“It is free,” says a tall guy in the back of the auditorium. That’s pretty good, but what if your school has invested money–and more importantly, time–in another computer operating system? What reasons could you have for making a switch?

In no particular order, here are a few suggestions you can take to the principal and superintendent.

  • You can use your current computers. Replace old hard drives, maybe and have some spare power supplies handy. Most of the rest of the components in your current computers won’t wear out quickly.
  • You can explore a broad range of software. You don’t need to buy an evaluation copy. You don’t need to panic if the software really fails in its implementation with students. You have not invested in a site license or multiple copies for all the lab computers. Keep looking and find a better solution for your needs.
  • You can stay in contact with users of Microsoft OS. Software written for Linux is commonly built to work in the world that exists. Open Office opens and saves to the Microsoft Office basic file formats.
  • If you use Microsoft Word, you will be able to use Open Office or most other word processors. While the menus are not an exact match, you really will be able to figure out how to get bold text, italics, etc. and then save/print. Let’s face it. Mostly that’s what you do, right?”

On that last item, “I have teachers who will complain,” comments a tech support person in the front row. Teachers want to teach. Successful teachers love the classroom interaction with their students. Great teachers can educate students anywhere, with no support tools. Computers are now part of the classroom toolset, like desks, textbooks, blackboards, etc. Most teachers use computers as tools routinely now, but didn’t they complain when you asked them to start reading and sending email instead of getting the daily bulletin on paper from the main office or submitting grades electronically?   

Adults don’t like change. It is a sad reality. We like to do things in essentially a habitual way. “Lifelong learing” is an educational catch phrase. Learning requires a willingness to make mistakes, to wander and explore. With the limit of 180 school days (Massachusetts) and xxxx pages of textbook to cover, and MCAS, the excitement of change isn’t what it was once.Will Linux fix that? Not likely, but the cost savings of moving forward with Linux and Open Source software can partially offset the raise the teachers want in the next contract. [grin] 

Okay. Now you have a short list of positive things about Linux. It isn’t exhaustive.Let’s gather some questions…challenges posed by you, your staff, your administration, your students, your community. Add them here as comments. If you have “answers”, post them, too. If you need answers, we will work to come up with them.

–Algot Runeman (retired computer coordinator and contributing mosssig writer)

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