## The Use of Open Source and Free Software in Education: November 6-26, 2006

### Welcome To Open Source

by Heather Ross -
Number of replies: 51
Welcome to the seminar on The Use of Open Source and Free Software in Education. My hope is that during the next few weeks we can educate each other about nifty tools that are out there that can be put to good pedagogical use. The discussion will go where you take it, so let's get started with some basics.

According to Webopedia open source is:

"Generically, open source refers to a program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge, i.e., open. Open source code is typically created as a collaborative effort in which programmers improve upon the code and share the changes within the community. Open source sprouted in the technological community as a response to proprietary software owned by corporations."

Some examples of open source software include Open Office, Mozilla's Firefox and Moodle, which we're using right now. Other free applications that aren't open source include Skype and the Web browser Opera.

We've set up a wiki to go along with this seminar where you can find resources, including links to applications. The amount of open source and other free applications continues to grow, so please add to this list and check back often.

Let's get started. I really liked how Richard set up the last seminar so I'm going to do something similar. We're going to start with some introductions. Tell us about yourself and if you have any experience using open source software (or other free applications) in an educational setting. There are some additional questions we're going to be looking at in separate discussion topics:

1.    What barriers do you see in using open source
2.    What opportunities are created from using open source
3.    What do you think the future holds

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Christie Mason -
1.    What barriers do you see in using open source
Lack of documentation, lack of support (esp if/when original team loses interest), upgrade/patch cycle is either almost constant or non-existent, cruddy code that may open up security holes in current applications.   Some licenses that require any application that reuses an open source application to also allow open source usage of that application.  If something goes wrong with a application using multiple open source applications it's difficult to debug end to end.

2.    What opportunities are created from using open source
"Try before you buy".  Can see how others have approached or resolved similar problems.

3.    What do you think the future holds
According to an article I just read (I think it was eWeek.com) the future will hold large companies creating suites of open source applications and reselling them with support and upgrades included in the fee.  This pretty much puts everyone back to being at the mercy of a vendor.

My latest experiences actually made me long for a Microsoft solution and I've been ticked at MS for decades.

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Heather Ross -
Christie,

Thanks for being the first out on the dance floor.

Based on what you've written, you've obviously had some negative experiences using open source applications. May I ask which ones you've had the opportunity to use?

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Christie Mason -
I've been indulging myself in an orgy of open-source CMS, discussion forum, blog, wiki type applications.

W/o looking up all my notes, I'll just select DotNetNuke.  I spent a lot of time chasing down modules only to read "I've got a job and don't know when I'll finish this, sorry we haven't worked on this for awhile but we're back" type comments.

Probably I'm just too dumb for open-source, I haven't been successful in installing mySQL, tried several times over several years,  or PHP.

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by WL Wong -
Hi Christine,

Just to follow-up with what you have posted. I would like to mention that it does not mean that we do not face problems with commercial software - there are times we the end-users are locked into software that the vendor has problems fixing and we end up "living" with those problems.

For those who lack technical support or know-how, there is now another option. Open source CMS are now made available via scripts through web hosting companies for about $US120 per annum (plus or minus) that will allow you to set up a CMS on Mambo, Drupal, etc or even a product like Moodle or WordPress without fiddling the PHP or MySQL - kinda of ready to go (complete with forums, etc depending on which system you choose). If you can't live with the design templates already existing, you can change the layout by applying xhtml/css yourself or look to other Open Source CMS template designers for very reasonable fees. Cheers Wai-Leng In reply to WL Wong ### Re: Welcome To Open Source by Christie Mason - Yes, you can get a hosting site with DotNetNuke for$6.95 a month with full MS SQL support and all the other usual services.  But, every application needs some type of "fiddling" so if you can't easily install a matching framework on a local development machine, you're hosed.

Maybe the announcement that MS is going to support PHP will change some of that, but at this point I can't tell if MS is only pretending to appear more open to OSS or if it's just another FUD ploy.

Christie Mason

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Heather Ross -
Wai-Leng,

I have to agree with you about facing problems with commercial products as well. We do often end up just "living" with problems, and fixes come much slower, as those actually using the applications have no control over the fixes.

In my experience with commercial applications, support often comes from user discussion boards or from friends and colleagues, which is where support comes from when working with open source as well.

I've recently installed Moodle on some leased server space that I have for hosting several blogs. There is no extra charge for doing this install and I can uninstall and try out something else if I want. I'm already paying for the space because of the blogs.

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by WL Wong -
Hi Heather,

Agreed with points you have raised that whether commercial or open source - community forums provide an important avenue to make things work better, get hacks, etc. I have found lots of useful info from here and there and I also make sure that I contribute to the community(ies)....

As for the hosting services I mentioned earlier in response to Christie's post, these days the hosting companies offer various installations of different CMSs all on your site at a click of a few buttons. You can even set up a dev version of the CMS to do the mucking around, incorporate new components, test, etc.  As an example: recently I have put in place a Joomla CMS, a dev version of Joomla for testing, and Moodle all on one site for a local school's P&C to enable parents and teachers to have access to these resources. So they have a full CMS for public web site and a mini-"SCOPE" for P&C activities and school related activities without fiddling PHP or mySQL.

Cheers,
WL

### DotNetNuke (etc) & Opensourcecms.com

by Derek Chirnside -
I feel for you Christie, a common experience.  Being a little careful what I say here since it may be misconstrued, this would be a god conversation over beer and chips on a Friday before going home to a weekend.

You may just be a little early (like by a month or so) . . .
The news:

Worldwide popularity of DotNetNuke enables new organization to pursue wide range of opportunities to benefit the community

Seattle, Wash. — September 21, 2006 — DotNetNuke®, the popular Open Source web application framework for the ASP.Net platform, today announced the formation of DotNetNuke Corporation, a new company to serve the growing needs of the project and its ever-expanding community. The new entity will focus on the management of the project, while leveraging a wide array of resources to create and distribute a superior, free, Open Source web application framework that cultivates a passionate developer community and a prosperous commercial ecosystem.

I post this recognising the tension between the terms  "Free, open source" and "prosperous commercial ecosystem".  :-)  And the dilemma of the term 'levereging'.
This has absolutely NO guarentee of anything I think, but it is hopeful.

I find TINY things can cause a showstopper when trhying to install OSS.

The guy behind DotNetNuke it has been a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional.

The idea of the corperation mentioned is of interest to me.  Firefox has something like this.  So does Mambo, another hugely popular OS content management sytem - (which disintegrated to fork off into another project named Joomla).  These entities are kind of like guardian trusts.  A good trust like this can (not will) suggest a hopeful future.

And just by the way: I often refer to opensourcecms.com
This has trial versions to play with of a whole bunch of mySQL/PHP based applications, refreshed every 2 hours, full admin rights etc.  At the risk of fouling up your systems, just to give an idea of the scope, here is a cut and paste of their menu:

### Re: DotNetNuke (etc) & Opensourcecms.com

by Christie Mason -
Ah, ha!  that's why DotNukeNet felt like ... waiting for someone to sneeze.

opensourcecms.com is an interesting idea but it has usability problems.  Searching is superficial, usability is difficult.  This seems to be common in open source land.  There were so many sites that had minimal product and spec info.  The other problem with opensourcecms.com is that any program looks good when you're just running through an online demo.  It's when you go through installing a copy and attempt to use it, that's when the problems appear.

Don't get me wrong, a lot of commercial products have the same usability and support issues as open source, but at least they have a self interest in having someone there to reply to questions because if pre-sale questions/trial version don't get answered, you don't give them any money.  What leverage does a user have with an open source application?

Christie Mason

### Re: DotNetNuke (etc) & Opensourcecms.com

by Heather Ross -
Christie,

When I'm looking for an application, whether open source, free non-open source or commercial and I just want to play around with it, I download it and do just that.

When I'm looking for something for a specific purpose, I tend to take the same approach that I would when making a major purchase (car, computer, appliance). I ask friends and colleagues if they have any experience with the product. I look at discussion boards to see what strangers who have used it have to say. This saves me a lot of time and headaches.

I believe that forums, such as SCoPE and the new Women of Web 2.0 are excellent places to get started in your search for the application you need.

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Del Helms -
I am eagerly awaiting the posts to this topic as I have been reluctant in the past to invest the necessary time and energy needed to harness the features available within the open source community. Additionally, I must confes that I have never trusted the sustainability of open source products. However, open source programs like Linux, Apache, PHP, MySQL and others have made me reconsider my initial pessimism.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph I am concerned with the sustainability of open source products. My concern is how long will the core people involved in providing an open source product continue their work sans any personal gain-- well personal gain measurable in cash :-). I do realize we live in a world where people have socialistic and collaborative beliefs and open source products provide people with these beliefs to share their knowledge with others without personally profiting from the sharing of their talents; however, we all need water, food and shelter and meeting those needs may require some to forgo philanthropy for profit this my chief concern.

I love how open source optimizes the synergistic effects of collaboration. I also am thankful open source products provide access to products to individuals who cannot afford their expensive alternatives. If the core group of open source developers who initially develop an open source product is able to produce resources related to the explicit and implicit knowledge needed to carry on their efforts, I see tremendous potential. As an aside I am very impressed with some of the support documents available to help individuals learn how to use some of the open source products.

I think there is a very bright future related to the use of open source software. Easy to use, malleable products always have utility. With the ability to share information via the Internet, this provides the perfect breeding ground for these types of initiatives.

I am very much looking forward to what this discussion yields.

Respectfully,

Del Helms

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Heather Ross -
Well we are off and running so I should probably do a little introduction myself.

I work as a course designer at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST).  We use WebCT 6 and a host of other proprietary applications. I use Windows at work and have a Mac at home. I finished my M.Ed. this past may and it was while working on this degree that I first learned about open source.

I was not quite a starving student, but was not flush with cash so I looked for free applications when possible. I started using Skype, Audacity and WordPress (all are free, but only the last two are open source). I've since started using Journler, Camino, WriteRoom and several others.

In September, two colleagues (Rob Wall and Alec Couros) and I set up a booth on open source at the Saskatchewan Association for Computers in Education conference. We gave out free CDs of the Open CD and Software for Starving Students. As part of this, we set up the Open Thinking wiki listing a large selection of open source applications.

While I make use of many open source tools, I do not have the knowledge to work as a developer, although I have thrown my two cents in on what features I would like to see added.

As for the additional questions that I posed during the introduction, I will get to those later. I'm looking forward to hearing from all of you.

By the way, any time I list an application in one of my posts I'm adding it to the seminar's wiki. We would have a great list at the end if everyone did the same.

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by John Goldsmith -
Hello,

I've just joined the group so I'll begin with an introduction.  My name is John Goldsmith and I'm an online teacher in a virtual school in BC.  I've been a technonlogy addict since about 1979 when I bought by first computer an Commodore Vic 20.

I confess I have a love/hate relationship with Open Source software ever since I downloaded my first copy of Linux many years ago and almost went crazy trying to install it.  Eventually I gave up and went back to DOS as being a far better and easier to use OS.

I love the concept of Open Source.  As someone once remarked, it peer review at its best.  Nevertheless, there is good and bad Open Scource.  Programs like Audacity, Tux Paint, and Firefox can compete with the best commercial products  around.  They are solid, stable , well documented, easy to install and they work. They don't require an encyclopedic knowledge of PHP, MySQL, Tomcat, Jakarta, Python or ... to install and operate.  Unfortunately, there are far to few Audacity's and far too many Jones E-education, an LMS program which even Linus Torvald would be challanged to install.

I'll stop there just to make sure I'm posting this correctly and it's going to the right spot

Thanks.

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Derek Chirnside -
John, you are coming in loud and clear.
What is Tux Paint?

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by John Goldsmith -
Hi Derek,

Tux Paint is an absolutely marvelous kids paint program.  It's an Open Source version of a very popular commercial app called Kid Pix.  It runs on Windows, OSX and virtually all flavours of Linux.  It's easy to install, rock solid in operation and has good documentation.

There's also a Tux Math program for elementary math drills and Tux typing which is an Open Source typing tutor program.  Both are also excellent.

If all Open Source program were like these we wouldn't be having this discussion.  Open scource would rule the software world.

To it's credit, many open source applications have matured and improved.  The latest Ubantu release for example,  is the closest yet to a viable desktop alternative  for Windows  and  OSX.  Unfortunately,   application development continues to lag behind.  While Open Office may be an alternative to  the Microsoft  option, what option is there for programs like Dreamweaver or Flash?

Even though it may be a while before Gnome, KDE or ... become as popular a desktop as Windows XP or OS X I think the tipping point may be closer then anticipated.  For example, I attend the NECC conference in San Diego this summer and for the first time that I can remember, Open Source was given it's own strand for demonstration and sessions.

In a breakout session afterwards, one superintendent claim that up to 30% of all American school districts were now running Open Source opering systems and application on their school computers because the continually high cost of commercial software and operating systems was draining their tech budgets. While that figure seemed a little high to me, Open Source was definitely the "buzz" at this year's conference.

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Eric Hoffer -
My turn, I guess.  This is Eric Hoffer writing in.  I've made casual use of various open source tools, including taking advantage of wikispaces for a number of collaborative efforts.  I am interested at this point in tapping in to understand how open source apps can be used as building blocks (rather than re-inventing the wheel) for a broader service that might be provided commercially.

1.    What barriers do I see in using open source?
So far, one of the barriers I've encountered is simply getting a handle on what is allowable in terms of use in a commercial context.

2.    What opportunities are created from using open source?
As noted above, one of the opportunities I see with open source is that it enables jump-starting of projects by providing functionality, without your having to reinvent the wheel just to get started.

3.    What do I think the future holds?
It seems that the future will involve companies trying to take advantage of open source apps through the service model.  More in the context that I'm interested though, my hope is that open source development continues and grows in ways that enable building partnerships between apps, if not developers - and that corporations do not let the air out of the sails of open source developers by milking them on a large scale through service programs.  (That said, the service programs do enable enterprises to leverage these tools, and in some cases take them to the next level.)

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Derek Chirnside -
Hi everybody:
I'm just dipping in here really.  I'm not sure I'll have the time to properly engage, but I am interested.  I'm an open source fan, I've had generally incredibly positive experiences of OS in both personal and work life.
My next machine will be M$free I have decided. :-) As a sideline I work with an OS project based at my work (a personal learning environment we call Interact) I have released many personal writing projects for teachers over the years as free and re-useable. What barriers do you see in using open source? • OS is not 'free' - you still need to invest tme or money in getting to grips with it. But of course some OS projects are hugely supportive, and you can easily discuss ROI as a positive feature. Determining true costs/benefit can be difficult • Some projects are based on other OS apps which need all the right versions working together. (Again, many project have this sorted . . .) • Prejudice. • Fear • realism (eg use OPen Office and you will have a training overhead) What opportunities are created from using open source ? • Equity. Some of the world can have access to things they would not otherwise be able to afford • quality gains may occur • shorter release cycles • More fun What do you think the future holds? 1. More and more OS projects. 2. Vista may be the last time Microsoft gets to roll out something a lot of us will sign up for. There may be a gap in the stable/mature OS apps: say a nice easy to run network system with word processing etc. Linux servers + samba + print managers + e-mail + internet + client windows is possible - that's what a friend runs for a school - saves a LOT of money - but it is a geeks paradise - for now at least, and it is getting better all the time. (Maybe and equivalent and expensive MS equivalent is as well arguably?) 3. As others have said: more service and consulting, more$\$ being made out of OS, but I don't see that this will be restricted to big corperations - anyone can do it now.
4. More synergies with business/OS.  eg Dojo and Eudora

## eg: Eudora

QUALCOMM Launches Project in Collaboration with Mozilla Foundation to Develop Open Source Version of Eudora Email Program

Open Source Version of Eudora will be Free of Charge; Final Commercial Versions of Classic Eudora for Windows and Mac Available Now

SAN DIEGO – October 11, 2006 – QUALCOMM Incorporated (Nasdaq: QCOM), a leading developer and innovator of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and other advanced wireless technologies, and the Mozilla Foundation, a public-benefit organization dedicated to promoting choice and innovation on the Internet, today announced that future versions of Eudora® will be based upon the same technology platform as the open source Mozilla Thunderbird™ email program. Future versions of Eudora will be free and open source, while retaining Eudora's uniquely rich feature set and productivity enhancements. QUALCOMM and Mozilla will each participate in, and continue to foster development communities based around the open source Mozilla project, with a view to enhancing the capabilities and ease of use of both Eudora and Thunderbird.

## eg DOJOtolkit.com

This is a suite of java code.  We use dojo here at work and we have had ourimprovements incorperated into it.
IBM has put several engineers working on this full time.  IBM benefits.  They use dojo and sell the results.  We help them improve the product.
This is code reuse, levereging off lots of coders.

Notes: I think we will need to focus on different types of OS in our discussion and be careful to not mix them where they are different.  eg
• Audacity (single purpose, mature, multiplatform app, not easy for many end users to tinker with - learning curve too high)
• Linux (an operating system)
• Firefox (a multipurpose, mature, multiplatform app)
• WordPress, Lifetype (OS blogging platforms, based on common free tools PHP and mySQL, end users can tinker with them easily . . .)
Support and cost issues differ.  - with regards, Derek

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Heather Ross -
Thanks for joining the conversation Derek. You raise some very good points.

No, open source does not equal free. You do have to invest some time, but some times that investment is the same as it is with commercial products. I installed WordPress in about the same amount of time that it took me to install Office.

Another issue on the "not really free" front relates to the tech support issue. Someone commented to me recently that switching from WebCT to Moodle would be a bad idea because there would be less tech support. I think WebCTs support is lacking anyway, but that's a different story. My response was basically that time and even money (maybe hire someone who can provide support for Moodle) that you would have to invest for using Moodle would be of better value than the time and money you have to invest to use WebCT (new servers since WebCT 6 requires Oracle, as I understand it, and the cost of licenses for WebCT).

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by John Goldsmith -
Hi Derek,

You've raised a lot of interesting points but for me the biggest one is the first. Open source is not free.  It usually requires a sizable committment in terms of time and energy.  For many of these products, the learning curve is very steep, especially for a generation of users, used to sticking the CD in and clicking install, That can make Open Source is a tough sell. Combine that with fact that much of the OS software does not come from a big company or corporation and the sell gets tougher.

Personally, I love Open Source software and even Shareware.  The "company" producing the software usually consists of one person or at most, a small group.  In this environment, I'm a "someone".  I can make suggestions or recommendations and see those reflected in the next released.  Try doing that with Microsoft or Apple.

/JG

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Joyce Paisley -
Hi everyone

I may be doing more reading and thinking and learning that contributing in these sessions. I have used Open Source browsers and for wiki space but have very limited understanding or experience. I currently coordinate technology resources at an economically disadvantaged middle school (grades 6-8). Our state computer test covers many new aspects of technology and has recently added "Open Source" to the vocabulary list so...I'm here to listen and learn.

### Upcoming Innovate-Live Webcasts

by Sylvia Currie -
There are several webcasts this month that will be of interest to participants in this seminar. We have these listed in the SCoPE calendar, and I've mentioned them elsewhere, but I thought I should add a reminder here along with some information about how to register.

I just realized that the webcast descriptions and times aren't available without an account at the Innovate-Live Portal. It's a quick process to create one, but I'm listing them here so you can see right away which ones you would like to attend. Then you are instructed to register in advance. I'm not sure how crucial that is, but it will generate an email message with confirmation and further details about preparing to use Breeze. There are 2 scheduled tomorrow (well, 13 hours from now in case the word tomorrow is meaningless across our continents) I hope to see you all there! The times are in Eastern Standard Time. Check the Time and Date site for your location.

Harnessing Open Technologies to Promote Open Educational Knowledge Sharing
(will be available in the archives on the Innovate site soon)
Authors: Toru Iiyoshi, Cheryl Richardson, and Owen McGrath
complete article...

Getting Open Source Software into Schools: Strategies and Challenges
Webcast: November 7, 11:00am ET
Authors: Gary Hepburn and Jan Buley
complete article...

Open Source, Openness, and Higher Education
Webcast: November 7, 12:00pm ET
Author: David Wiley
complete article...

From, By, and For the OSSD: Software Engineering Education Using an Open Source Software Approach
Webcast: November 16, 11:00am ET
Authors: Kun Huang, Yifei Dong, and Xun Ge
complete article...

Looking Toward the Future: A Case Study of Open Source Software in the Humanities
Webcast: November 16, 1:00pm ET
Author: Harvey Quamen
complete article...

Open Source/Open Course Learning: Lessons for Educators from Free and Open Source Software
Webcast: TBA
Author: Robert Stephenson
complete article...

### Re: Upcoming Innovate-Live Webcasts

by John Goldsmith -
Hi Sylvia,

I think I'm going to quit my day job and do nothing else but participate in web casts and forums. That's when I'm not involved with online community sites like SCoPE, Knowplace, BCEdOnline, BCCampus, TappedIn, Elluminate Forum, etc, etc.  And then there are all the e-mail listsev's .

Even then, I doubt if I'll have enought time to see it all, do it all, participate in it all.  So much collaboration, so little time.  Is there an Open Source app to clone myself with?

/CJ

### Re: Upcoming Innovate-Live Webcasts

by Sylvia Currie -
John says....

So much collaboration, so little time.  Is there an Open Source app to clone myself with?

I'm afraid all I can do is add to your list of webcasts, forums, and communities! Now in addition to a mile-long feed reader list, I find myself off on youtube tangents. (Hey, go figure, there's a video on how to clone yourself!)

Maybe you need to practice dual-desktop, ambidextrous, multi-tasking so you can participate in several events simultaneoulsy while catching up on the archives!

### Re: Upcoming Innovate-Live Webcasts

by Sylvia Currie -
Several people from this SCoPE seminar attended the 7 November Innovate-Live session: Getting Open Source Software into Schools: Strategies and Challenges with Gary Hepburn and Jan Buley.

David Wiley's session was rescheduled, so if you were disappointed about missing it then no worries! For some reason the
webcast details on the Innovate uliveandlearn portal are password-protected so I'm copying the new time here.

Open Source, Openness, and Higher Education
Webcast: November 16, 2:00pm ET (11:00am Pacific)
Author: David Wiley
complete article...

Check the Time and Date site for your location. Register for webcast here: http://www.uliveandlearn.com/PortalInnovate/

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Susan Lister -
Hi Heather and all the others,
I've enjoyed many a Scope Seminar, so this time, I thought I better get off my duff, stop lurking and introduce myself!

I'm Susan Lister, currently a self-employed education-technology consultant from Ontario with experience in multimedia development, online-teaching, and instructional design/course development but in past lives, I have taught in the College systems of Ontario and the UAE.

I'm about to leave for Sri Lanka to complete the last part of my contract with the Distance Education Modernization Project where I am involved in facilitating the development of online courses for the Moodle platform.

The open source software I have used with favourable results is: Firefox, Moodle, Audacity, Php/MySQL, WebHuddle, Open Office, wordpress, phpBB - a bulletin board system, Juice (podcast player), phpMyAdmin, and webalizer while the Open Source sources that I am keeping an eye on includes: gimp, inkscape, gallery, Advanced Poll Script, virtualdub, pdfCreator, ganttProject, zotera

Some noteoworthy Open Source Websites I've bookmarked:
Open Courseware Consortium
http://www.osef.org/index.html Open Source Education Foundation
http://edge-op.org/grouch/schools.html - Why should open source software be used in schools? Article by Terry Vessels
http://www.canopener.ca/ - Canadian Open Source Education and Research
http://www.educationaltechnology.ca/resources/opensource/understanding.php - 2005 Article with many resource links by Alec Couros and Dan Schellenberg.
http://www.schoolforge.net/index.php - open source tools in education

Sue

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Heather Ross -
These are great resources, Susan. You listed several applications that I hadn't heard of. Would you mind adding them to the wiki?

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Salvor Gissurardottir -
I try to use  only  free online services and  open source software in my courses. This semester I am using Elgg, Moodle, Mediawiki, Audacity, Camstudio, Freemind, Inkscape just to mention a few of those that we use most frequently. Sometimes I can not use the open source alternative because my students have invested so much effort learning other software such as our distance learners (half of our university) prefer to use Web CT since they are already familiar with that system and I see no point in introducing them to Moodle - there is not really so much difference between these two that if you object is only to introduce LMS to education students then each of them will do.

I try to use only widely used and popular open source programs and point my students to such programs because for non technical educators it is not worth using programs which don´t have a big user community and have the risk of not being developed further. If the user community is big  enough  problems regarding to installation etc are more likely to  been solved.

1.    What barriers do you see in using open source
It is sometimes difficult to install  and sometime my environment (Windows ) does not support it. I have until this semester not had access to Linux machines except on my host account  outside my home country (dreamhost). Sometimes open source software locks you in - sometimes because so few use them and the majority of others use some other system. It was difficult (and it still is sometimes) at first to use Firefox instead of Internet Explorer since most developers first tested the IE environment and did not bother to stick to standards. Now however I have started to notice this is less of a problem and sometimes netbased services work better on Firefox than IE. This brings to mind one very big issue about open source. Standards.

2.    What opportunities are created from using open source
For  non English community (I am Icelandic) it is a big advantage to be able to translate and adjust the environment. Also to be able to get the plugins you need without  having to go through the company you bought from. Also since Open Source is most often free or low cost then you can use up money resources you had before to pay in licences in other ways such as for adopting the software or translating etc.

3.    What do you think the future holds
Open source is the way to go  for educational institutions... Not necessarily because it saves money but  because it is much more in tune with the tidal waves in the networked world.  The licenced and copyright system that served well the print based consumer society  with well  defined products is not working in a society where the learning objects are not print and where there is much more fuzzy roles  there is not only producers and consumers  and consumer goods. Products that can be worked upon and changed by all in all stages.

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Sylvia Currie -
Heather suggests we begin by sharing our experiences using open source software (or other free applications) in an educational setting. I did some digging in my email archives to see when I first started paying attention to open source.

The story begins in 2000 when Frances Long of Knowplace.ca introduced me to Bruno Vernier, a computer programming teacher at Roberts Education Centre in Vancouver, BC in the Adult Education programme. Bruno is one of the most thoughtful and enthusiastic teachers I have ever met, and on top of his very busy job and raising a family he managed to work on some pretty major programming projects on the side. He developed a fantastic community/online course environment which was the first home of Knowplace. Anyway, I had a lot of questions for Bruno, like why was he willing to devote so much time to developing software without pay? Why are people giving away their software products? How is all the development work managed? Okay, okay, I won't list them all...but at the time this whole open source idea was very new to me.

Bruno then generously volunteered his time to facilitate a Global Educators' Network seminar on open source software. Frances Long co-facilitated, along with Griff Richards and Claudio Orea. I've just been browsing through the archive and I'll pull out some highlights in a separate message. It will be interesting to contrast our questions and comments in this seminar to what we were talking about 6 years ago! (GEN archives are available with Username: Guest, Password: Guest.)

Bruno and Frances also provided my first opportunity to know what it was like to participate in an open source project. Although my contributions were probably miniscule , it was very exciting to see feedback incorporated into the software.

Anyway, my big observation is that the opportunities to connect with people like those who participated in that seminar and the many other occasions that have emerged since then, have really helped to increase awareness of open source. More and more, educators and education administrators are understanding the culture around open source, and that software development DOES involve them. It's taken some a long time to catch up to Bruno! :-)

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Derek Chirnside -
I have two stories.  One is this:

School network
2002, small school (120), little money, 5 computers.  My boss at work asked if our school would like some old computers.  I made a phone call and the reply was yes.  We loaded my van up to the roof with bits and we were away.

A Microsoft network was going to cost thousands.  In the end my friends spent a few weeks of spare time sorting a package of OS network services + running windows operating system at desktop level - which we get for free through a Govt deal.
We found a few people who had sorted the connectivity issues and provideda recipe/configuration free, and tons of advice.  We bought a serious server, several printers (plus open source print management software) and so on.  Internet is apache plus free virus protection.

Two of my friends basically sorted it.  They manage it over a web connection.  The key is a piece of open source named Samba which enables Red Hat linux to talk to windows client machines.  It has been superb, and over the years has been very stable, and has saved thousands of dollars in annual fees.
Issues: drivers sometimes a problem for specialist items, but in 5 years, this has improved a lot.

OK.  Educational side.  We wanted as many machines as possble with the basics (word processing, internet, sound recording, multimedia/CD), and then provided a few specialist machines.  Clumped in small pod areas.  Yes, I think overall we freed up some real cash to buy some other stuff we could not get free - like some Multimedia sotfware.

Used nvu (free, open source like dreamweaver) for some web stuff.
Kids use Audacity at home and at work.  But: it's not as good as Garage band for doing things like podcasts.

Interesting matters:
One thing you lose not using MS is desktop view over the network from help desk to you.  I'm not sure what I think about this. A lot of things can be done over the web connection.
Christie is right: the community around the OS products is a strong point.

Now these guys are looking at a CMS parents/home/extranet facility.  In this respect, I cannot see them going commercial.  Moodle, Interact, Elg, Drupal, Joomla, Scoodle, Sloodle - all are options.  It's a crude question:
• time/hiring help or hosting plus no CMS fees - just make a donation to the cause - or -
• time/hiring help or hosting plus lots of CMS fees.
-Derek

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Bruno Vernier -
Wow! what an introduction :-) thanks , I'm blushing

I just finished reading all the postings in this seminar which means I am now subscribed and will be receiving all future postings :-)

Things have changed since 2001:  in our profession, the word "opensource" is now part of our vocabulary although it is still largely misunderstood which is not so bad considering it is nevertheless increasingly adopted

1. Along with about 50% of opensource programmers, I think the term "freedom-ware" is better but since opensource is so much more widely used, (and the neo-con era has recently tainted the word "freedom") , most of us use the term "opensource" in public.  Nevertheless, there is much to be gained in a seminar like this in studying the ongoing arguments for and against the term "freedom-ware": the GPL vs BSD-style opensource licences (more on this if there is interest)

2. There is a huge difference between opensource and what appears to be its cousins: freeware, shareware, demoware, guiltware, trialware, educational-priced commercial software, beta-versions of commercial software etc...  The difference is that only opensource is about:

A. Friendship Freedom rights:

Freedom to use it.
Freedom to see it. (open the hood and inspect it)
Freedom to tinker with it.
Freedom to pass these freedoms along to friends and strangers

B.  breaking up harmful monopolies

Microsoft acquired or seriously damaged every one of its commercial competitors in the 90's.  A major motivation keeping it from stopping all improvements to its software is fear of losing clients to opensource software and even more frightening to heavily open-source based companies like Google.

3.  Economically speaking,  in a free market,  in any given vertical market, an opensource project is bound to dominate over time... much like ecological succession in biology, in time, a mature opensource project is bound to slowly but surely take over a given market because customers demand open standards (to avoid lock-in with vendors), and opensource thrives in open standards environments, and because commercial projects inevitably merge into a monopoly over time, the attraction of commercially monopolized projects diminishes over time. That means that we can expect only one serious commercial offering (blackboard?) vs one serious opensource project (perhaps moodle?, still too early to say) in a market like Learning Management Software over the long term.

4. This year Microsoft has changed strategy and has greatly diminished its dirty tricks campaign against opensource.  It has invested in moodle for example (to create an interface with its MS-SQL product) and is doing something bizarre with Novell with respect to a Linux distribution...  this is because it has decided to focus its energy on fighting google.  And again, this is where understanding the distinction between BSD and GPL licences will help explain how this will split and divide the opensource movement much more effectively than dirty tricks.

enough for now

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Christie Mason -
I'd love to have a plain explanation about the differences between BSD and GPL licenses.  Sometimes the differences seem clear to me and then I'll read something else which makes it all murky again.

Christie Mason

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Bruno Vernier -
OK, keep in mind that IANAL (I am not a Lawyer)

so here is my simplified understanding of the GPL vs BSD

1. opensource licences are on a spectrum with the GPL and BSD being flagbearers for each side ... there are lots of licences all over the spectrum going between and around these two poles:

GPL-style......................................................... BSD-style

expressed in GPL-friendly terminology:

Freedom to share............................................... Freedom to Grab
Pure Goodness .................................................. Trojan for Proprietary

expressed in BSD-friendly terminology:

Limits to Business growth ................................... Limitless Potential
Viral Licence .................................................... True Free Licence

2.  GPL = General Public Licence ... Richard M Stallman's greatest invention ... founder of the opensource/freedomware movement, philosopher, ardent defender of the faith, wild-haired, wild-eyed hippy.  Most well known software under GPL:  Linux.  Anyone can improve the code, but may not change the licence on the modified code.

3.  BSD = Berkeley Software Distribution ... most similar to "Public Domain", the oldest of the free licences.  Anyone can improve the code, and is free to change the licence on the modified code (even to proprietary commercial licence) as long as original code remains opensource.  Best known example: Apple Mac OS 10 ... it is an actual BSD unix operating system made proprietary after some minor changes were made to it by apple company.

4.  this is greatly oversimplified and real life is a combination of various degrees of each of these poles

5.  Personally, I lean towards the GPL side of the spectrum and all my programs are licenced GPL by default.  Moodle is GPL.  I like it because I think it is the licence that best guarantees that no one will steal moodle code and take over the market and become a commercial monopoly thanks to the our collective work.

But I understand and appreciate the argument that it is good that commercial software be built on top of opensource code because (at least initially before it changes too much), we can still understand how it works under the hood  (I find it far far easier to understand Mac OS X than Mac OS 9 which is not based on any opensource code;  when Microsoft switched to TCP/IP for networking, it became way easier to understand than the proprietary networking protocols they tried to impose up to the mid 90's

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Heather Ross -
Bruno,

Thank you so much for that explanation and for joining our conversation. I have another question for you, but I think that I'll start a new topic with it, so look for, "What Do You Think Might Be Threats To The Open Source Movement?"

Heather

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Therese Weel -
Bruno,

Thanks for explaining these concepts so simply and eloquently.  I have never thought of BSD and GPL in that fashion, now I do.  The penny has dropped for me.

IINAL either.

I think the essential concept that people need to understand is that there are consistent intellectual property laws in all westernized nations.  These cover trademarks, patents and copyrights.

http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/sc_mrksv/cipo/cp/copy_gd_protect-e.html

By releasing your work under an "open source license" like GPL, BSD or the creative commons, you can share your information  more openly. By  allowing other people to participate you will create something greater than you could have created on your own.

I recommend Michel Bawen's P2Pfoundation wiki which provides a good overview of how using the "open source idea" empowers people in areas other than software development.

Therese

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Bruno Vernier -
interesting website!  very ambitious :-)  They also have a very interesting blog to go with it.

one glaring omission is open-source medicine :-)

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Therese Weel -
Hmmm,

P2P medicine/healthcare  yes that is one,  and one in which a natural commons exists.  After all Vitamin C is vitamin C. The main argument for proprietary medicines is the cost to produce and test it but proprietary medicine results in regulations, insurance complexities  and lawsuits.   I'll be you a dollar someone is thinking of a more efficient means based on OS ideas.

I'll add your suggestion.  If anyone is interested in adding their bit as they  explore the p2p wiki,  the how to contribute page is here:

http://www.p2pfoundation.net/index.php?title=How_to_contribute

Therese

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Bruno Vernier -
one thing led to another and i ended up finding this gem: an online course in podcast format from Berkeley University:

Open Source Development and Distribution of Digital Information: Technical, Economic, Social, and Legal Perspectives

syllabus: http://harbinger.sims.berkeley.edu/osdddi/f06/Syllabus

podcasts: http://webcast.berkeley.edu/courses/archive.php?seriesid=1906978370

the course is nearing the end; so it is very fresh and a very appropriate follow up to this workshop

 Mon, 11/13 Wikipedia as an Open Source Project Mon, 11/06 Open Source Biology Mon, 10/30 Open Access Journals and Publications

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Heather Ross -
Bruno,

This is great. Thank you.

UC Berkely is doing some great stuff in terms of practicing what they preach. They made these lectures available for everyone, the syllabus is a wiki, and other courses have been video taped and are now up on Google video.

My favorite is Dr. Marian Diamond's Integrative Biology 131.

Heather

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Salvor Gissurardottir -

This is very interesting, especially Wikipedia as open source project. I have been involved in Wikipedia for a couple of years now and have attended the two conferences Wikimania in Frankfurt 2005 and in Boston 2006.

I am right now developing a set of learning objects for teachers and teacher education students about wikis and most of it intigrate various wikimedia projects. I make it requirement for my students to write articles in Icelandic Wikipedia and learning content, webquests, Internet Scavenger hunts etc in Icelandic wikibooks and upload pictures they use in Wikipedia Commons.

My learning objects called (The wiki school bus)  are at http://wiki.khi.is but  right now the site is only in Icelandic. Hopefully I will have time soon to translate some of it and explain my ideas about using wikibooks-wikimedia-commons together and why I think that is important for teachers.

### Post on TALO list re on Richard Stallman's role in free software

by Sylvia Currie -
I posted a message to the TALO (Teach and Learn Online) google group to see if they could help with our request for open source and free software to benefit students with disabilities. Chris Harvey posted some great links, which I've added to our Wiki.

Chris also mentioned that he read through our seminar and pointed out that Richard Stallman was the founder of free software, and not opensource/freedomware. Here's a link to the thread in TALO. Chris also provided links to Wikipedia's definition of free software and free software movement which I also added to our Wiki.

I'll have to carefully read all these definitions to get it sorted out in my head.

BTW TALO list is a great way to keep up-to-date on how educators are using software in their own practice, and generally on current issues in education.

### Scheduled Systems Outage

by Sylvia Currie -
Hi everyone,
There will be a brief scheduled systems outage on Thursday, November 9th 5:30-7:30 a.m. PST (that's 13:30 - 15:30 UTC/GMT) at the Simon Fraser University Surrey Campus and SCoPE will be unavailable.

A little time to think and reflect

Sylvia Currie
Community Coordinator

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Nancy Riffer -
Hi everyone,
Today, I am a very happy camper in the US.

I guess 've been a lurker.  I've been reading the conversation in my e-mail but not able to post until now.

My experience with OSS is recent.  In June, when Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 98, I switched to my notebook which is much more powerful than my old computer but didn't have MSOffice.  So I downloaded OpenOffice and made the switch overnight with no problems.  I was already using Firefox.  I added Thunderbird.  Since then I've been exploring Moodle, del.icio.us, add-ons like Cooliris, blogger, bloglines, etc.  (I may have mixed apples, oranges and tomatoes).

I have taught psychology (not clinical) and education courses, and assistant taught an online grad course in Change in Schools.

I'm here because I am learning everything I can about Web 2.0 and education.  I am striving to create an online niche for myself but what it is is not clear to me yet.  Right now I'm a sponge.

I'll continue to be around.  I appreciate the discussion taking place here.

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Heather Ross -
Welcome to the conversation, Nancy. What made you try out those particular tools? Do you work with others who recommended them?

Heather

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by WL Wong -
Hi everyone,

In terms of OSS, I have been happy with OpenOffice, Joomla, Moodle, skype, etc.

For educational purposes, I have been experimenting with exe elearning xhtml editor (http://exelearning.org/) to see if it can be leverage for academics delivering materials via elearning LMS, etc. There is an excellent piece of s/w at http://processing.org - I don't use it but I have seen some great stuff from there.

Cheers

WL

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Derek Chirnside -
Hi Wai-Leng, I had completely forgotten about eXe, which is silly considering the person in the next office uses it successfully with an online course in our Diploma in ICT in Education and I check out each new release.
Participants on this course (mainly teachers) get to use it - and then keep it.  :-) Much preferable to the Frontpage/Dreamweaver options in previous years.
I am on the national occassional board of reference that meets with the home base eXe team.

for example, UNESCO has picked up eXe and it is in use in a whole range of places that would otherwise have to pay expensive fees . . .

Home = http://www.exelearning.org/?q=node
Blog by Brent = http://blog.cfdl.auckland.ac.nz/brent/

eXe does what we want for a course here and not lots of other stuff: create a small suite of web pages, easily maintained and uploaded, and very nice looking.  A good edukashional use of OS??

Absolutely irrelevant quirky site I found while getting these addresses: the hypnotic blue ball machine = http://exe.co.nz/

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by WL Wong -
Derek...

Agreed that exe is pretty good overall. Only problem I have is the Word cut and paste option. When a user does not format Word well, the "mess" is copied across and needs tidying up.

Cheers
WL

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by WL Wong -
Hi,
I mentioned to a friend that I was participating in a discussion about OSS and he has some interesting experiences to share from his time as a student using GIS s/w  - commercial versus OS (see below)

Teaching of GIS  in Australian universities and the dominance of ESRI

Geographic Information System (GIS) is a system for creating, storing, analyzing and managing spatial data and associated attributes. In the strictest sense, it is a computer system capable of integrating, storing, editing, analyzing, sharing, and displaying  geographically referenced information. In a more generic sense, GIS is a tool that allows users to create interactive queries (user created searches), analyze the spatial information, and edit data. Geographic Information Science is the science underlying the applications and systems, taught as a degree programme by several universities.

Geographic Information system technology can be used for scientific investigations, resource management, asset management, Environmental Impact Assessment, Urban planning, cartography, and route planning. For example, a GIS might allow emergency planners to easily calculate emergency response times in the event of a natural disaster, or a GIS might be used to find wetlands that need protection from pollution.

ESRI was founded as Environmental Systems Research Institute in 1969 as a privately held consulting firm that specialized in land use analysis projects. The worldwide headquarters of ESRI are anchored in a multicampus environment in Redlands, California. ESRI is said to control somewhere between 75-85% of the market for GIS software. This market includes many universities; and probably all universities in Australia.

Consequently, Australian tertiary courses in GIS and related areas (such as remote sensing) tend to be taught exclusively on an ESRI product platform.

Subsequently, students are not taught use of  open source packages that  can be freely downloaded from the WWW. Many of these have been produced on campuses around the world; indicative of the level of expertise that can be developed when a more liberal, less monopolistic approach is taken to the selection of software used in the teaching of GIS.

Some GIS  open source packages that are currently in use in campuses in other parts of the world:

A) GRASS: Commonly referred to as GRASS, this is a Geographic Information System (GIS) used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics/maps production, spatial modeling, and visualization. GRASS is currently used in academic and commercial settings around the world, as well as by many governmental agencies and environmental consulting companies. Geographic Resources Analysis Support System, commonly referred to as GRASS GIS, is a Geographic Information System (GIS) used for data management, image processing, graphics production, spatial modelling, and visualization of many types of data. It is Free (Libre) Software/Open Source released under GNU General Public License (GPL).  Originally developed by the U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories (USA-CERL, 1982-1995), a branch of the US Army Corp of Engineers, as a tool for land management and environmental planning by the military, GRASS has evolved into a powerful utility with a wide range of applications in many different areas of scientific research. GRASS is currently used in academic and commercial settings around the world, as well as many governmental agencies including NASA, NOAA, USDA, DLR, CSIRO, the National Park Service, the U.S. Census Bureau, USGS, and many environmental consulting companies.

GRASS software is currently downloadable from a site maintained at Trenito Cultural Institute in Italy. GRASS runs mainly on LINUX platforms-but can be adapted for use on Windows .

B) MICRODEM-is a microcomputer mapping program written by Professor Peter Guth of the Oceanography Department, U.S. Naval Academy.  It requires a 32 bit version of Windows (NT/2000/XP or 95/98/ME).

C) Quantum GIS: Quantum GIS-

Quantum GIS (QGIS) is a user friendly Open Source Geographic Information System (GIS) that runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, and Windows. QGIS supports vector, raster, and database formats. QGIS is licensed under the GNU General Public License. QGIS lets you browse and create map data on your computer. It supports many common spatial data formats (e.g. ESRI ShapeFile, geotiff). QGIS supports plugins to do things like display tracks from your GPS.

The above are some of the more common packages in use, but even around these three, an international community of users has grown, who meet regularly to learn and trade ideas-Australian universities  have  excluded themselves and their students from this opportunity.

An example of one such international collaboration is provided below:

The Open Source Geospatial Foundation, or OSGeo, is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support and promote the collaborative development of open geospatial technologies and data. The foundation provides financial, organizational and legal support to the broader open source geospatial community. It also serves as an independent legal entity to which community members can contribute code, funding and other resources, secure in the knowledge that their contributions will be maintained for public benefit. OSGeo also serves as an outreach and advocacy organization for the open source geospatial community, and provides a common forum and shared infrastructure for improving cross-project collaboration.

The following more detailed goals support the overall mission:

• To provide resources for foundation projects - eg. infrastructure, funding, legal.

• To promote freely available geodata - free software is useless without data.

• To promote the use of open source software in the geospatial industry (not just foundation software) - eg. PR, training, outreach.

• To encourage the implementation of open standards and standards-based interoperability in foundation projects.

• To ensure a high degree of quality in foundation projects in order to build and preserve the foundation "brand".

• To make foundation and related software more accessible to end users - eg. binary "stack" builds, cross package documentation.

• To provide support for the use of OSGeo software in education via curriculum development, outreach, and support.

• To encourage communication and cooperation between OSGeo communities on different language (eg. Java/C/Python) and operating system (eg. Win32, Unix, MacOS) platforms.

• To support use and contribution to foundation projects from the worldwide community through internationalization of software and community outreach.

• To operate an annual OSGeo Conference, possibly in cooperation with related efforts (eg. EOGEO).

• To award the Sol Katz award for service to the OSGeo community.

Underlying all of the above is the issue of cost: it appears that universities these days assume that students are cash cows that they must milk in ever way possible.

In the case of GIS teaching and ESRI, it appears that little regard has been given to the advantages that can accrue to students if they are taught the tools necessary to utilize software that is freely available.

Instead Australian universities seem to have accepted as a given that GIS graduates  will either purchase for themselves  or if not enter organizations that will purchase  for them the licenses required to use ESRI products.

ends...

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by Therese Weel -

Wai-Leng

Ah yes ESRI, thanks for shedding some light on the options available for GIS.

This is a terrific example of how open source goes further than blog software and free desktop applications.  Companies spend  millions each year on enterprise databases financial systems, billing systems , student registration hospital information systems.  On the software licenses, training, expensive consultants and upgrades.

When we have viable open source offerings in these areas, organizations can choose an open source  solution instead.  They will be able to choose who they want to be their helpers. They can share best practices and everyone can benefit as these ideas are incorporated into the software.

These Grand Scale  open source projects wont appear on their own.  They  need to be championed and invested in by the stakeholders.  We are not there yet, but in a few years "sustainable software" will be in vogue.

Therese

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by WL Wong -

Therese,

Since my friend's last message, he has located the use of Open Source GIS at NYU http://www.nyu.edu/its/gis/os/. It looks like it is becoming a more viable option and the landscape will change somewhat in the coming years as you have pointed out. Perhaps exciting times/developments ahead...

Wai-Leng

### Re: Welcome To Open Source

by WL Wong -
Hi everyone,

Wanted to also mention LAMS (http://lamsfoundation.org/).. It is being trialled by some of our uni academics but it is widely adopted elsewhere (Macquarie uni and some unis in UK)...

Cheers
WL