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Teach with free community soup

Posted on | December 5, 2007 | No Comments

There is a rather insightful submission climbing its way through the Slashdot Fire Hose today, an educator has found himself without the funds needed to purchase proprietary graphics design software needed to teach his classes.

The educator seems rather insightful, asking if such a predicament may be for the better, citing the fact that non-free, proprietary applications are on their way out as free software developers continue to advance replacements. He’s contemplating just teaching free software and I applaud his thinking.

I am a free software developer. If an educator contacted me needing some help to teach kids how to use my stuff, I’d be overwhelmed and bend over backwards to get the educator videos, text, HTML, whatever they needed to make interesting lesson plans. I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone in that line of thinking.

Educators, if you want to teach kids how to use free/open source software, why not contact the developers of the software directly and ask for their help? All that a senior developer needs to do is send an e-mail to their user list requesting that anyone with spare time produce materials (video/etc) suitable for class room use in completely free formats. If you, as an educator are willing to publish your lesson plans under a free documentation license, I can (nearly) guarantee that you’ll find yourself with all of the support that you need.

When did Adobe, or Microsoft, or any other proprietary software maker ever release completely free (copyleft) materials that any educator could use, improve and share without restrictions?

Collaborative efforts are like a bowl of soup, lots of people add ingredients. Because such efforts are canonized under a free documentation license, you are free to pick only the ingredients that you want, add your own and share your changes with other educators. The end result is your school saves money, kids have a more enjoyable experience and you give back something that helps many others.

When we think of education, we often only think about children. What about adults that through some misadventure found themselves in need of re-training in order to get a job that pays a decent wage? Your materials would help displaced home-makers, veterans, those who suffered debilitating injuries and more.

I really hope to see his comments on the Slashdot front page, soon. My daughter (now 2) will soon be entering the public school system. Rather than waiting to meet frustration before helping to improve our educational system, I have been working to help improve it before I’m greeted with the frustrations that I’m sure will be coming.

At least one educator has their head screwed on correctly. That’s encouraging :)


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