections within the "Tux, of Math Command" (AKA TuxMath) educational game. You can download it as a PDF or ODT file.

 

One Laptop Per Child

The One Laptop Per Child programme aims to develop and deliver educational materials for children aged 6-12 throughout the developing world. Especially designed for the wide variety of rigours seen across the planet, the project's XO laptop maintains openness as a fundamental goal. The hardware and the software is totally open, empowering anyone to create, improve and share content. Translations can be made by people on the ground (the stakeholders) to suit local languages and cultures. This would not be possible with proprietary software.

Children are given the genuine opportunity to play and learn in a collaborative environment. Through this design, learning is made fun and engaging. The XO laptop accentuates the fundamental strength of children — their creativity and curiosity — rather than turning them into office drones. Instead of giving them a fish, why don't we teach them to fish for themselves?

Supported by the United Nations and a consortium of governments, corporations, NGOs and individuals around the world, One Laptop Per Child is a truly global project.

One Laptop Per Child is represented in the Pacific region by OLPC Australia.