The Benefits of Open Source Software for Kids

In the past, technology was limited. Due to hardware and software limitations, there was only so much that could be done through technology, and this was often restricted to a very small percentage of people who either had the knowledge or the capital to use technology. Since the technology was so expensive, it was mostly employed by large corporations that hired specialized staff who could use it.

Today, the situation is very different. Technology is being used by nearly everyone on the planet and a big reason for this change is the price. As technology becomes more affordable, and the price of associated services falls within the budget of the average person, more people are able to gain access to it. 

However, technology has not gotten any simpler. Instead, the complexity has only increased. Today we not only have hardware and software that is far more complex, but it is also much more capable than solutions we had in the past. It is therefore necessary that people of all ages start attempting to understand and verse themselves in the inner workings of the technologies that will soon take up much more space in our everyday lives than we used to expect.

While software is a powerful solution for all tiers of education, mainstream application platforms have a number of limitations. Especially when they are used for educational purposes for young children. Open-source software is a powerful alternative that offers all the services that children need for education without many of the limitations of mainstream technology. It will also offer them a platform on which they can start being exposed to understanding the essentials of building different software or websites. These are some of the main advantages of Open Source Software (OSS) for primary or even secondary education.

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Basic Hardware Requirements

Mainstream software, whether that is a simple word processor, internet browser, or video editor, all have certain system requirements. A lot of this software requires relatively robust systems for them to function properly, even if the task itself is not processor-heavy. 

This is because they are based on systems, for instance, the Windows platform, which itself is quite hardware-dependent. Hardware manufacturers have always been in a race to create increasingly powerful systems because that is so much easier to market. No one wants to buy new hardware that is no better than what was available the previous year. Software developers have had to keep up by upgrading their software to match the hardware. OSS platforms take a different approach. 

Their main focus is on the task itself while trying to keep hardware requirements at a minimum because they want to be as widely usable as possible. For educational institutions, this entails a lot of cost savings because they don’t have to invest in the latest hardware. Even relatively old hardware can support and efficiently run OSS applications.

Management

Buying hardware and software is only the first step in the process. There are lots of other things that need to be done after this stage in order to keep the system running as it should, and to optimize its performance. For mainstream software, this can be quite a cumbersome and expensive process.

On the other hand, OSS applications are far easier to upgrade, modify and maintain, and they are also a lot cheaper to run since there are no costly upgrades necessary. For schools, this means that OSS systems offer a lot more up-time and far less expensive downtime than mainstream applications.

Localization

Mainstream software is developed for the world, but the focus is on markets that will earn the developers the highest profit. These are mostly western countries, which is why mainstream applications only support English and other western languages. For people living in other parts of the world, where English is not spoken or understood, OSS applications are a better solution because they offer much more flexible local language support.

For educational institutions, this means one less hurdle of having to teach their students a new language just so they can use computers. Moreover, it’s far more efficient for students to learn through technology when they can use it in their own language.

Flexibility

OSS applications offer a lot more freedom both in terms of what the applications can be used for and how the functionality of the applications can be changed. Mainstream applications come with a defined set of services and there is no scope for a user to alter those processes according to their own needs. On the other hand, OSS applications are completely open-ended. For instance, if you need a JavaScript file uploading option, you can alter your OSS to accommodate any kind of uploader you wish, given that the uploader also has the flexibility to allow its use. On the other hand, with mainstream platforms, even if you want to add a font to a simple word processor, the application will not permit these changes. 

This is a crucial characteristic for educational institutions because they all have different needs. With OSS platforms they can get everything done from a single, flexible application.

Values

OSS applications represent something deeper at the intellectual level. Just like how education aims to teach students the core concepts of transparency, teamwork, access to information, honesty, and adaptability, OSS applications are a living example of these concepts.

These platforms allow users to do whatever they want to do with this system and every contributor works in synergy to help improve the experience for everyone else. Mainstream platforms on the other hand are segregated, compartmentalized, and rigid. OSS applications can teach students a lot more than just the operations that they are designed to carry out.

Equality

One of the big problems in education in terms of technology is that the applications are difficult to access, and as such the technology is out of reach. Whether that is due to financial constraints, hardware limitations, regional blockages, or any other reasons, mainstream applications are harder to get for these institutions and students. OSS applications present none of these problems because they are easily accessible to anyone, anywhere. By design, these open source solutions are meant to be available to anyone who might want to use them, modify them, or even further distribute them to other people. 

There are certain regulations for access, modification, distribution, and other things that one can do to these systems but they are still by far more flexible than mainstream applications. This helps to bring about greater equality and homogeneity in education and brings everyone together on the same page.

Better Process Knowledge

Due to how open these software are in terms of how much access they give a user to seeing how the application actually works, OSS applications provide a far richer learning experience. The user can better understand each process, and rather than having to learn the software they can focus more on learning the processes behind this software. This is the knowledge that can effectively be applied to a number of other solutions and that helps create more competent users rather than users who only know how to do specific things on a specific application.

Security

OSS platforms have a big community behind them, full of people who are constantly using the software, highlighting problems, and fixing weak spots. This community-driven approach makes these platforms that much more secure because any loopholes or bugs are constantly being worked on. At the same time, this environment is nearly impossible for anyone to install backdoors in, or exploit in any way.

Smaller OSS applications don’t benefit from this community power, but nearly all popular applications that have a good-sized user base enjoy this benefit. On the other hand, mainstream applications rely on a limited team to work on the security of the application which makes the process much slower and many problems often go unnoticed. Even though OSS applications do have their fair share of problems, they are far fewer than mainstream applications, and the problems themselves pose less of a risk.

License-free

Mainstream platforms are often plagued with expensive licenses. The application itself can be quite expensive to acquire and then you have additional licenses that you’ll need. Some even have annual charges just to use the application. In other cases, there are additional features that are only available for an added price.

This is not the case with OSS applications. OSS applications are freely available for anyone who wants to use them and no part of the application is restricted. Moreover, the training and educational materials for mainstream applications are also quite pricey. With an OSS application, you can access a sea of knowledge about how to use the app completely for free.

Information Freedom

OSS applications offer a lot of freedom in terms of both their usability and the cost of using these platforms. There is no contractual dependency to use a certain kind of hardware, to be in a certain location, or anything else, to be able to use the application. Everyone using the OSS is equal when it comes to receiving security updates, getting newer versions, or any other changes that take place. This reduces the worries for educational institutes as they can just get the OSS application and that is the complete package. There is no risk of things changing down the line and requiring them to invest in other solutions just to be able to continue using the application they have.

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For educational institutions and for parents that are schooling their children at home, there are a lot of things that they have to take into consideration when using technology. On nearly all levels, OSS applications prove to be the easier and more affordable alternative often providing a better user experience than mainstream applications. Moreover, OSS applications are available in every category so there is no limitation in terms of what can be done to teach children when using OSS applications.