Teachers Love Free Stuff! How About Free Software?

Posted on September 25, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

by K. Merritt 

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate getting something for free.  Some “free” things, however, are more valuable than others.  Most people have no use for hoards of free “Happy Meal” toys.  They might appreciate something more useful, like FREE SOFTWARE!  Enter – Open Source Software.

What exactly is Open Source Software?  Loosely put, it is software developed by one programmer or a community of programmers, sometimes with corporate contributions, and distributed freely to the public.  In addition, other people and programmers are free to modify the code and contribute back to the project for the benefit of the entire community.  It is a really interesting concept.

What kind of software is available under Open Source?  Just about anything you can think of.  Wikipedia has a list (not exhaustive) of various open source projects here.  In reality, Open Source Software offers alternatives to many of the mainstream programs we use daily.  The list below shows the commercial product and the Open Source free alternative.  Clicking on the alternative title will take you to the product’s website for more information and downloading.

Commercial Product                      Open Source or Free Equivalent 

Microsoft Office                               Open Office
Adobe Photoshop                             Gimp
Inspiration                                      CMAP Tools
Starry Night                                    Stellarium and Celestia

This is by no means a complete list, but it does show you that there are quality software products out there that are still FREE!  Check out some of these programs for yourself.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the quality and functionality of them.  In most cases, the free versions will also read and write files from and to the commercial versions.  So, if you have a computer at home and don’t want to “shell out” the money for a commercial product, try some Open Source Software.  I think you’ll be pleased!

Kevin S. Merritt
Instructional Technology


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One Response to “Teachers Love Free Stuff! How About Free Software?”

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Several years ago I used to give copies of OpenOffice to students who didn’t have MS Office at home. At that time almost all home computers that families bought from stores like Best Buy or Circuit City came with MS Works installed by default. This was a daily problem in the media center. As most computers in the school were located in the media center and we dealt constantly with students not being able to open the work they brought in from home. Sometimes we were able to convert the files but not always and they rarely were able to convert back to works once they returned home with the documents they had worked on at school. Later we tried to remind them to save as rich text but they usually forgot our advice. Giving away copies of the open source software “OpenOffice” was a big help.

If I had to name the biggest impression that I came away from NECC 2006 with, it would be the trend toward open source software. Not only were there numerous displays/booths promoting open source but there were a plethora of open source break-out sessions and speakers. No doubt open source is here to stay. I certainly can see this as a way to help 3rd world nations to bridge the “digital divide”.

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    The School District of Greenville County – Instructional Technology Department


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