September 16, 2018 Education

School “Meša Selimović” is the first school in Zenica, and probably in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) which opted for a complete transition to Open Source and free software for teaching purposes. The reasons are many and every single one them I think is positive. Some of the reasons are as follow.

First problem was with older school computers which hardly could initiate and run newer versions of Microsoft Office, and in ITC it is a huge drawback in teaching process.

Differentiated curriculum
If we include ideology of open source principles, methods, and projects it helps set our school apart. And as a plus side students like it, it looks exotic to them.

Raising Awareness for freedom of information vs. monopolies is very important - This includes raising awareness of the fact that nowadays most of our data belongs to only a handful of companies.

No costly licenses - Everything is free, it’s tidy and no ads. Those who love order, Linux is right choice for them. As demonstrated on image bellow.

Windows vs Linux

Security - Linux has great user management system if used properly. On the other hand anyone can review code base and make sure there are no bugs or back doors. Since it is available to everyone bugs are fixed quickly. And this means malware has very small chances to infect this kind of system.

Open source helps users understand how programs work in more details - You can change everything, you can set it up as you desire, on the other hand the proprietary software cannot be customized as we may want it to.

Equality - There is no need for you to buy any software or licenses, anyone can use the same software.

Values - Students are raising awareness for importance of sharing (knowledge), working together, openness, transparency, free access to information.

Localization is enabled for all languages and regions in the world.

Older machines can be used for longer time because there are many lightweight Linux systems.

Administration - by some statistics it is 80% easier to administer Linux systems than it is Windows.

And the most important thing is education of course. We had many issues with windows while working in school. Students tend to share memory sticks, and almost every single one of them had some kind of computer virus on it. When computers get infected they slow down. You need to install antivirus and it slows your computer even more. This is very important if the machines are older ones and working slow already by itself. There was a big problem with licenses for us as well. Licenses expiry and then you lose a lot of your time to activate it. Many schools tend to use software that may be considered illegal. Schools are not places for keygens, patches or cracks, where children should learn how to use software legally. And of course there are those “hacker students” among students, which want to install software that may not be allowed, and it is done very easily on windows. It by itself has a huge impact on the education and behaviour during the classes. Linux makes students concentrated, they are able to follow the lessons more clearly and it enables them to be more creative and hard working.

Linux on computers

Linux on computers

Software in use include:

Pinta and Gimp, and others as needed.

Algorithms and diagrams
We are using Dia software for creating flow charts and diagrams.

Beside the Open Source we are using some additional Free software as well and it includes.

Google Classrooms
Google Classroom is a free platform, that any non-private school can get. Why Google Classrooms?

  • every student has it’s own account on the school domain (email and password) to access the platform, students don’t use their private accounts
  • every student and employee at school gets unlimited space on the Google Drive cloud
  • all of the Google apps are available for usage freely
  • software like Word, Excel and Powerpoint are replaced respectively with even better and a lot simpler (this is my opinion) localized Google tools: Documents, Sheets and Presentations which are directly integrated at Google Classroom
  • Google Classrooms simplify creating, distributing and grading assignments in a paperless way, you can share any resources with students to any of the classes you create.

Programming and WEB design
For programming we have obtained and use free K-12 license on the world leading platform used for coding named REPL. REPL is an online compiler, IDE and interpreter that has more than 30+ programming languages integrated. Our school uses QBasic and HTML for the moment. But, probably will make transition to Python soon.

Actually all of this tools are one level better than standard ones we used and use in other schools. Not mentioning advantages of using online classrooms where you have all of your graded assignments available together with percentage statistics and how much was done. It is easy to follow and check every student individually.

I think today we have so many possibilities to introduce technology to students. Some of the easiest ways and possibilities are robots, drones, 3D printers, programming and many others. There is a lot to be done so our schools can step up for a new and modern teaching processes for the future. STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is number one, students can learn a lot through simple modules and how to manage robots with simple blocks before they go in more details.

Demonstration of where power of Linux systems come from. Synchronization of computers in classroom made with only 4 lines of code in Python.

If some of the positive things I forgot to write please comment and suggest.