Friday, January 11, 2008

Free software culture

Last night I was too tired to really comment on the the idea of a free software culture. But the idea is worth more than a few comments.

I have really noticed a change in myself since I started using Linux. Of course, I had been using OpenOffice for a long time before switching to Linux, so the changes had probably been occurring gradually over the space of a couple years. As Byfield's article says,
A Do-it-yourself philosophy runs deep in almost every free software user. The longer they have been using it, the deeper it runs.
I know that I am constantly tinkering with my computer. I download new applications, try them out, switch to them or reject them as I see fit. I can use KDE programs and Gnome programs interchangeably; I am not locked into choosing one or the other. I use different applications for different purposes. I like that freedom to make my computer mine.

I constantly turn to forums for answers. And it doesn't end with forums about my particular software. I look on forums for answers to everything. I know that I can go out and get the answers to almost any question from someone who has actually had the same problem I am having. And if I don't understand the answer, I can ask for clarification. When I do that on a software forum, I have to be prepared to provide information about my own system. I have to go t the command line and get that information. But if I do my part, I can get the answers I need. And it doesn't cost me a penny.

All of this, though, makes me think about the importance of free software in education. This culture, it seems to me, should be the goal of education: individuals who can explore, investigate, ask questions, learn, share their knowledge, and apply what they learn to their own situation and to the situations of others. It is a mind-set that I think schools should want to encourage.

So why is it so hard to get schools and teachers themselves to change?

No comments: