I am always researching how Linux and open source software are used in a classroom or education setting. I like to stay up to date with any developments. In reading countless blog posts, Google Slides presentation, and discussion threads, I’ve found a few patterns. Two points in particular are often brought up and used as the focus for the argument of “Why Choose Linux.” Linux is free and Linux works on old hardware.
These points aren’t wrong, but shouldn’t be the focus of the argument. They leave Linux to be interpreted as a free/lesser alternative to Windows or OSX. An option for cash strapped schools that need to run anything on old hardware. When the comparison becomes just about saving money, you cheapen the perception of Linux.
What points should you bring up instead?
Linux is cutting edge and constantly developed technology. Many features appear in Linux before other operating systems. Linux is constantly under development and adapting. The software can be as broad or specific as needed.
Linux is a way to give control of technology in the hands of the students. Linux is completely open source. Students actually have the power to change code, customize how things work, and explore every aspect of the system. I realize not every student will want to do this, but having this allows students to experiment and break things. To not be afraid of the technology. The worst that happens is you reboot the computer with a new Linux live cd and it’s a brand new computer again.
There is more to technology than the big companies (Microsoft, Apple, Google). Students should learn more about technology than proprietary software.
Linux isn’t a niche. Linux is often viewed as something for tinkerers or hobbyists. “Real work isn’t done on Linux,” is an argument I’ve heard a few times. Over 90% of the world’s supercomputers run Linux. A majority of the internet is powered by Linux servers. Companies like Google, Quora, and many municipalities run on Linux. It’s not a second rate piece of software, it is a real alternative to Windows and OSX chosen by millions on people and companies every day.
Linux is free and is adaptable enough to work on older hardware, but that doesn’t mean it has to be. Linux is as cutting edge and fast as any proprietary OS.
Linux should be explained as an upgrade to Windows, OS, and Chrome, not an alternative.
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