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Old Software or Open Source? 454

Pakled writes "I teach a high school multimedia course. We were scheduled to get new software this year but due to several pointy haired bosses, no software was ordered. The software I have to teach is Flash 5, Dreamweaver 2000, Photoshop 7 and (god help me) Movie Maker. The question is: is it better to teach old commercial software or their open source counterparts (Komposer, Gimp, etc.)? Is the steep learning curve and slightly less uniform design worth a little student frustration to teach them software written in the past 5 years?"
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Old Software or Open Source?

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  • by notaspunkymonkey ( 984275 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:43PM (#21586161)
    Yes, next question?...
    • by trainman ( 6872 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:47PM (#21586227) Homepage
      Agreed. This person came to slashdot to ask such a question?

      It'd be like asking Larry Ellison, "So, I have this old version of Oracle we use in the classroom, but I want to upgrade to something newer. Tell me about this MySQL thing I keep hearing about...."

      Heaven help us if RMS ever gets wind of this article....
      • by notaspunkymonkey ( 984275 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @01:08PM (#21586599)
        Having been modded as redundant I feel need to elaborate. (Sorry was in a strange rush to get my first ever first post) We are talking about high school children now - and as such the emphasis is surely on the do's and don't of good graphic design, its about teaching kids good techniques, and style. This in my opinion is best performed using tools which are freely available to the children so that they can go away and practice what they have been taught. Using the latest version of Photoshop is likely to hinder their ability to practice as not many highschool kids in my experiance have the money to drop on the latest and greatest Adobe produce, sure they can go and download a copy from a torrent site - but is this something which we should encourage, all be it indirectly. If you use GIMP and the other Open Source software which are freely available, they can practice techniques and gain a good insight into the design - before they go on and perfect those skills in higher education. Where they may have the budget to purchase the latest over priced packages.
        • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @01:21PM (#21586827) Journal
          Having been modded as redundant I feel need to elaborate

          That was priceless! Thanks, you made my day! As to your point, I agree completely. What's wrong with pencils and rulers? The newest software will be out of date by the time these kids get out of college.

          All a REAL artist needs is mud and a stick, and he can do without either in a pinch. You have to learn to see before you can learn to render.

          -mcgrew []
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by claytonjr ( 1142215 )

          I think the purpose of high school is to prepare young adults for the so called real world. That being said, I would recommend using Photoshop. It would be a real disappointment to know that you taught the kids all about GIMP, but they could not take their GIMP skills to the local web design company.

          However, I think it is also wise to teach diversity. I would recommend also teaching GIMP and maybe a few other software packages, for the purpose of literacy for many different graphics packages available.

          • by aonaran ( 15651 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:27PM (#21588717) Homepage
            There is a lot to be learned about the GIMP that also applies to Photoshop. ...and these in my opinion are the skills they ought to be learning. Learn how to use layers, masks, channels, the pen tool, not which keyboard shortcut does what (you can change those anyway, this isn't 1987).

            Besides, they can't take just a high school diploma to most design firms anyway, they are only just learning the basics, and design concepts that you could apply with paint and construction paper if needed. The high level nitty gritty details of how to smooth one's workflow by learning the specifics of a certain version of software isn't something they really need to worry about at this stage.

            Besides, by the time they are finished their education CS3 will be just as outdated as PS7 is now, so there is no real advantage to upgrading when the features they'd gain aren't really what they should be concentrating on anyway.

            Use the GIMP or use PS7 it doesn't matter really, they both have the features the kids need, but I am with the others who say using the GIMP in the classroom makes it easier for the kids to get and use the same software at home.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          "...Using the latest version of Photoshop is likely to hinder their ability to practice as not many highschool kids in my experiance have the money to drop on the latest and greatest Adobe..."

          Technically, there's nothing wrong with Photoshop 5. Version 10/CS3 has many more bells and whistles but for high school students learning the ropes they could use Photoshop LE (aka v5 OEM), which was included when I purchased a $50 graphics tablet and again when I bought a $75 scanner.
        • by nuelo ( 1081331 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:27PM (#21588707) Journal
          You are talking about high school here? This isn't a College prep course for the "real world". They aren't going to get a job at a high paying graphic design firm right out of 12th grade! Come on! Just use what you have and if you want to introduce the free tools as well - go ahead. PhotoShop is a highly specialized tool used by professionals IN THE FEILD. If they want to learn PhotoShop they should have to take a corporate course or graphic design college.
          Besides that fact, Whether you do get PhotoShop CS3 or not, in 4 years when they start looking for a job it will be obsolete anyway. The only difference between PhotoShop 7 and CS2 is a couple more features to convert it to bloatware and THAT'S IT! Say thank you that you even have those older programs. Students in Africa and Asia struggle to find a computer running Windows 95!!!
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by thoughtlover ( 83833 )
            "You are talking about high school here? This isn't a College prep course for the "real world". They aren't going to get a job at a high paying graphic design firm right out of 12th grade! Come on!"

            Actually, you are horribly wrong. Anyone can get a job in the creative field, even with little or no 'academic or professional experience'. Why? Because if your portfolio is f#*&ing kick-ass, any company will see that and hire that person, period. I know several people that have tons of experience, but the
        • The software is just a tool.

          Classes at this level should be teaching technique and understanding of the underlying theory.

          Asking the question "Photoshop or Gimp for computer art class" is like asking "Stanley or Estwing hammer for woodwork class".

          The woodwork teacher teaches the kids how to hit the nail squarely on the head, not what brand of hammer to swing.


    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kermyt ( 99494 )
      am I the only one that sees the irony of labeling a first post as redundant?
    • by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @02:59PM (#21588301) Journal
      NO. My answer is NO. Do not teach DreamWeaver 5, or Quanta or NVu or Photoshop or GIMP. Do not do it, STOP doing it.

      What you should do instead is to teach about web developing (HTML, etc), image manipulation, etc. If you teach only how to press x or y button you will be robbing the students because when the next version of X program goes out they wont do how to achieve that misterious effect the teacher shown them how to achieve which made the picture look better.

      You do not need to teach them the science of what they are doing (i.e., no need for an extensive programming class, just HTML and the basics of web design). But you could very well teach them the concepts and apply the conecpts in your "old" propietary software and the "new" open source. In that way, they will be able to onder the benefits and disbenefits of each tool.

  • Either/Or (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s_clarke1 ( 1198113 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:44PM (#21586169) Homepage Journal
    In my opinion, a gathering of both would be far better... I mean, realistically in the commercial world, it tends to be the "high flyers" which companies go for, (Photoshop, Flash etc) however, teaching students the opensrouce alternatives, gives them a better feel for newer software, and shows them how adaptions have been made.
    • Re:Either/Or (Score:5, Interesting)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:52PM (#21586351)
      I'd second this but for a different reason. First an anecdote. Long ago when I was taking freshman physics lab, they gave us the worlds crappiest equipment to do classic physics experiments. Why? Not because they were cheap. On the contrary, keeping that crap working must have cost a lot. No the point was this was about education on how to do science not proving the results of those experiments.

      There were two reasons. 1) we needed to learn how to do data analysis in the presence of noise. 2) the next big science experiment is always done on tools not quite right to do it.

      So it depends on what you want to teach your kids. You might be interested in the graphic arts product. You might be interested in vocational training on current industrial standard tools. Or you might be interested in teaching them how to coax an application to do something it was not really meant to do. Or even you might want them to lift the hood and build the next great graphics art tool.

      If it's either of the latter then open source. If it's the first then both. If it's the vocational training then go with the older but more standard tools.

    • Wake up (Score:3, Insightful)

      by krog ( 25663 )
      Your students are far better off using tools that people used 8 years ago, than tools that no one uses today.

      In particular, anyone who suggests using the GIMP over any moderately recent version of Photoshop for serious work should be sacked, tarred, feathered and shipped to Guantanamo. Photoshop 7 is light years ahead of GIMP today, and I will bet anyone here $5 that it's way ahead of where GIMP will be in ten years. (GIMP will then be twice as old, and if it's twice as good then it will still suck rod.)

      • Re:Wake up (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <slashdot AT pitabred DOT dyndns DOT org> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @01:05PM (#21586565) Homepage
        $5? Wow, you certainly are sure of your convictions.

        Just because you don't like GIMP doesn't mean that it's useless. I find it easier to use than Photoshop. The only problem with it is if you think the Windows way of thinking is the only way to think. But hey, that's what schools are for, right, teach kids what to do, rather than how to think.
      • I just discovered that GIMP has a clone tool. I could easily retouch a picture. Agreed, the UI is obnoxious as hell, but it has advanced.

        BTW, Krita (from KOffice) is still behind GIMP (no script-fu), but it's running much faster in the multimedia race, and it already supports CMYK and 16bit color space.

        That said, yes, it's sad that FOSS multimedia tools are years behind their commercial counterparts.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by krog ( 25663 )
          GIMP has certainly advanced over the years, but retains a fundamental brokenness of UI design. If the UI were fed into a chipper-shredder and some good human interface designers stepped in, GIMP might well roll over Photoshop, or at least come to be considered a legitimate alternative to Photoshop, rather than a Photoshopalike For Zealots.
          • Re:Wake up (Score:5, Interesting)

            by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @02:16PM (#21587701)
            You know I see this stated every time someone mentions GIMP. And rarely is it backed it up with anything factual. At best, people say it sucks because it's not photoshop. Well, by that lame definition, every application in the world sucks, save only one. Hardly a defensible position.

            What is so bad about GIMP?? I've used it for very simple purposes. I'm not a professional. I'm equally lost in GIMP as I am Photoshop. And unless you use one or the other every day, you are too; unless you are spinning one for us.

            Maybe it's because I'm not a professional artist, I remain ignorant of the details for more complex, day to day operations? But then again, that should tell you the interface isn't fundamentally broken. Why? Because otherwise people wouldn't be able to intuit the interface as experience grows, just as people do with Photoshop. And frankly, I have used it enough now to do all the basic things I need to do without any trouble.

            As a side note, I know professional photographers (they get paid big bucks for their work) which use GIMP without trouble. Does this mean it's ready for all photographers? No. What he does is a niche for sure. Nonetheless, with a zero digital editing background, he figured how to do what he needs to do with little effort or pain. This again suggests you're fighting a common bias rather than a fundamental UI flaw.

            To be clear, I am not advocating GIMP's interface is the best thing since sliced bread. All I'm saying is it's different but I'm certainly not seeing anything bad; which is in stark contrast to the commonly offered opinion here.
            • Re:Wake up (Score:4, Interesting)

              by krog ( 25663 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @02:34PM (#21587959) Homepage
              Read paragraph 2 of this post [] for but one example of GIMP's UI travesty.

              To me, the GIMP UI is just too clumsy and labyrinthine to prefer it over Photoshop. Just about all the features I want exist in GIMP; getting to them and using them is where I get angry. This mostly stems from GIMP's rootless design, a central decision which has hindered GIMP's adoption more than any other single attribute of the program.

              Again, I would like to make clear that I am glad GIMP exists. In fact, I will even go so far as to say that Script-Fu kicks huge ass, and I miss its absence in Photoshop. I just find the GIMP to be a far less user-efficient tool than Photoshop in all other cases.
            • I can't easily draw outlines of geometric shapes such as circles and squares. Right click menus aren't very context sensitive.
            • Re:Wake up (Score:5, Insightful)

              by raddan ( 519638 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @04:07PM (#21589209)
              Part of the problem is that very few professional designers (e.g., print designers) are also cognizant enough about software design to explain to a GIMP developer what the problems are. I am only vaguely aware of some of these issues; my main problem wihth the GIMP boils down to palettes not being truly floating. I can live with the right-click-to-do-anything mode. But designers need to do some additional things: full control of color space (RAW, CMYK, spot colors), they need color space histograms, they need to be able to easily produce color separations, they need to be able to easily put together batch transformations, they need some sophisticated marquis tools, they need to be able to mix raster and vector art, have access to Postscript, TrueType, and now OpenType fonts, and so on. I do not know if these things are available in the GIMP, because I am not a designer, nor do I regularly use the GIMP. But that's just to point out that designers do need specialized tools.

              Also-- the GIMP is ugly to these people. As a programmer, I find certain elements very elegant. Most designers couldn't care less that you can write GIMP plugins in Perl; they're irritated that when they double-click on an image in InDesign, it doesn't automatically come up for editing in the GIMP. Some of these issues are petty-- but in my experience, designers tend to work in a more immediate-feeling, less rational domain. Appearance is important-- after all, they're paid because they have a highly developed aesthetic sense. Programmers are so horrendously square to many of them.

              Adobe's stuff is expensive, and in many cases overrated, but they have indeed put a lot of thought into the workflow (e.g., integration between DTP app and photo editor) and appearance, and for a lot of people, this is all that matters. These facts combined with certain mailing list posts that lead me to believe that some GIMP developers suffer from a bit of a 'high horse' syndrome lead me to believe that this is why GIMP is not universally accepted, despite the fact that it is a highly capable application.
            • Re:Wake up (Score:5, Insightful)

              by lifebouy ( 115193 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @07:08PM (#21591277) Journal
              I gotta say, as a professional, Gimp is not there yet. It's not photoshop, and it's not close. I'm a big supporter of Gimp. I use it all the time. I use it because it's Free. But Photoshop is simply better, from a usability standpoint. It's not that I cannot do in the Gimp what I can do in Photoshop, because for the most part I can. It's that the Gimp is not as intuitive as Photoshop. As a consequence, getting things done is much slower in the Gimp, generally speaking. On top of that, there's always something wrong with the Gimp. I've never had it Just Work(TM), not under windows, not under linux. Now, I've been using them almost equally (I've actually used the Gimp more, honestly) for at least 7 years, and Gimp for longer than that. So I'm not just coming out of left field.
              The main two issues with the Gimp are that the various windows not in a single container (Yeah, GimpShop. It sucks, too) and the lack of a good layer system. Nested layers and layer folders are a must, no room for debate. Acting on multiple layers is inconsistent, and that most definitely is unacceptable. For any aspect of the Gimp, as soon as you find yourself fighting the interface, the interface is broken and needs to be fixed. I find myself constantly fighting the window sizes, and constantly find myself looking for pieces of the interface that dropped behind another window. That sucks, and is bad design. I know it's a Unix-ism. But it's still bad design.
              Having said all that, let me just say I love the Gimp, and kudos to all who have worked to make it what it is. Which is pretty awesome, but not good enough for professional design, considering the competition.
          • Re:Wake up (Score:5, Informative)

            by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @02:34PM (#21587957)

            If the UI were fed into a chipper-shredder and some good human interface designers stepped in
            that's being done for 2.6. they've hired a UI design company called MMIWorks to redesign the GUI.

            and the switch to GEGL will take care of the 8-bits-per-channel limit.

            then again, this all could be excessive optimism and nothing will really change in 2.6.
      • Re:Wake up (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @01:12PM (#21586679) Journal

        I agree with much of what you say, but disagree with the conclusions. If you do not expose your students to tools they are likely to be using in the workplace, you are likely to do them a disservice, but it depends a lot on how long it will be until the use them professionally. What age does high school start? In the USA, I believe it's age 14. Assuming the students then go on to do a degree (typically 4 years in the USA) then they will be 22 by the time they are looking for a job. Eight years is a long time in software. There is about the same difference between the office apps I was taught at age 14 and OpenOffice as there is between them and Microsoft Office. I was taught Paint Shop Pro (3, I think) at school and it has about as much in common with The GIMP as it does with a recent Photoshop.

        Teaching two or more tools will put students in much better position to learn new tools later. If they understand what they are doing, rather than how the tool is used, then they will be much better able to adjust later.

        Dreamweaver and Flash are also non-negotiable components of any web authoring introduction.
        Remember, this is high school, not a vocational college. An understanding of HTML would serve them a lot better than using any WYSIWYG tool, particularly an understanding of the CSS box model. The tools change, but the basic assumptions remain valid. I was taught some WYWIWYG tool that no longer exists, but I was also taught the basics of SGML. Guess which I've found more useful.
  • Suggestion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:44PM (#21586185)
    Well, is a little of both an option? For some of them at least. Flash 5 is almost a completely different program from the modern versions of flash, the actionscript has changed almost entirely, and the layout is very different. The other legacy programs still have *some* semebelence to their newer versions, so letting them get their feet wet might be a good idea. However, you can present it in a way "this is what photoshop looked like a couple years ago and it still looks pretty similar. Due to restrictions we can't show you a current copy, however here is a free alternative called gimp that can do all of the same things, and you can play with it at home!"
  • by king-manic ( 409855 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:45PM (#21586191)
    Although Gimp resembles Photoshop it isn't the same. Some skills are transferable but if you are teaching graphic design it's silly to teach anything other then what industry uses. It means they must relearn many skills once they enter the job market. If your teaching at a higher more theoretical level then it might be acceptable because more of it transfers. But if it's a trades school or technical college you're better off teaching the actual industry tools regardless of cost.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:53PM (#21586363) Homepage Journal
      A person who understands theory can figure out anything. A person who learns how to click a specific button in a specific place is useless.
      It's not a vocational school, so don't teach to a vocation.
      • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @01:18PM (#21586783)

        A person who understands theory can figure out anything. A person who learns how to click a specific button in a specific place is useless. It's not a vocational school, so don't teach to a vocation.
        Exactly. I was about to say about the same thing. The original question seems to imply -- and by "seems to imply" I really mean "states clearly" -- that the class in question is a high school multimedia class. There are a lot of commenters saying that these kids won't be ready to earn a living as web designers, graphic artists and video editors with the skills they learn if they don't get "trained" on the right software. But I suspect that the majority of them will not actually pursue such a career, and those who do will go on to additional schooling before looking for a job. Additionaly, learning FOSS software would be very helpful for those that don't, since your average amateur dabbler can't afford/justify the costs of professional software just for an avocation.
    • by flewp ( 458359 )
      I haven't used the Gimp in years, but I can see it be using to teach the ideas. While it may not have the same exact tools and features, if it can be used to teach the ideas and concepts, it might be a viable alternative.

      That said, given that PS is THE standard in the industry, I would say it's best to teach with it. Not only can you teach the theory behind everything, you can also teach the program they'd actually be using. People here on /. may not like to hear it, but the Gimp is NOT a viable alt
    • Wait... so if he teaches them Photoshop 7 [], they'll be better prepared to use Photoshop CS3 [] than if they learned with GIMP? The interfaces are completely different, so they'll have to re-learn things anyway. Why not let them use a modern tool to learn on?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by swillden ( 191260 )

      if you are teaching graphic design it's silly to teach anything other then what industry uses.

      What you'd really like to teach is what industry will be using when the students hit the workforce in 2-7 years. But obviously you can't use what doesn't exist, so the next best thing (according to your philosophy) is to teach what industry is using now. Except that's not an option either. Instead, all that's available is either the open source tools or what industry was using 5 years ago. So, you can teach on commercial tools that will be a decade (!) out of date by the time the kids hit the job mark

  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:45PM (#21586197)
    The question is: is it better to teach old commercial software or their open source counterparts (Komposer, Gimp, etc.)?

    What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to teach them design or are you trying to train them in the use of software programs to accomplish any old goal?

    If you're trying to teach them design principles in general, then I don't see what the difference is between outdated commercial software and their OSS counterparts. If you're trying to teach them to use software skills in software packages they are likely to see in the real world/college after graduation then that's not the best way to go about it.

    If you're trying to teach both, I really don't know what to tell you. Probably retool a bit to put more emphasis on the design part and less on the use of specific software. Design skills change but not like specific software needs.

    Good luck.
    • what does it matter what side you use as long as it does what you require? is Gimp enough for you to teach students how to do something or is an older proprietary solution superior in this regard? If you can get away with using OSS equivalents than by all means go for it- maybe note a few things about the older proprietary software [eg. in gimp you do this but in photoshop you...] there's not really much sense in going with a piece of software because it is more familiar and yet doesn't do what you want n
    • by AmaDaden ( 794446 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @01:00PM (#21586485)
      I think the key is that he/she is trying to teach. I just recently graduated from college and had to use A LOT of very expensive impressive software. I would have loved to do some of it from home and to continue to learn about things on my own. But I was not going to spend $1000 to play with some software. So the result? I STOPPED LEARNING THAT STUFF. Go for things the kids can continue to learn from on their own. Plus when working on my own I've gotten better (and free) help on Open Source stuff then on other types of software. So unless you plan to be their only teacher on the subject, use as much Open Source as you can. Only if you cant find an Open Source version should you use the pay for stuff.
  • Concepts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kevin_conaway ( 585204 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:45PM (#21586201) Homepage

    Use whatever software allows you to teach the concepts to your students in the easiest manner. The tools change much faster than the concepts so don't fret too much about which tool to use. Whichever one is easier for you to use and teach with, use that

    • I couldn't agree more with the parent's first sentence. As a teacher, I think teaching the concepts that underlie these programs is much, much more effective than having the students memorize icons and menus. It still ruffles my feathers when I see classes entitled "Learning Dreamweaver" instead of "Basic Web Site Design." Should we rename "Beginning Painting" to "Learning to Use the Silver Brush® Grand Prix(TM) Super Brush"?
  • No wonder why the dropout rates are so high!
  • I would use both. The Open Source stuff is not too bad and increasingly used. Having one (painful) session with the old stuff will mean they will not be shocked when they are face to face with it in the workplace.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:47PM (#21586231)
    Gimp clearly cannot compare with Photoshop, and you'd be hard pressed to find Gimp in any professional office. If these students intend to find work with their skills, then Photoshop by far is the best option of the two.
  • doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:48PM (#21586237)
    it doesn't matter, just don't teach them the program, but teach them what the program does.
    It doesn't matter if its gimp or photoshop, just as long as you know what the diffrent between ansharpen mask, blur and gaussian blur is.
  • Both... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert@slashdot. f i r e n z e> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:48PM (#21586243) Homepage
    It's probably worth teaching the students on a selection of software, concentrating on "how to get stuff done" rather than on what particular apps to use.

    People who were only taught a single app for a single purpose often have problems adjusting to other programs, they don't understand what features to look for but rather just where to look for them which ofcourse falls over if the software changes, even between different versions of the same application.

    It's also worth considering, even if you teach the most up to date and widely used software today... A lot can change very quickly in software, the apps you teach may not be used anymore when your students go out into the world of work, or there may be much newer versions in use. Conversely, many companies keep using even older versions of apps because they still get the job done.

    So basically teach the widest selection of apps you can, explain the differences and similarities and focus on the job that needs doing rather than the tools for doing it. Also for anything that is open/free provide your students with a copy of it so they can take it home.
  • "Good" students should learn how to learn a variety of applications to accomplish a variety of goals. That way they are comfortable when Version++ appears, some future innovation spawns a new application category, or they work someplace that uses nonstandard IT. Mediocre students should learn the least number of "the magic incantations" that make the dominant vendor's application do the job.

    Get whatever (including open source) for the first group and get Genuine Microsoft/Adobe stuff for the second group.
  • by joshv ( 13017 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:49PM (#21586259)
    Oh come on. Is PS7 really that different than more recent versions? Not really. Better to teach them on old commercially viable software, where there is a real market for the skillset. Very very few people get hired for their skills with the Gimp.
    • by $1uck ( 710826 )
      I think the answer is obvious. Why don't you let the students decide? Explain the situation, explain the pro's and cons. Then put it up to a vote. Even better make the assignments such that they can be accomplished using either tool set and let individual students decide which one they want to use. Obviously this will take a little more effort on your part and will require the students do a little more learning on their own to become familiar with the specific tool they chose.

      After all is said and done
  • Principles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:49PM (#21586263)
    How about teaching your students the principles of what they are going to do, so that (with some acclimatization) they can adapt to any software within the category you've taught.

    For instance, as far as image editing is concerned, it would be nice to talk about brushes and layers, and filters, all the while showing that while different software can have various options, located in various menus, the work can be accomplished on either, as long as the person knows exactly what they are trying to do.

    That way, your students would be more than just click-monkeys, who know little more than what sequence of buttons to push according to a flowchart.

    Because otherwise they will wind up like our Pathology department administrator who, when I suggested that to save the school tens of thousands of dollars a year they should use OpenOffice and discontinue the MSOffice site license, turned to me and asked: "But without MSOffice, how will our people do any work?"
  • Movie Maker (Score:2, Interesting)

    by svo ( 128675 )
    Just out of spite, what would be the free/opensource alternative?
    • Just out of spite, what would be the free/opensource alternative [to Windows Movie Maker]?
      I'm assuming Kino or Cinelerra run inside vmware could substitute in theory, even if its performance might not be sufficient for real-time use.
  • Multimedia course in high school, just great~

    Anywho...Are you teaching them how to use tools or how to get a job?

    I think OS is better because it tends to teach the theory, and it saves school a bucket load of cash. If you goal is to make cogs, go with what you have. If your goal is to make people who can think and achive a high standered, go OS.

    A good painter understand colors, a great painter understands where the colors come from. a Master painter know the breed and care of the animal they get their brush
    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

      A good painter understand colors, a great painter understands where the colors come from. a Master painter know the breed and care of the animal they get their brushes from.

      That's a GOOD analogy there. In fact, I would venture the observation that it applies
      for any skill or trade in question. And I'd be striving to make better "painters" in
      any course that involves the use of computers. Far, far too often the coursework in
      high schools and colleges leans toward just "prepping for the workplace" and making

  • OS is better (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pvt_Ryan ( 1102363 )
    I would go with the OpenSource. It is free (mostly as in beer) and there is generally great community support. You could trial it for a year and if it fails then go back to the old software..

    The biggest hurdle in open source software imo is getting people out of their comfort zone in order to use it.

    In saying that I am slightly bias as I disagree with people using the likes dreamweaver for anything other than RAD. Better to code by hand, you learn more. The number of people I have using dreamweaver/contribu
  • Is the goal to teach them the principles of the software they'll be using, or is it to teach them how to use a certain program? If it's the first, then either should do the job equally well (assuming they're both capable of exemplifying the principles you intend to teach). If it's the latter, then you should clearly use the software that's already there. The next question is one of support--who will be installing/supporting the software? If it's someone else, have you discussed installing OSS on the machine
  • Hardware (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Major Blud ( 789630 ) *
    How old is the hardware? Something to keep in mind is that an older version of Photoshop may run better on older hardware than the latest version of Gimp.
  • to Movie Maker. There is nothing anywhere near that simple to use or basic. The few projects I know of (kdenlive, avidemux) are still overkill by comparison.
  • by ispeters ( 621097 ) <ispeters&alumni,uwaterloo,ca> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:52PM (#21586325)

    I'd hope the class is more about how to use software than it is about how to use this software and, as such, I'd use whichever software you're more comfortable with. If you already have notes and lessons planned around the existing, old software, use that. If you have to make new notes anyway, why not introduce your class to the world of Open Source?


  • In short.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SocialEngineer ( 673690 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [adnapdetrevni]> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:52PM (#21586329) Homepage

    The older software will be your best bet - why? Many places still use older versions of the industry standards. It wasn't until recently that my place of employment upgraded to CS2 on every primary production machine - some machines still had Photoshop 6, and I think we've got one with 5.5 still that some sales reps use (this is at a newspaper). Second, the UI will still be relatively uniform and familiar in subsequent versions.

    It sucks, but better to teach them something they are more likely to encounter in some version or another. Don't hesitate to introduce them to open-source alternatives, but keep in mind that they will rarely be used in a professional environment (cue flames here - I'm an open source user myself, but I have yet to encounter any place that uses The GIMP in any sort of professional high volume production)

  • If you teach them how to do things without teaching them how any one particular application works then the learning curve won't be nearly as bad, and they'll be far more proficient when they go to a new job with a different peice of software and they can just 'pick it up' since you've taught them how to think more about what they're trying to accomplish. If they really know what they are trying to accomplish, figuring out how to get the tool help them do it is a lot less difficult.

    Most people learn how to
  • You should be teaching them what the industry dictates, surely. With the exception of The GIMP, I don't think you've got much choice. If you're teaching them the older versions, it's likely to be more useful to them if they later on get work in the industry that use the newer versions of that software. As opposed to them learning a different GUI, and potentially different software-based concepts.

    Not entirely sure this is the best place to be asking, anyway.
  • It's obvious. Teach them the open source alternatives. Is your job to teach *interfaces* or *skills*? Teaching the skills required to do a half-decent job in video editing, web-design, and image-editing is a greater problem than how to navigate a particular interface. Teach the kids how to look at what they are designing, how to interpret the results of their actions and how to adjust those actions to get the results they want. *Those* skills will carry them much farther than learning a particular interface
  • Dear Choir: (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jimmy_B ( 129296 ) <> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:53PM (#21586371) Homepage
    Dear Choir:
            I teach a high school theology course. We were scheduled to get new books this year but due to several pointy haired bosses, no books were ordered. The books I have to teach are (god help me) pagan scrolls from the 3rd century BC. The question is: is it better to teach old religions or their open text counterparts (Christianity, Hinduism, etc)? Is the steep learning curve and slightly less uniform world view worth a little damnation to teach them religion founded in the past 5000 years?
  • At least with the Open Source software, you can easily give your students a way to use them outside of class and continue to use and grow their knowledge.

    With the commercial software, especially the packages you mentioned, the costs are prohibitive for high school students. So, they would get started in your class, then have no easy way to continue learning or put it to practical use.

    I would try to stick with software that has good multi-platform support, including Windows support, so students can easily
  • Seriously: if you can find a F/OSS package that's analogous to Flash in behaviour and output, then yes, by all means, teach them the F/OSS stuff - they'll learn to think outside the GUI, which will do them no end of good. If, however, you can't find a suitable replacement, then don't. Flash 5 is not even remotely appropriate any more - it bears little to no resemblance to the current versions of Flash. Photoshop 7 is fine, although the layering method has changed a bit: you can now nest them, as well as pla
  • Photoshop 7 is still close enough to CS2 and CS3 that honestly, translating from one to the other isn't much problem. Also, although PS7 is old it's still very powerful and very useful. The learning curve fropm PS7 to PS CS3 will take maybe a week for most people to make the transition -- but GIMP and PS CS3 are like two different planets.
  • Consider This (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sherriw ( 794536 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:56PM (#21586435)
    Since you are talking about highschool and not college, I'd say go with the open source option and touch on the older versions of the commercial software. Here's why...

    -If they find that they enjoy what you are teaching, knowing an open source (and FREE) software tool will make it easy for them to continue tinkering with it at home. They can download the same tool they used in the classroom and continue to hone their skills at home if that really is their area of interest/career path. In the end, it's their eye and talent as an artist that will determine if their career at this early stage, learning the software is secondary. Practice is key. Chances are a student can't afford a legal copy of Photoshop for their home computer.

    -Odds are that it will be a few years before they get into the working world anyway, so even if the school board gave you the latest versions of the commercial software, chances are that what they end up using in the working world will be several versions in the future anyway.

    - Once you've learned one tool, it's usually easy to learn another of the same type. Like learning programming languages. Once you have the basics, the icons for the tools and the menus are trivial.

    - Many artists do freelance work when they are first trying to break into the graphic design/art world. Knowing a free tool will keep their costs down.

    - It will help support the free/open source software movement, and make them aware of the wide variety of awesome free/open apps available to them.

    - Many employers even if they provide a commercial graphics program, will allow you to install and use your own preferred tool if it's free/legal/legit/compatible.

    - Giving them an additional taste of the old version commercial software you have will mean they've been exposed to two different tools- an advantage in the long run. Choice is good.
  • Stick with Photoshop (Score:3, Interesting)

    by porcupine8 ( 816071 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:57PM (#21586451) Journal
    I don't know about the others, but if you want them to actually be able to easily apply what they're learning outside of the classroom (possibly even in jobs), an older Photoshop is better than GIMP. GIMP just isn't Photoshop, and Photoshop is the standard.

    And yes, they might actually use these skills. I took a desktop publishing class for fun in high school and learned to use PageMaker. I then got a job during college that involved creating publicity materials for an academic department (flyers for events, etc) in PageMaker, and from there got a job doing layout at a local paper also in PM. And no, I'm not a graphic design major or anything - I was a cognitive science major and am now in a PhD program, but layout is a hobby of mine (and possibly the only visual art-type-thing at which I have any skill). And that newspaper job paid much better than anything else I could have gotten at the time.

    If some of the other open-source programs are more similar to the standard clossed-source ones, they might be valid alternatives. Or you could let them explore with both programs (for example, more advanced students might be able to do projects comparing the capabilities of two different programs).

  • by Average ( 648 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:57PM (#21586457)
    Yes, the percentage of your class that will be in the industry will be using Photoshop and Dreamweaver (although those programs will be totally different in 5 years).

    But, I think you're better off encouraging students' curiosity for use *at home*. Which would you rather hire to use Photoshop, someone who's spent 100 hours using Photoshop 5 in a classroom a several years ago, or someone who's played with everything in GIMP for 600+ hours, built some webpages, entered some silly photo-editing contests, etc, and is still using it?

    In reality, of course, if you subtly imply that Photoshop is the only way to go, they'll just pirate it to work at home. This is pernicious. I'm betting 'moral education' is a part of your school's mission statement. Live it.

    Teach students to use Open Source software. Hand out discs with the PortableApps files. Accept ODF/RTF/TXT/PDF files as well as DOC.
  • by erlehmann ( 1045500 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:59PM (#21586479)
    From a short-term practical standpoint, i don't see a problem with teaching e.g. GIMP instead of an old Photoshop version - as long as you don't require features the free alternative doesn't have (GIMP has no HDR) you should be fine. Additionally, kids can also use the software at home and when they have completed the course, which is a big benefit - I am required to learn Maple [1] and didn't pay up for the draconian license which would require me to wipe it off disk as soon as i am no longer an university student. Also, old Photoshop knowledge most certainly won't help them in the job.

    Ethically speaking, as a good teacher you should absolutely abstain from proprietary concepts: Your obligation is to teach them something useful for society, not to teach them something useful for Adobe. Proprietary software essentially says that research into the functions and cooperation between people is forbidden, while free software actually encourages sharing knowledge and cooperation for a mutual goal. Read Stallman's essay on the topic [2] and decide what would be the ethically correct alternative.

    [1] []
    [2] []
  • I think you need to try and get the best value for the students. Even old software can be of use, if it allows them to learn the underlying usage concepts, or to learn the basic functionality. If in the new version these concepts are no longer in use, and if the basic functions are mainly accessed differently, then you are not providing much value anymore. In these cases you'd definately provide more value if you use newer OSS applications. If the OSS applications share the same underlying usage concepts, a
  • Screw dreamweaver! get them off that piece of crap as soon as possible. If they are going to be doing any kind of development, they should be learning how to do it properly in a real IDE. Sure Dreamweaver has come a long way but why would you pay money for something that you can get for free that is used by more developers than dreamweaver.
  • Debatable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by corychristison ( 951993 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @01:02PM (#21586531)
    This is such a debatable question, especially on Slashdot.

    I do web development/design for a living, so I will try to provide a little bit of insight.

    I use Photoshop CS2 for the majority of my work... the problem being that I use Gentoo Linux. I have a WinXP install running under VMware just to use it... this is mostly because I learned how to use Photoshop when I was young, and I just stuck. I use gimp for the quick edits, and it does this VERY well. Examples: Crop/Resize, Add Text, maybe add a drop shadow, etc.

    When it comes to Dreamweaver, I've always hated it. It was slow, and a painful mess last I used it (version 4 or 5). I'm a programmer, so I suppose I am a little biased, but I code all of my X/HTML by hand. Teach your students how to code HTML by hand. Students tend to use Dreamweaver as a crutch. They learn how to point and click with it, but never really understand what exactly they are doing. When I was in high school, I used to attend a national competition called "Skills Canada". Every year in the national round, there was always at least ONE person who freaked out and dropped out of the competition because Dreamweaver was not set up the same as they used to have it back home. Now, I, and others, used notepad or notepad++, etc (Ya-ya! I know Dreamweaver has an IDE built in -- I still don't like it). We had no issues because we saw, and built the code whereas the competitor who dropped out did so because they were dependent on the visual interface ("It's different, what the hell do I do!?").

    When it comes to Flash, there isn't much of an alternative... Flash is what you need. I personally own Flash MX2004 and I like it fine. I'm planning an upgrade to the next release (CS4 I think it will be?) or if there is a nice update to the latest version (like a service pack)... I've heard it has some issues (mostly interface stuff).

    As for my recommendation, someone above mentioned for you to teach until you receive the required materials.

  • From the suite that you gave, with the exception of certain new features, the core of those programs have not changed much over the years.

    Here's the thing that I noticed about most good software titles: if their original premise is held and the public accepts it, the basics usually don't change. The core of Microsoft Windows, for example, has not changed since its inception (it's quality is debatable, however). Neither has open-source software like emacs, grep, etc.

    The tools that you are teaching them a

  • Since this is a high-school class, I assume you're not expecting them to leave with something they can put on their resume. By the time they're in the job market, the software will have shifted yet again. Therefore, anything that illustrates the basic principles will do.

    That said, it looks like you have a choice between Gimp and Photoshop, no real alternative to Flash 5, possible alternatives to MovieMaker, and as for Dreamweaver, the only advantage it has over hand-coded HTML + CSS is in saved time, and
  • Teach methods, not applications. To use the standard example as illustration: there is no point teaching MS Office because "everyone uses office". Everyone does not uses office, especially the version you will be teaching. By the time your students leave, go through university and get in to the real world, everyone will be using a much newer and probably quite different version of MS office.

    To generalize, software is becoming modified and updated continuously, and will throughout these students lives. In ot
  • A reason for OSS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @01:11PM (#21586653)
    If you teach them to use Gimp, then they can legally and without cost do their assignments at home. They could also use the skills you've taught in order to, from home, make nice art for friends' web pages, etc.

    If you only teach them PhotoShop, they may be forced to (a) use a pirated copy at home or (b) not use their home computer at all.
  • ...its been said a million times. Teach concepts and the ability to extend knowledge of those concepts into the real world. Don't teach specific applications.

    Face it, when the slashdot faithful were in school we were taught on a different set of software than what we used at uni, and later in the workplace. Software changes on a year-by-year, month-by-month basis. Rote memorisation can get you far in, say, simple mathematics, but it doesn't extend so well into areas that change rapidly. Heck, I was brought
  • Definitely better off teaching them old commercial software. Why?

    Because no one is going to get a job for knowing Gimp of Komposer. However they could actually get a job for knowing Flash 5 and Photoshop 7.
  • First problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @01:24PM (#21586887) Homepage
    Don't teach 'software.' Teach concepts. Whatever you use that lets the kids be productive with the concept should be fine, right?

    In college we used some sort of cad software that I don't even remember the name of. That didn't mean that the concept of snapping, lineto, center, tangent, etc didn't translate when I used autocad (which I most certainly did not take a class on) for a few things before becoming a full time computer geek. Same applies to firewalls and routers and such. If you know TCP/IP and Routing and such, how to configure the stuff is simply a matter of looking up how to do it on that particular device in the manual (how do I define a tunnel, how do I define a route, etc). I *hate* working with cisco guys who took their class, and can't think beyond the ciscoese (bringing up partner IPSec VPNs being the best example of this).
  • by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @01:51PM (#21587311) Journal
    Ask yourself this:

    When the student is able to make the leap to the new software, what will be easier for the student to make the transition from?

    Which will be the easier transition: Photoshop 7 to Photoshop CS3, or GIMP to Photoshop CS3?

    If the answer is the old version of the commercial software, then you should teach the old version of the commercial software.
  • teach both (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darth Cider ( 320236 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:05PM (#21588403)
    You could use both types of software, commercial and open source, to reinforce the abstract concepts. In Photoshop, for example, the basic concepts are layers, selections, filters, brushes, levels, curves, etc., but when a digital artist plans an image, it's an abstract process, wholly independent of software interfaces (although familiarity with a particular interface can boost productivity). Many of those same concepts transfer to web design and film editing.

    Also, the commercial versions of the software you mentioned are expensive, so your students might like to know that there are freeware alternatives to piracy.

    Because you are faced with a time constraint, though, it might be better to go with the commercial products. There will be fewer technical snags, more options for further education, more employment opportunities and so on. Besides, as others here have said, the commercial versions available to you are quite advanced. More recent versions have cool tools, but artists got by without them for the longest time, and had to be very creative to get past those limitations.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant