making the transition to opensource

I was in a recent Elluminate webinar about opensource software (http://www.learncentral.org/event/60486) when someone threw out the idea into chat:

We started with students, they are more open to change.

There had been quite a long discussion in the chat window about how to transition or implement open source software when students and staff had already become so accustomed to M$ (Microsoft) environments in their personal domains.  As the discussion continued, I began to consider how open source can truly change the way the internet is seen in America’s eyes…

America is still so strapped to the massive media conglomerates controlling their internet/data/information access.  <great episode suggestion> “Don Geiss, America & Hope” episode aired on 3/18/2010 </great episode suggestion>  America does digital access so poorly compared to countries like Japan, it’s no wonder that those who know a few things about technology have to keep the freedoms it provides.  There is so much untapped economical and creative potential in being more connected and more adventuresome that common users just don’t realize.  In just a single Elluminate session, I tagged at least 15 new webpages to my Delicious links that I saw myself using in my (future) own classroom(s) or as I pursue more technology-involved positions in the future.  I can’t imagine the over-spending that households now have to budget on being up-to-date with the latest M$ Office software when there are so many free tools that provide the same functionalites they actually use.  The idea is almost earth-shattering when you put perspective on the situation: did our parents ever have to buy anything “for school” beyond pencils, pens and composition books?  Equal education also works into the considerations for what software to use, because the fewer expenses in tech you can encourage, the more exposure low-income kids are likely to have.

Anyway, other things I picked up:

  • Deploying open source software requires a lot of research on forums, etc. to find out what bugs might pop up, because the code is never perfect and is in constant revision.
  • “Einstein labs” (a play & tinker area for teachers or students) is a great way to get new users to consider new software applications.
  • Being a tech support person in your building means that you should probably have cell line that everyone can reach you at(?).
  • Opensource side-by-side with M$ does not provide an equal level of support for each application system.  Going opensource means going to a system that requires more individual support expertise, because there is not a large support population that can compete with M$ support.

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