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Free Software in Education, is it necessary?

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The movement called Free Software was coined by Richard Stallman. It all started when trying to fix a printer to suit your needs, it was realized that you did not have the source code of the driver. At that moment he contacted the distribution house, but his attempts to obtain this code were in vain. From this moment, Stallman began to preach that all software should be accompanied by its source code, so that users could adapt it to their needs.

We talk about Free Software when we want to refer to  the freedom a user has to modify, copy, distribute and modify a software without anyone taking legal action against him.

To consider software as free, you must comply with four principles:

  1. Freedom to use the program for any purpose and without restrictions
  2. Freedom to study how the program works and to adapt it to the specific needs of the user, for which it is necessary to have the source code.
  3. Freedom to make copies and distribute them.
  4. Freedom to improve the program and distribute copies of it.

There are many reasons to use Free Software in schools, below we list the most important:

  • Free Software can be copied and redistributed at cost. In this way, the educational administrations can provide software to all the Centers at a very economical price, and thus, be able to dedicate the resources saved in other fundamental topics, such as in computers, teacher training, development of Free Educational Software, etc. In addition, in less developed countries, free applications can help bridge the “ digital divide ” with the developed world.
  • The school must teach its students values ​​and lifestyles beneficial to society. The school must promote the use of Free Software, for the same reason that it promotes, for example, recycling: because it is beneficial for everyone. If students use Free Software, when they reach adulthood, they will continue to do so, because it will simply be what they are used to. This way they will not have to pay licenses, for using proprietary software.
  • Free Software encourages students to learn how computers and the software itself work. Future computer programmers begin programming in adolescence. Without a doubt, it is a key stage in which they need to be able to interact with the software, in order to become familiar with it. Free Software, by allowing access to the source code of the program, greatly facilitates learning programming.
  • Although many young people are not curious about how computer programs are made, there are general values ​​that are fostered through education, and that are in clear conflict with the message given by proprietary software.  Schools must teach facts, concepts, principles and procedures, but also values. One of the purposes of the school is to teach people to be good citizens, to cooperate with others, to be supportive. In computing, cooperating means, among other things, sharing the software, being able to make copies to all classmates, taking home the software used in school without breaking any license and therefore, without incurring any crime, as is the case with proprietary software.
  • Teaching students to use Free Software and to participate in the Free Software users and developers community is a civic lesson carried out. Since in this way, students learn that the ideal model is that of solidarity and not the profit model. Through this community of shared knowledge, educational strategies and tools can be shared between students, teachers, centers and even different autonomous communities or countries, facilitating the reuse of successful educational tactics, and favoring an education based on values ​​such as the community, knowledge sharing, and team building
  • Free Software is reliable and friendly. Today there is a multitude of Free Software applications available, including programs for editing text, images, presentations and others, therefore, it is very likely that there is an application for every educational need.
  • The updates of the Free Software programs are also free and generally the Free Software has a long period of useful life, being very rare that it becomes obsolete. This helps the skills acquired with this type of software, can last over time.

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