Rethinking of FOSS in education
Posted by Greten on 04 Feb 2019 under Thoughts
The earliest posts of Ititser focus on the use of free software programs: freeware, FOSS, and web-based applications. Back then, I was more concerned with helping teachers obtain technology that can they can use in their instruction with minimal expenditure and while avoiding to sound like promoting any for-profit corporation.
While I am still a fan of FOSS and their role in education, let's have realistic thinking here. Students study so that in the future, they can get jobs or start a business. While it can be easier to start a business with FOSS if you are setting-up all the information technology infrastructure of your company using FOSS, many companies are looking for specific skills with the use of proprietary software application. As much as I hate to admit it, many proprietary applications are superior to their FOSS counterpart in so many ways.
People are motivated by either ideology or by personal interest; most people are motivated by a healthy mixture of both. Being motivated by ideology means they want to do something because they want to change the country, society, or the world into something they believe is better. Being motivated by personal interest means they do something because it benefits them, their family members, and few close friends.
The FOSS movement is motivated by the ideology that "information wants to be free" and united by common enemies: the overly restrictive copyright laws and end user license agreements. While ideology is a strong motivating factor, it is usually among those that are given less priority over what to eat. Most of the developers of FOSS are volunteers who have to get their livelihood elsewhere. The role of their managers is to keep the flame of ideology alive, much like revolutionary leaders.
On the other hand, the programmers of proprietary software are selfish and rational homo economicus motivated by personal interests. Work together, develop quality software, and your employer will give you a bonus or increase your payment. The programmers are working on the software owned by the employer as their source of livelihood. The role of their managers is to arrange a system so that the programmers are moving forward the interest of their employer while working for their interests.
In my observations so far, working for personal interests trumps working for ideology.
MS Word 2016 is better than LibreOffice Writer; the former has more templates and design effects for objects. MS PowerPoint 2016 is better than LibreOffice Impress; the former can export to video. Adobe Illustrator is better than Inkscape; the former has more keyboard shortcuts. Adobe Premier is better than Avidemux; the former supports more video formats. Of course, what's better can be relative depending on your actual needs, but most companies deem it that they need the features that come with proprietary software programs.
Not to mention that there seems to be no FOSS equivalent of elearning authoring tools such as Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate. (If there is, please let me know in the comments. I desperately need to know.)
However, FOSS is still very useful if your school has no budget for software or your school does not want to deal with the strict and confusing end user license agreements. According to the AGES Model of effective learning, the pieces of knowledge in your brain are interconnected, much like the neurons themselves. New knowledge is easier to acquire and remember when you learn them in relation to preexisting knowledge. For example, learning subtraction is easy if you already know addition, and subtraction was first taught to you in comparison to addition. While learning FOSS does not immediately allow you to put in your resume applications that many employers are looking for, it will provide you with the advantage that will make learning these applications much easier.
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