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Education Software Linux

23,000 Linux PCs For Filipino Schools 142

Posted by kdawson
from the get-'em-while-they're-young dept.
Da Massive writes "Speaking at the linux.conf.au event in Melbourne, Australia, independent open source consultant Ricardo Gonzalez has told of how he has helped bring 23,000 Linux PCs to over 1000 schools in the Philippines: 'Ministers in the Filipino government now understand Linux can do so much for so little outlay.'" The slow process of educating a government that knew only Microsoft is especially well described in this piece.
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23,000 Linux PCs For Filipino Schools

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  • Re:don't hate me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aussie_a (778472) on Monday January 28, 2008 @10:39PM (#22217020) Journal
    Linux isn't used as much as it could be, because everyone knows Windows. If you train the next generation in Linux, businesses will have a greater incentive to switch, which means there'll be a greater incentive to develop software for Linux.
  • Re:don't hate me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by corsec67 (627446) on Monday January 28, 2008 @10:49PM (#22217080) Homepage Journal
    Pretty much *any* software you are going to teach in school is going to be obsolete by the time they are "in the workforce", so it would be better to teach concepts as opposed to steps to follow. Teach them how to learn, not how to memorize, and they will get much further.
  • Re:don't hate me (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2008 @10:51PM (#22217092)
    I don't understand this. I think school should teach how to use computers - not to use some specific tool. If the kids learn spreadsheets by using OpenOffice.org I am 100% sure they will know how to use Excel as well. However, the plus side is that while learning OO.org, they are very likely to learn that MS Office is not the only option. Most people who use MS Office are not aware of OO.org or any other options. OO.org users are aware of MS Office though. This applies to Linux vs. Windows discussion as well. Teach the kids Linux and they will learn that world is not black and white (concerning the tools available to get the job done). I argue this because Linux users are mentally prepared to face different kind of computers.
  • Re:don't hate me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AvitarX (172628) <<gro.derdnuheniwydnarb> <ta> <em>> on Monday January 28, 2008 @11:02PM (#22217172) Journal
    I used an Amiga with Word Perfect at school, and DOS with Word Perfect at home.

    Fortunately the skills were useful for Word at a later point, and understanding how directories (now folders) work.

    Many people I work with (as customers) don't understand how to download something from the internet (or an email attachment) and find it at a later time. This is a useful skill that is very cross platform. As are typing, google, webmail, and even spreadsheets.

    If someone can learn enough to type as quickly as fast handwriting, use the internet, send an e-mail, and save a file for later retrieval they are much better off than one who can't.

    Spell check, and spreadsheets are bonuses.

    It could also reasonably be argues that the purpose of computers in school is to save money by not needing encyclopedias and other types of expensive books, and to augment the ability to teach certain types of subjects.

    I say this as someone who set up a Xubuntu computer at my wife's work for a summer internship for high-school students that had very little computer experience (they could use a mouse and type, and certainly knew how to find myspace instead of work though). They would stay after they could leave to use the computer to type essays and learned how to enter data into a spreadsheet along with basic (very basic) spreadsheet concepts like sorting and dragging down a column to repeat a pattern. These are the types of things that will help them be more qualified in the workforce even though they gained no Windows experience.

    Software like the test builder/taker in Edubuntu could be a great bonus to a school poor school and could easily save a school dollars a test (goes somewhat to paying for the computers).
  • Re:don't hate me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GaryPatterson (852699) on Monday January 28, 2008 @11:04PM (#22217198)
    Yeah, all those Mac-only programs like Word and Excel, well there's no way I can use that knowledge on a Windows machine now. And those Mac-only programming languages like BASIC, C, C++ and Pascal. Useless now that I use a Windows machine at work. Even those Mac GUI concepts like copy and paste are un-transferable to Windows.

    Stupid Apple. Stupid schools.

    All that time spent learning apps and stuff on a Mac was totally wasted.
  • Re:don't hate me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rts008 (812749) on Monday January 28, 2008 @11:20PM (#22217330) Journal
    "Teach them how to learn, not how to memorize, and they will get much further."

    Talk about hitting the proverbial nail on the head....with a sledgehammer!!

    Sadly, that method of teaching is not as prevalent as it should be.
    When I was in college, one of the most important things I was taught is the concept of knowing where to find 'the reference materials needed' instead of a crapload of by rote memorizing.

    I got my AAS in Veterinary Technology (think Registered Nurse for Critters), and while I was doing that, a BS in Biochemistry just kind of fell into the mix with no additional effort. (Vet Tech is TOUGH!)...No way to memorize all of the needed info, but knowing when and where to find the info needed made the big difference.
    Medical Terminology, Pharmacology, and Anatomy(leg bone connected to the hip bone...by what? and by which attachments?!...hint: there are 27 major attachments to the scapula-shoulderblade to be learned- How's that for a non-sequitur?) are all brute force memorization, but after passing the classes it is just a PDR away (PDR=Physician's Desk Reference). Many times I have thanked the head of Murry State's head of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine's Dr. Kay Helms for this little bit of insight.

    This concept applies readily to any tech field, and many more. *disclaimer: this could be a more cogent post if I was not into my second beer! (9.5% alcohol by volume, 40 oz.)*

  • Re:don't hate me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by filesiteguy (695431) <kai@perfectreign.com> on Monday January 28, 2008 @11:25PM (#22217374) Homepage

    If the true goal of a computer program for a school is to ready its students for the workplace, then is linux really the best method of doing so? Isn't the school in some way doing its students a dis-service my training them on a computing method that they will very likely never use again? As much as i DESPISE some of microsoft's products (i admin a damn win2k3 server...do i really need to explain WHY i hate microsoft?) i understand that in order to function in a modern workplace, the ability to navigate microsoft windows is almost as essential as any other office skill

    Actually this is a fallacious argument.

    I just pointed out yesterday that kids can learn any OS. Keep in mind that I (along with all my peers) grew up in a world without windows and yet still managed to learn. In fact, I didn't even see windows until I was 19 and in college. That's when Win 2.0 came out and I thought it was - erm - mostly harmless.

    My seven-year-old and five-year-old sons have no issues moving from my Vista laptop to my wife's Win2K desktop to my openSUSE laptop and desktop and to my mom's openSUSE desktop or to my father-in-law's Macintosh. Unless you're gonna teach kids how to administer Win2K3 workstations, then there's no issue.

  • Re:don't hate me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by webmaster404 (1148909) on Monday January 28, 2008 @11:43PM (#22217496)
    Well, think about the pricing, you could get an expensive (yet easy-to-use) Mac or you could get a cheap PC with DOS that no one really liked but it was there OS. Most businesses and people chose the cheaper route and got a PC, today we have the opposite, with Linux being cheaper yet not as (seemingly) easy to use as the Windows and Mac computers. I expect that because of the price point alone (and easier to use distros, Vista becoming ME II and OS X being popular) Unix/Linux will become the most used platform.
  • by DrYak (748999) on Monday January 28, 2008 @11:44PM (#22217506) Homepage
    In addition to that, it might be more rewarding in the long term to tech the student solution that they can own themselves.

    Teaching Microsoft in 3rd world countries, mean creating a new generation of users that will completely dependant on an foreign solution, and that one day, the workforce of the country will spend significant amount of money which will be spent overboard and will go to the pocket of a foreign company.
    This guarantee future bleeding of money : you have a nice new emerging IT environment that strives to develop, and most of the earned money will exit the country in term of license.

    On the other hand, teaching open source software will help the new generation realise that these solution exist, and that they can take them as their own. Instead of having a Microsoft unleashing BSA-like dogs to crackdown on unlicensed copies, they have access to FSF software whose philosophy is "do whatever pleases you with it *AS LONG AS* you keep guaranteeing the same freedom when you passes it around".
    Once this generation grows and enter into the workforce, a lot of busyness opportunities may appear that don't depend on foreign companies. Thanks to OSS, local solution my be developed, with new emerging companies basing their solution on infrastructure they can own themselves. The earnings from such companies will stay inside the country and help stir up the economy.

    Free software empowers emerging countries, whereas proprietary software represents one additional way to lock them into a permanent dependence on foreign companies that will bleed out of the country the earning of emerging IT busyness.

    That doesn't matter much for rich countries. But learning that you don't necessarily need to depend on some US company is very important in emerging markets.

    Also, as you said, given the difference between Office 2007 and, let's say, Office 97, and given that these children will also be at least 10 years away from entering the workforce (and much more for those few who'll manage to go to universities) learning a specific interface implementation is completely pointless. What they need is to learn some basic concept in computing (what is word processing vs. which button should be clicked). And Linux is just as good as anything else for that.
  • Re:don't hate me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by webmaster404 (1148909) on Monday January 28, 2008 @11:49PM (#22217542)
    Exactly, and why does everyone think that it has to be MS to create those concepts? I bet that if you go to a school today most people wouldn't know how applications are launched, or even how simple parts of the computer's OS works, and probably 98% think that the GUI==the OS. Most kids know how a program works by launching it from Start-->All Programs--->Games--->Minesweeper and not how the OS really works. MS always ends up creating new "buzzwords" to make their OS/Program seem new just think of the "ribbon" on Office 2007 (if you are unlucky enough to have used it) or "Shortcuts" rather then links, MS has a way of making anything that seems like a computer concept be totally linked to Windows and totally foreign to Mac or Linux, that's how I am sure they manage to keep market share from people looking at Mac/Linux who panic when they can't see a C drive.
  • Re:don't hate me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by webmaster404 (1148909) on Monday January 28, 2008 @11:58PM (#22217622)
    But the hardware is tied to the OS. If you were to get Vista you would probably pick out a new computer with a dual or quad-core processor with 2-3 Gigs of RAM, a nice DRM-compliant video-card for Aero, then of course the average person needs to spend about $300 on anti-virus/spyware, MS office, new versions for programs that MS broke backwards compatibility with, ETC. For a school they can probably get licenses very cheap, however when the student ends up going to college, they can either pay the $1000 setup with Vista, over-the-top hardware, and all the proprietary software Windows needs to patch its flaws or the kid can buy a decent $300 computer with Linux installed because they learned about Linux and all the software is just a click or apt-get away. MS teaches kids to be dependent on one provider (MS) for their software therefore paying excess to third parties for hardware to just run the OS, also because the kid hasn't learned really how a computer works, any chance of a sysadmin job or other high-tech job disappears unless the kid learns a whole lot in college (or there is a giant breakthrough in software) and ends up being dependent. The kid who learns Linux and how the computer actually works can buy cheaper hardware, and can easily become a sysadmin or other high-paying tech job and nearly all software will be free. Now, even with cost not the option, does the school want to teach their students to be dependent or independent?
  • Re:don't hate me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @12:13AM (#22217734)
    There are some majors where rote memorization is good. When you're in the ER and you just reacted to some drug and you're going into cardiac arrest do you want the doctor to go "Hold on a second let me let me look this up."

    I'm an engineer and my sister is a pharmacist. I don't interact with people and nothing needs to be known NOW. Heck I sat in a meeting where we had 5 engineers around the room and I was the youngest and we all broke out our Fluids books to figure out some mass transfer through a pipe.

    On the other hand I just got out of ACL surgery. I wasn't feeling any effect from the Oxycotin (naturally high tolerance to all drugs) so I called my sister. She knew off the top of her head what would react with it and how much more I could take. Granted she also knows where to find the stuff if she doesn't know.

    As I see it:
    Engineer: Where to find it>What it is
    Doctor: What it is>=Where to find it
  • by slocan (769303) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @12:53AM (#22217988)

    If the true goal of a computer program for a school is to ready its students for the workplace, then is linux really the best method of doing so? [...]

    Well, Linux in such a context ("to ready students") isn't a method. It can be a tool (and so can Windows) of a given method. And the method can be adequate or inadequate.

    As to the method, who knows what students will use in the future? At work or at home?

    Schools (if they are not to be short-sighted) should enable students with skills that will allow them to use any tool, existing ones and specially future ones, unknown ones. Training to use one program instead of another based on current market shares is short-sighted.

    I read a circa 1969 book by Lauro de Oliveira Lima commenting on a 1960 text by Marshall McLuhan. Both wrote how education would (or should) be in the future (and wrote about the future itself). Lauro de Oliveira Lima made quite a compelling argument about how education is about the future and the unknown. For the students are supposedly being prepared for a future life, work and a society that is unknown and unpredictable.

    My point is, training someone to use Windows or Office is short-sighted education (and possibly inadequate education, if the student doesn't develop skills to learn to use any tool he may encounter. And he may encounter Windows, Linux, Solaris etc).

    But the point of using gnu/linux or any other free or open source software in an education context is goes beyond the possibility of using certain tools. It's about the possibilty of understanding those tools, modifying those tools and creating new tools. It's about empowerment. And even if it remains as an unfulfilled possibility it remains as a door that can still be opened.

    From such a point of view the use of linux, inkscape etc in an education context could be part of an open-ended education effort which aims at the future. And then comes to mind a Robert Heinlein quote:

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

    Education should not be about Windows or Linux, but about being able to use any one of them, understand the differences, be prepared to choose and to deal with whatever the future brings.

    Cheers,

    P.S.: I use Ubuntu at home since 2004. And before that Gentoo and Debian.

  • Re:don't hate me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chuckymonkey (1059244) <charles.d.burton@NosPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @01:02AM (#22218044) Journal
    Therein lies the key. You leared how to use an OS and computer, most people learn "if you click this that will happen" and cannot handle having things happen outside their little bubble of knowledge. I personally think that every school should have a decent mix of different types of computers, that way kids will learn the actual core skills to use a computer and not the other way. I'm teaching my two year old right now how to use windows and linux, soon Mac when I get the iMac for my wife. I want her to have a base knowledge about these things.
  • by rtb61 (674572) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @01:42AM (#22218296) Homepage
    Let's not pick on or exclude first or second world users. For open source software there is nor first, second or third world. Your contributions are purely valued on their own merits.

    Of course open solutions created or contributed in the third world not only means they will be save money but they will also be able to achieve a more competitive status, in first and second world technology.

    The important part of open source is to create an effective ecosystem for it, with it being taught in primary and secondary schools, being researched and contributed to in universities and the being applied and extended in business and government. This effort is then expanded beyond a countries borders and shared as a global effort, with benefits accruing to all computer users, regardless of race, colour, creed, age or especially wealth.

    Closed source proprietary software, creates, and enforces the digital divide, leaving peoples as well as countries at a permanent disadvantage with what is becoming an integral part of any countries infrastructure and economy.

    At the end of the day the current monopoly in operating systems and office suites, only suits once city, in one state, in one country, for every other person, in every other city, in every other state, in every other country it is a wasteful, pointless, dead end.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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