I am a passionate believer in free and open source software. I believe that these tools are important for a number of reasons. I believe that these projects enable many more people to have the tools to produce any type of project they want. Free tools = more voices contributing to global conversations and this in turn equals a broader understanding of global issues and global perspectives. It is a terrible loss to the world when a budding artist in any medium can’t afford the tools they need to share themselves and their voice with the world. Free software begins to close that gap. It has been estimated that open source software saves people over $60 billion each year.
While I am fortunate to live in a fairly affluent community, I believe that these tools are also important in that their release allows people to experiment and learn new skills. How am I supposed to learn that I am a gifted animator if I never have the opportunity to try things out.
I’ve decided to do some work to close this gap by producing a CD of free and open source software for distribution. Many other people have undertaken this type of project in the past. It’s certainly not a new idea. But I still think it is important. It’s important to teach kids first of all that they have options. Second, I think the idea of being in control of how you produce things and what you produce is important.
Lately I’ve had a number of kids asking me about the software that I use. Every student in my classroom either has a laptop of their own from home or a desktop computer at home. Yet when they look at my computer, it “looks different” from theirs. I also use a lot of software that they are simply not familiar with.
I’m starting with a basic list of software that almost any computer user needs. An office suite, audio and photo editing software. I’m planning on burning CDs and giving them out to the kids in my class and to anyone else who wants one. I am thinking that this might be a wise idea to do at the beginning of a school year.