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Teachers Need an Open Source Education 440

Posted by timothy
from the yer-darn-tootin' dept.
palegray.net writes "Teachers are sorely in need of an education in what open source software is, what it isn't, and how it can benefit their students. A recent news story at the Reg discussed the case of a Texas teacher who accused those distributing Linux to students of committing criminal acts. A HeliOS blog entry exposes a 'higher education' culture of apathy, lies, and fear of open source software. Things have got to improve, and that improvement needs to start with misguided teachers getting their facts straight."
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Teachers Need an Open Source Education

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  • by rs232 (849320)
    "A recent news story at the Reg discussed the case of a Texas teacher"

    Citations please, does 'Karen' really exist, is this even true or just someone looking for hits to his blog.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      There was a slashdot story [slashdot.org] one month ago about this confused woman.
  • by Teun (17872) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @07:31AM (#26651477) Homepage
    It is a serious problem when teachers, regardless of the subject, use their position to 'teach' about things they have no or insufficient knowledge of.
    • by ledow (319597) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:08AM (#26651709) Homepage

      You must be new around schools... :-)

      I've worked with "Head of IT" Teachers who can't install a simple application and don't understand "read-only" attributes.
      I've worked with IT teachers who teach that the main components of a PC are a monitor and a hard drive "which contains all the other bits of the computer, including the CDROM".
      I've worked with IT teachers who have NEVER programmed a single line in their life, trying to teach people how to use a programming language.
      I've worked with IT teachers who are reluctant to let go of their floppies because they can't handle USB drives.
      I've worked with IT teachers who have *zero* concept of licensing and just install everything everywhere.

      Unfortunately, I met most of those people while working at a specialist IT secondary school / Academy.

      It's common to most schools and to most subjects and even to most teachers - they might have a *related* degree (i.e. maths teachers with physics backgrounds, or even IT teachers with "business" backgrounds) or an actual degree in their subject but it doesn't mean that they understand the most fundamental things they are supposed to be teaching.

      There are exceptions, as always, but it's true for the vast majority. At one point, I was tempted to do the extra 1 year PGCE in the UK in order to go back into those schools and show people that, actually, a network manager can do their job in a trice, but they can't hold a stick to a good network manager. Unfortunately, it would mean having to come down to their level for that entire year and I'm not sure I could manage it without pissing myself laughing.

      • by millia (35740) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:50AM (#26651943) Homepage

        I've worked with them too, here in the US.

        And guess what, they're not different from the vast majority of people, either.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2009 @10:21AM (#26652797)

        I am a network engineer for FWISD, and not only is this a fact, but it is much worse in reality than any of these posts even infer to. Most teachers do not understand the basics of technology, much less trying to get them to use an open source product, they refuse to read help files for simple apps. How do you propose to get them to peruse through "Open Source" blogs written for Geeks. The problem lies in the fact that teachers are some of the hardest people to teach anything to as many believe they are so educated that you couldn't possibly have anything of value to teach them.

        MCSE+I, CCNP, NT-CIP, N+, A+

      • While it would be a great thing for teachers to be an expert in the field they are teaching, I personally prefer teachers who are experts at passing information. A good teacher can make do with understanding little more than the material they are currently teaching, because they can pass along the information correctly and understandably and are humble enough to go find the answers to questions they can't answer from their own knowledge. I've been in the classes of many experts and it was quite clear they
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by indi0144 (1264518)
        I thought that it was a problem exclusive for Third World but now I feel somewhat relieved. I've been teaching "Systems Engineers" how a blog works, why the the blue Internet icon is bad for the internets and that there are OTHER operative systems. The problem here is that MS do a lot of lobby in Colleges so theres really an abuse of dominant position. I hope someones do something about it, It's a lot more relevant that the discussion of IExplore WMP and antitrust.
    • by EdIII (1114411) * on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:41AM (#26651895)

      This teacher was a moron. Plain and simple.

      You worry about when teachers only "teach" with their ignorance while abusing their position. What happens when they use that same ignorance to pursue prosecution from outside authorities and to have the student permanently expelled?

      I have been in the Principal's office with the police in the room with the Principal screaming like an idiot asking for me to be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. My crime? I was in possession of the Anarchist's Cookbook. Spittle was flying across the room while passages were being read that described thermite and 10 ways to kill somebody with your finger. It was taken from my backpack from another teacher when I left it in class. The police actually had to calm her down to explain to her that I had broken no laws whatsoever. It took 2 weeks to get me back into school by going to her supervisors and pointing out that I did not even break any rules in school.

      I was also through the same situation later on when a teacher that taught computer science claimed that a file left on a "hacked" server proved I was the perpetrator. Why? It had a line of text that said, "Ed did this". Seriously, that was the CSI level proof that required my expulsion from school. I knew the kid that did it and he thought it was absolutely hilarious what happened. At the time my ethics demanded I did not "squeal", so I never said I knew who did it.

      It's one thing for people to completely ignorant of what open source software is, licensing models, copyrights, fair use, etc. It's another when they use their ignorance and position of authority to force their ideologies on a student. That's just inappropriate when a teacher does that.

      It's something else when a teacher sets out to destroy you over their ignorance. It sucks since a student is most often left in a position that they can't defend themselves at all, even when they are right and innocent.

      • by anothy (83176) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @09:08AM (#26652077) Homepage
        see, that's kinda the reaction i was going for. i wish i'd gone to your school; my administration mostly just squirmed and looked at me uncomfortably. ;-)
      • You brought the Anarchist Cookbook into a SCHOOL, and you have audacity to call the teacher a moron? Wow. Just wow. I realize it's not against the rules, but could you really not foresee what would happen if they caught you with it?
        • by Bert64 (520050) <bertNO@SPAMslashdot.firenzee.com> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @11:32AM (#26653791) Homepage

          I did that, and got caught with a copy of it...
          We had a very good chemistry teacher, who thought it was good i was taking an interest in chemistry.
          She gave us a lecture about how dangerous these things could be, and how we should only follow the recipes in controlled environments and small quantities, ie chemistry class... Then she demonstrated a few of them, and regularly demonstrated more in other lessons.

          The fact the class was teaching something many of the kids were actually interested in meant that attendance to her class and resulting grades were way above the average for the school.

      • by halber_mensch (851834) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @10:50AM (#26653143)

        I have been in the Principal's office with the police in the room with the Principal screaming like an idiot asking for me to be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. My crime? I was in possession of the Anarchist's Cookbook. Spittle was flying across the room while passages were being read that described thermite and 10 ways to kill somebody with your finger. It was taken from my backpack from another teacher when I left it in class. The police actually had to calm her down to explain to her that I had broken no laws whatsoever. It took 2 weeks to get me back into school by going to her supervisors and pointing out that I did not even break any rules in school.

        I was also through the same situation later on when a teacher that taught computer science claimed that a file left on a "hacked" server proved I was the perpetrator. Why? It had a line of text that said, "Ed did this". Seriously, that was the CSI level proof that required my expulsion from school. I knew the kid that did it and he thought it was absolutely hilarious what happened. At the time my ethics demanded I did not "squeal", so I never said I knew who did it.

        It's one thing for people to completely ignorant of what open source software is, licensing models, copyrights, fair use, etc. It's another when they use their ignorance and position of authority to force their ideologies on a student. That's just inappropriate when a teacher does that.

        It's something else when a teacher sets out to destroy you over their ignorance. It sucks since a student is most often left in a position that they can't defend themselves at all, even when they are right and innocent.

        It sounds to me like you had also demonstrated your own ignorance of the culture you were exposed to. In a day where kids are bringing bombs and guns to school because they got one too many swirlies, you can safely assume a teacher to feel threatened and scared when a kid is packing the Anarchist's Cookbook in his backpack. If you were a little less ignorant, you might have left it at home where your privacy is more or less assured.

        Not that I'm agreeing with the reaction of the principal. I had a similar experience when, on a day where the sky was pissing great floods of rain, I made the mistake of putting a hat on before putting my hand on the door to the outside and the principal snatched it off my head. "No hats in school", he said with a smirk as he glanced out at the torrent. So I gawked in disbelief and went to my car. I started to leave but the principle of what the principal did was soaking in to me as the rain was soaking into my hair and dripping down into my shirt, so I stopped by the office to demand my apparel back. The office ladies said they could page the principal up, but I said "No, I'm so mad at him I don't want to see him. I'm afraid I'd hit him." Wrong thing to say about a man with short-man-in-power syndrome. The next day I was called into the office where a police officer was waiting for me and the principal was ranting about how I had physically threatened him. Me, a student with no record of ever having been called to the office, a student that made good grades and was on the drumline, a rail that weighed all of 145 pounds, that made the mistake of using the word 'hit' in a sentence that involved a pissant in authority. I mean, I could understand if I had come in to that office with a knife and a letter that said "I'm going to kill you" and asked one of the office ladies to deliver it to him, that might be a threat, but I came in looking like a drenched cat and I was pissed that this guy had fucked with me on a rainy day just to ruin my afternoon. I wasn't exactly oozing violence at that point. So in short, I agree with your premise. Fucking school administrators. Piss on them.

      • I think the problem is that most people have such painful memory at school, so much that the last thing they consider is to go back to school and teach for the rest of their lives. Besides the perceived bad work environment, many people also consider the salary too low to be a viable career option. But if you can't increase the salary, at least improve the work environment to make it better. This will attract more qualified candidates and cause a competition to increase the teachers' knowledge level.

        Fortuna

    • by Octorian (14086)

      Whats more of a concern is that there are a lot of people who take everything the teacher says as the gospel. Years later, you run into these people, and they have an incorrect assumption about how something works. You try to correct it, but they have a hard time believing you because that teacher supposedly has far more credentials.

      Of course I really cannot blame the teachers in all circumstances here, because for every ignorance-related gaff, there are probably several forgivable brainfarts. I think th

      • by deraj123 (1225722)

        Whats more of a concern is that there are a lot of people who take everything the teacher says as the gospel. Years later, you run into these people, and they have an incorrect assumption about how something works. You try to correct it, but they have a hard time believing you because that teacher supposedly has far more credentials.

        This seems to be a small part of the problem of taking education as gospel. I am still working a fair bit of what I take for granted out of my brain. It's probably on close to a weekly basis that I realize that I'm not sure how I "just know" something, and on further reflection realize that it's because a teacher told it to me, and it turns out to be completely inaccurate. It wasn't until college that I realized that nothing they were teaching was "absolute" but it took even longer to realize that I had

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @09:49AM (#26652395)

      Most teachers aren't smart. Sorry but it is true. They think they are they brag how they have a masters degree. (and complains that it is the lowest paid job that requires a masters)

      I am not saying they arn't really good teachers out there who are incredibly smart and excellent teachers but most of them are not.

      First lets cover why they became a teacher. They will say they want to help kids etc. That is the BS answer. The real reason is because they have a lack of imagination on what other jobs are available that offer a middle class life style. They know what school is and what the job as teacher mostly consists of. So they spend their life in the school system because it is what they know.

      Second Fear of Math and Science, why is there a shortage of Math and Science teachers. Because people go into teaching as it is a degree that you don't need to take Advanced Math and Science class. They don't even have to take pre-calculus (Depending on the college and state). All their courses are taught in a similar fashion mush like English classes. While Science and Engineering Majors need to take some of those type of classes and more Math/Science driven classes, we actually get a more robust education then the teachers do. The people who are not afraid of math and science go to a degree that will pay better.

      Third the Masters degree is a joke. The schools know it is required for these people to continue their career, so they are not going to make it tough or challenging. It is more the same except the course numbers are 500s and 600s with perhaps one bigger paper thrown in. Heck there is even a class that teaches the teachers the current slangs for sexual references, that they might cover in the class. Even the MBA program which is light and fluffy compared to Science and Engineering Masters degrees teaches useful skills and concepts and when needed they tell you you are going to need to use Math to solve these problems.

      Forth tenured jobs are way to secure. I understand the reason for tenure is to protect the teacher from government pressures or from parents (say you were also a coach and you didn't let Johnny, son of a House Representative in the basket ball team because he absurdity sucked, so he called on daddy to get you fired, your protected) But it creates a counter culture which puts people in a lull. If your job isn't at risk and the union will avoid any pay for performance measures, what motivation do you have to teach at high quality and improve yourself. You are not going to change careers as yours is safe and a guarantee raise. So over time the teachers mind just kinda rots to a point where it teaches what he/she has taught for the last 20 years, only adding a new tidbit of information every 5 years just so kids realize that we have actually landed on the moon.

      Fifth their ego, our culture want they put them as being smarter then everyone else, which actually creates and opposite effect. For example at the time I had a job which did laser printer repair (including the color ones), however I was brought on board as a software developer The bubble pop forced be to do both jobs. I couldn't convince a teacher that the primary colors that they taught us in school are incorrect (Red, Blue, Yellow). But there are 2 sets of primary colors depending if they are pigments which absorb light (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow) or admit light (Red, Green, Blue). She was so stuck on what was on the Elementary School art color wheel, and her rational is that is a teacher with a masters degree so she is right.

      There is massive resistance from teachers when they are forced to learn something themselves. A class on public relations to teach them to better handle parents and students. Technology education... You name it after they get there masters degree learning has stopped for most teachers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      Yes.

      to hell with teaching OSS. How about teaching basic computer use.

      I used to manage an IT team that did support for several schools. Teachers are some of the Dumbest people when it comes to computers.

      Honestly, our education professionals are incredibly under-educated about the tools they use. They should be at least proficient in using a PC and understand the basics of them. Most do not at all.

      This is 2009 for Cripes sake, There is zero excuse to call the monitor the computer and the computer the

      • Back about 1985, I had a job training teachers at a school how to use a PC. It was supposed to be an intro class on DOS, how to format a floppy, copy files, list files. It was one hour, twice a week, and I don't remember how many weeks, but not a great number. There were a couple of people there that honestly wanted to learn about computers. But, there were some that came in with a closed mind and an attitude problem. One woman was determined to be as unpleasant as possible.

        The program was run through a loc

  • What?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @07:31AM (#26651481)

    Things have got to improve, and that improvement needs to start with misguided teachers getting their facts straight."

    Getting their facts straight?

    The first improvement must be raising the bar for the teaching community.

    This includes, among other things:
    - Raising salaries: It won't work to appeal only to the rejects.
    - Firing for gross incompetence. As works with just about everyone else.
    - Requiring a higher level of knowledge and teaching abilities.

    Also, it would be nice to raise the public awareness about the importance of the teaching profession. One of the main pillars of the future of a country is currently seen as just a simple job anyone can do.

    Just my humble opinion, and I'm sorry if I offended you.

    • Re:What?! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AvitarX (172628) <meNO@SPAMbrandywinehundred.org> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:04AM (#26651679) Journal

      I agree with your points 2 and 3, but there is serious risk of raising salaries too much. Especially at the younger levels.

      The desire to teach is a HUGE positive in a teacher, and currently most teachers could be making more money. This means they are taking a portion of their pay in job satisfaction (don't let them fool you, it is a great job that makes you feel good).

      Paying enough that teaching appeals to people in it for the money is risky.

      Also, teachers with a good education make decent money, certainly as much as any other entry level job for someone with a liberal arts degree. I don't know what people make with science backgrounds though, but I bet it is more.

      • by fantomas (94850) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:36AM (#26651873)

        You make some good points but I am a bit frightened about your hypothesis that paying people a good salary to do a job they love is risky, and if you only pay people a poor salary then you'll gte higher quality staff as only the highly passionate will apply to do it.

        My personal opinion as a university researcher who works alongside teachers in a local secondary school is whatever they get paid, it isn't enough! :-)

        And seriously, pay high, then lots of people will compete for jobs, then the school gets to choose a high quality teacher. I'm afraid I don't buy the line that if you want really high quality staff, pay really low wages.

        Children are the future of society, the people we'll depend on when we're old and need to rely on others. Surely we want to spend as much as possible on their education, it's what they do for most of their waking life for ten years...

        • Like all Jobs pay them enough to consider the job in the first place, pay them enough to stay, don't pay them so much that any idiot will try and do it .... Managers get paid a lot and a lot of them should not be doing the job ....

        • by Atmchicago (555403) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @11:30AM (#26653775) Homepage

          The big issue (at least in the United States) is with the teachers' unions. Due to union regulations, most salaries are dependent on time spent teaching, and not important criteria such as competence or subject matter. Good teachers should be paid more than bad ones, to promote incentives, and people who teach tougher subjects should be paid more than those who teach easier subjects. i.e. if there are fewer people qualified to teach math than English, math teachers should fetch higher salaries. Good luck with that, though!

      • by MrNemesis (587188)

        In principle, yes, it shouldn't be necessary to have to provide a big salary to attract the best teachers to the profession.

        But the problem is that some of the most valuable core skills in teaching will often net you double the salary and double the prospects for promotion in the private sector than they will in your local comprehensive. Once you throw in long hours, interminable bureaucracy, very high stress and kids that really don't want to be taught and have no concept of discipline, teaching becomes a

      • by mwfolsom (234049) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @10:37AM (#26652953)

        You said:
        Paying enough that teaching appeals to people in it for the money is risky.

        I'm sorry but at best this is silly. Its the logic that has been used for years to underpay teachers. I live with a 4th grade teacher, my mother was a special ed teacher, my sister was a music teacher and their salaries were/are all horrible. They all had/have Master's degree and I make 2x what they make/made. I personally would teach but the household can't afford the salary cut.

        If we are going to apply the principle that you espouse - that people need to suffer to teach to the teaching profession we should do the same thing to others such as doctors, lawyers, and engineers of all kinds. Surely we want them to be passionate about their jobs just like teachers!

    • Re:What?! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:04AM (#26651681)

      Also, it would be nice to raise the public awareness about the importance of the teaching profession. One of the main pillars of the future of a country is currently seen as just a simple job anyone can do.

      Just my humble opinion, and I'm sorry if I offended you.

      I agree with your comments, and would add:

      Parents need to take an positive, active role in their child's education

      I know a lot of teachers, and they have far too many stories about parents who whine:

      "It's your fault my little darling is failing. You aren't doing enough. What are you going to do to get them to pass?"

      Of course, the parent has been told repeatedly that their darling cuts class, fails to turn in work, is high in class, misses makeup tests, etc., and there response is to do nothing and continue to blame the teachers.

      Not to mention those that try to call teachers at home, on weekends, etc. Even though any teacher with half a brain doesn't give out home numbers parents find them any way.

      I couldn't teach, because the first time I got that "What are we going to do?" crap I'd tell them unless they got a mouse in their pocket there isn't any we in this. And flunk their sorry kid.

      Call me at home and you're likely to discover your phone number has been mistaken for a free sex number.

      No wonder many of the good ones leave for other jobs where they don't have to take all this crap.

      • Re:What?! (Score:4, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:39AM (#26651889)

        Call me at home and you're likely to discover your phone number has been mistaken for a free sex number.

        Um, tell me more about these 'free sex numbers'. I'd, er, also like to give these out instead of my home number..

      • by jbolden (176878)

        Setting parental expectations is something that schools need to do. Parents need to know what their part of education is. And maybe someone should talk to the "little darling" and find out why they dislike school so much: too easy, too hard, wrong subject matter. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect a school to try and engage a student.

    • Re:What?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nevern (1464289) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:34AM (#26651865)
      I agree with the improvements listed, but you should know that schools are reluctant to hire teachers with Master's degrees or higher. Due to the contracts they have to be paid more!! Well, they've had more training and know their area of specialty better, so what do you expect? The benefits to the students are also higher. When push comes to shove The Budget rules all.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tinkerghost (944862)

        schools are reluctant to hire teachers with Master's degrees or higher.

        What a strange place you live in. In MA & NY you are required to have a Masters degree within 2 years of starting teaching. With that 5-6 years of school, you may make as much as 45K after 6 years - in a state with one of the highest costs of living in the nation. All of this sets up a situation where the only people who stay teachers are those with a passion for teaching children. Everyone else moves into corporate training where t

    • According to the American Federation of Teachers, the average salary for a teacher in 2006-2007 was $51,009. That is for a nine month job. That means that when pro-rated, the average teacher salary for a year would be about $68,000. According to Wikipedia, the median personal income for people with a Bachelor's Degree or higher and employed full time in 2005 was $56,078. That to me indicates that teacher's salaries are about right.
    • Re:What?! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Maxwell'sSilverLART (596756) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @11:25AM (#26653671) Homepage

      - Firing for gross incompetence. As works with just about everyone else.
      - Requiring a higher level of knowledge and teaching abilities.

      So...abolish the NEA?

  • Frist psot? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @07:33AM (#26651497)
    I agree totally.

    The use of F/OSS software in education at ALL levels would be a total boon for IT education across the board. Interest in alternative licensing, for example GNU Public and Creative Commons would be tremendously beneficial in this age of free information sharing and distribution.

    I distinctly remember a question on a sample IT GCSE paper from when I was at school, related to anti-virus software:

    Q. Your friend tells you that his computer has a virus, and wants help. What do you do?
    A. Tell him to purchase an anti-virus product.
    B. Tell him to send you the virus so you can scan it with your anti-virus software.
    C. Give your friend a copy of your anti-virus software.
    D. Tell your friend to download a "cracked" anti-virus program from the internet.

    I selected C and got it wrong. I spent 25 minutes arguing with my IT teacher about AVG and free software. He agreed, and told me that the paper was wrong. However, the mark scheme said A. and that's how it was marked.

    No idea if they used that question, or similar, at any point.
    • Not first, so ignore the title.

      Secondly, the ICT Teachers at the school I used to tech for (Midlands, UK) would insist on calling the entire case of the PC the "hard disk" even in class. I felt so sorry for those kids, but I couldn't say anything about it. It's what the spec said.
      • by Octorian (14086)

        Even more people, including those that should know better, call the entire case "The CPU." I'm sorry, but "The CPU" hasn't filled an entire case since the pre-microcomputer era.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lahvak (69490)

        That reminds me of a story that was supposed to happen sometimes in late 80's in Prague. The police tried to confiscate a dissident's computer (I believe the dissident was actually Vaclav Havel). They took the keyboard and the monitor, writing them down in the report as "computer" and "TV". They left the main body on his desk, telling him that "he can keep the amplifier".

    • AVG not free (Score:4, Informative)

      by Locklin (1074657) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @09:45AM (#26652353) Homepage
      From AVG free edition's Licence agreement:

      Any commercial use of the software, and any resale or further distribution of the software, other than as expressly authorized by this agreement, constitutes a material breach of this agreement and may violate applicable copyright laws.

      Looks like you were advocating copyright infringement. Clamwin [clamwin.com] is the only Free Software virus scanner I know of.

    • by jbolden (176878)

      Teachers are bureaucrats, the right answer is irrelevant. They are verifying you understand the curriculum not what is true.

  • by ChienAndalu (1293930) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @07:39AM (#26651541)

    Here in Germany, I never experienced any hostility towards open source software in the educational system.

    The universities are quite supportive of open source and lend their infrastructure to host mirrors for various distributions.

  • Priorities (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abigsmurf (919188) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:06AM (#26651699)

    You could write a list several pages long about what teachers 'need' to know or the teach, each of them is a huge deal to someone somewhere. Schools teach HTML using tags that would make the W3C tear their hair out, few schools teach proper web safty or how to more effectively use search engines, there's only ever a narrow range of programs taught etc.

    Each of these things is a big issue but all these things can never be resolved. You only have so many school hours in a day to teach people. Yes learning CSS alongside HTML would be good, but that takes time and is harder to teach. Yes teaching OO alongside Office would be beneficial but again that takes more time.

    There's only so much you can teach classes before students either get overloaded with too much info in too little time or you have to push something out.

    It's why so many places force teachings of things like slavery or the holocaust. You can't cover all of world history in a history class so you have to prioritise some things at the expense of others.

  • by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:09AM (#26651711)

    Why do we expect this to be different than everything else? New things are initially feared and only approached slowly. It's the way we've done it since the dawn of time.

    Techies are on the bleeding edge of everything and keep themselves informed constantly. But just like I don't follow car news, most people don't follow computer news. They don't have any clue what 'open source' really means and they don't care!

    The solution isn't to call them names, the solution is to just keep educating people about it... Slowly.

    Open Source has been gaining momentum lately. It used to be it was 'free and able to be modified, but poor quality'.

    Recently, I've seen a change. It's now 'free and able to be modified, and almost as good as commercial software'.

    I believe it will soon be 'free and better than commercial software'. I certainly like Kubuntu better than Windows and OS X, and I used to really hate Linux because it was such a pain in the ass all the time. I just wanted to do things, I didn't want to constantly reconfigure the system and deal with all the broken bits from the latest update. Kubuntu still has a lot of that, but it only happens every 6 months, instead of every few days like it used to. (Debian Stable was -not- stable. And Slackware was much worse.)

    Open source has definitely taken over for anyone who 'gets it'. At this moment, I've got Firefox, OpenOffice.org, Aptana (based on Eclipse), VLC, and Kate running on OS X. The only commercial apps I run now are ones that don't really have a replacement, like Pages (company requirement for internal docs), and a few that are just plain better than the alternatives, like VMWare. (I've fought and fought with VirtualBox, and I'm done.)

    But to expect non-techies to know all of this all the time is absurd. Most of the advancements that make my system possible came in the last couple years. That is a -short- timespan for learning about new things that aren't in your realm of knowledge.

    In fact, I see posts on /. all the time talking about how someone put OO.o on a family member's computer and just didn't tell them it wasn't Office because they couldn't explain the difference. If techies can't explain it to their family, why do we expect teachers to know automatically?

    And 'sorely in need' of an education in open source? That a personal agenda and not something that is necessary at all. Kids will learn about open source on their own, no matter whether a teacher says it is bad or not.

  • Cost, Maintenance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ehaggis (879721) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:10AM (#26651719) Homepage Journal
    As an IT Manager for a school, I was able to roll out several open source solutions - Edubuntu (for a low cost scalable lab with low end equipment), open source groupware, firewall, proxy, content filter, Thunderbird,Firefox, linux kiosks and more. Teachers and administrators don't care if there is proper training and the bottom line is low. Children don't know the difference between closed and open source either.
  • by dangitman (862676) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:13AM (#26651727)

    This seems to be alarmingly biased. It's more about bashing teachers than anything else. Are teachers, as a whole, any less informed about Open Source than the general public? I don't think so.

    This is just taking a couple of alleged incidents, with no real proof that they happened, and turning it into a political screed. So why is it that the teachers bear all the responsibility, when it is not even part of their curriculum?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hitest (713334)
      I am an elementary school teacher, I teach a grade 4/5 classroom. I have a small computer lab (20 computers) in my classroom consisting of a mix of Windows, OS X, and Linux. I've built up the lab over the years on spare, throw away computers. At home I run Slackware and FreeBSD. My students are not intimidated by technology and adapt easily to a variety of desktops, OSs. I've run Linux/Unix for 6-7 years; I'm self taught with no formal IT background. Sadly, many of my colleagues do not understand the co
    • by Locklin (1074657)

      Are teachers, as a whole, any less informed about Open Source than the general public? I don't think so.

      Not that it's the teacher's fault, but if FLOSS advocates want to change anything, Teachers should be more informed than the general public.

  • If $150 breaks the bank, then you need to reconsider how you are going to college. Especially if you are going to be spending all of that money on a degree like an English degree. Too many people are going to college when they can't afford it or shouldn't be going there, and $150 is chump change compared to what even in-state tuition costs. Especially when you consider the fact that these Microsoft licenses are one-time deals for the entire duration of college.

    • by Locklin (1074657)
      When I was in Undergrad, there were times when $150 would "break the bank." Considering that to do my science degree on all proprietary software, I would have needed licenses for more than just office software -it all adds up pretty fast.

      Too many people are going to college when they can't afford it or shouldn't be going there

      I would prefer *not* going back to a system where only the rich get educated. If anything, it should go the other way: more stringent admittance policies and lower tuition.

  • expose them (Score:3, Insightful)

    by speedtux (1307149) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:19AM (#26651781)

    I don't see why people are letting teachers like "Karen" remain anonymous. These people are paid for by tax dollars and are responsible to the public. If they promote commercial software to students and write nasty letters to non-profits, the public has a right to know.

    Rather than getting into a pissing contest with her, he should just have said thank you, posted the letter on his blog, and sent a copy to the pta.

  • by raving griff (1157645) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:31AM (#26651853)
    An example of this scenario: Earlier this year, the principal of my school got on the intercom in order to make a very important announcement: that Firefox was "some sort of proxy" and that any students caught using it or installing it on any school computer would be immediately suspended for a one-week period. That had to have been the most WTF thing I've heard from the administration on opensource software.
    • I felt lazy and wanted some free credit, so I took an intro to Linux class. I thought it would be a breeze considering I've been using Linux for so long. I had no idea how many things [according to the school] I apparently do wrong. Rather than an obnoxiously long list, here's my absolute favorite:

      "I want you to get into the habit of logging in as root"

      ):
  • I hate a lot of teachers as much as the next person. Having done a few years of IT support in education I know all too well how dire some of them can be especially when it comes to computers.

    But there has to be a realisation that not all teachers need to use IT to teach their subject and more importantly, to them, knowledge of open source software is completely and utterly irrelevant knowledge for what they need to do their job. There's a lot of things that different people suggest teachers need an educatio

    • by mblase (200735)

      If OSS wants to break further into education

      You can stop right there, actually.

      In my experience, the only education most OSS developers are interested in providing begins and ends with the acronym "RTFM."

      • by jbolden (176878)

        B.S. The user forms for most open source software packages are far nicer and more helpful than those for commercial software. The open source community does a good job of support around products. Open source developers are much more accessible to resolve problems than commercial developers. But you shouldn't be talking to the developer (as opposed to say a forum) about something that is in the manual. Escalation should be reasonable.

        Unless you are paying for an expensive support contract you quite ofte

  • by quetwo (1203948) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:49AM (#26651941) Homepage

    What teachers really need is :
      - Basic computer training. You would be amazed as to how many still can't figure out basic things like email, powerpoint or other similar 'basic' applications
      - Updated material. I was talking with a friend who is still in high-school, and his civics book still has no mention of the 42nd or 43rd President. Oh, yeah, and his European Culture class still has a chapter about the Berlin Wall -- an object that hasn't been apart of European culture since before he was born.
      - More salary. Many of the bankers went before congress defending their massive bonuses and payouts to employees using bailout money in order to retain the best talent. How are we ever going to get the best talent into teaching if we pay them slightly above minimum wage?! Show me a teacher that hasn't reached tenure who isn't struggling, and I'll show you a person who must have married rich.
      - Better Student/Parent relationships. If teachers wouldn't be spending all their time baby-sitting, they could actually teach relevant stuff. School isn't a place where kids learn, it's a place kids > age of 5 go for the day while mommy and daddy are at work.

    Once these issues are fixed, then maybe teachers could spend some time learning about the latest FOSS craze.

  • ... or maybe speed metal. He sure knows how to bang it. His rants remind me of Queen Kat (Katherine Thomas).

    I don't disagree with all his arguments, but he manages to come off as so histrionic that even people like me already in the choir don't want to listen to him. How can this guy ever come across as rational to people who aren't already in complete agreement?

  • ...when we still have science teachers denying evolution and the occasional history teacher downplaying the Holocaust? Let's get those educational issues straightened out first, and then we can worry about Linux which, let's be honest, is far less essential to the average high school diploma.

  • by LaminatorX (410794) <sabotage.praecantator@com> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @09:06AM (#26652069) Homepage

    In my current work, I actually train school IT staff and administrators on the use of an automated phone calling system and batch database synching tool. Some are competant and professional. Some are clearly the office secretary in a little school who has sadly had this thrust upon her. Many fall into the following category:

    • Age: early 50's to early 60's, trailing edge of the Baby Boom.
    • Education: Original BA in Education or Math, acquired decades ago. Possibly an MA in Education earned in the late 80's or early 90s.
    • IT Qualifications: Did some retraining in the 90's when the school computerized in order to get out of the classroom or counseling office and get a raise. Likely an A+ or MCSE, supplemented by basic vendor training on their student database.
    • Job Role: Most time is spent fixing the same five problems caused by computer semi-literate colleagues teachers or playing students over and over again. Occasionally a large task like a new grading software or office suite rollout comes along, and is completely overwhealming for months.

    This profile, while a stereotype, is a significant portion of the "IT Professionals" in primary and secondary ed field today. They're adequate for performing the basic day-to-day tasks in front of them, but when you get outside of their comfort zone they're lost. They get hassled and/or blamed for any surprises that come along, and as such are extremely gunshy about anything unfamilliar.

    Their approach is calcified and overly cautious, as any changes, even beneficial ones, tax their time to the limit. It may well be that major inroads of F/OSS into education will either have to be mandated from the top down, or wait until most of these people retire and are placed by people who have a modern IT background.

  • The thing I love about free products is that I can easily recommend them to my students. I can't do that with commercial software. This is because a) software vendors do their own advertising, and b) it's very easy for me to sit there and spend kids' money that they may or may not have. The ability to recommend software to students would be a big plus for any teacher I know. I think it should be presented that way to teachers. Now of course this applies to the higher level applications, not so much to

  • Teachers need an education.

    fixed that one too !
  • by pongo000 (97357) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @10:50AM (#26653141)

    I teach high school, and I consider myself something of an OSS expert...I've been using OSS since the 90's (actually made some money from it working in the industry for several years), several consulting gigs related to OSS, currently a developer on a couple of active OSS projects. I don't believe I fit the mold of your typical "OSS-challenged" teacher. But the problem I have is finding like-minded teachers who have a clue about how to integrate OSS technology in the classroom. My school district has taken some baby steps in this regard (they have a Moodle installation I'm helping with, and I use OSS tools in every one of my CS classes without fear of reprisal).

    So, where do the teachers hang out who not only know how to spell "OSS" but are also actively promoting OSS in the public school system?

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