The use of open technologies in education is now common throughout the world with one notable exception: the United States. School and district technology leaders need to become aware of how other educational systems are leveraging the use of open technologies to improve student learning, engage parent and community interest in education, provide home access to technologies used in schools, and use their financial resources in the most effective way possible.
Benefits of Open Technologies
Cost: License Fees and TCO
Licensing and purchasing costs for proprietary technologies often limit the scope of use in educational settings. Open technologies, often blended with proprietary technologies, may provide a means for the use of technology in a more ubiquitous way for students and teachers by leveraging the funding available.
Data Integrity and Interoperability
Data interoperability through open standards increases the efficiency of systems through the use of common data elements and ensures greater data integrity. These open standards assist in both proprietary and open-source applications working together in a blended technology environment.
Independence and Flexibility
Because the source code is open, advanced users can customize applications and operating systems to their environment. This opens the door to innovation, which is in turn shared with others. Upgrades are voluntary, so users are not locked into continuing maintenance fees or enforced obsolescence.
Stability and Reliability
There is high confidence that open source software will have a viable future because so many people are independently vested in it. It is stable because so many skilled developers are working on it and testing it in many different environments. Open source operating system users report that their systems are more reliable, offer greater performance, are easier to manage, and provide better support.
Broader Access to Information
Organizations, agencies, and individuals are assembling huge libraries of content. Search engines make this quickly available at the point of instruction.
Content management systems make it easy to build attractive informational sites to communicate to the public. An informed community in turn supports schools.
Engage Students in Collaboration
Our students live in a world characterized by collaboration. They expect to be part of a larger community in the creation of knowledge by actively contributing to the end result in areas such as music, research or literature. The use of open technologies in education reinforces that view of the world and encourages students and teachers to be active members of the global community.
Questions To Ask Before Adopting Open Technologies
Is your school ready for open technologies? Here are some questions that you should consider before diving in:
• Compatibility: Will your current software base run on the OS systems? Will you have to install additional adaptors to make it all work? Will the proposed OS applications produce files that can be read by other non-OS applications?
• Available applications that meet district needs: What are your most pressing needs? Have you identified particular OS applications that could meet these needs? Have you done due diligence and testing before committing to a full scale roll out?
• Hardware: Is the equipment you own equipped to handle these new technologies? Can you afford to dedicate these machines to the new software or do they need to stay multi-purpose?
• Quality support: Do you have staff who are able to install and support the OS systems or applications? Have you planned for redundant training so you will not be overly dependent on individuals who might move away? Have you identified early adopters on staff who can serve as mentors to assist with implementation?
• Leadership and change management discipline: Have you identified the key stakeholders who need to support your new solution? Will the proposed software be appealing to the users? How can you involve users in the adoption process?