Free Software in schools

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The letter below was written in April 2012 to discourage the Fort Bend Independent School District (FBISD) in Texas from spending $4,000,000 USD on iPads for their 2nd - 8th grade students. You're encouraged to improve, modify and use the text below to help explain how proprietary software can affect students. -- David Steinhafel Fnord 16:34, 23 August 2012 (EDT)

My name is David and I'm 24 years old, and I was born and educated in Minnesota. My high school exclusively used Apple computers. I can say confidently that Apple computer use in my high school resulted in most my peers:

  1. being incapable of using non-Apple computer products;
  2. becoming "locked in" to the vendor Apple, so all their current and future devices and software are purchased through Apple because they don't have the "know how" to migrate their data or even use other operating systems and software interfaces; and
  3. spending far more money for their education than was necessary to learn how to best utilize computing technologies.

Apple is proprietary software. There is no way to study how the programs and machines work, no way to verify that the programs work correctly, and even no way to determine whether the products secretly collect private or sensitive user information.

Educational institutions shouldn't use proprietary software for these (and other) reasons. There are Free Software alternatives that:

  1. don't cost any money or cost way less than Apple and Windows machines;
  2. allow the students to study the program and even change it to function differently or better;
  3. help emphasize general and best computer practices, so students can figure out how to use any computing operating system and platform, not just the one they were forced to use in school.

For example, students should learn the basics of how word processors work, so they can use any word processor, whether it be on an Apple, Windows, or other platform such as GNU/Linux.

Companies such as Apple and Windows offer 'free' or 'discounted' prices on their proprietary software licenses, so that students become 'hooked' on their platforms and have to pay for them at home or at work whenever they graduate from school.

I strongly recommend your students become educated computer users, so they can not only keep their machines and identities secure and private, but also so they can maximize the effectiveness of their computing and be more employable because of their high ability to adapt to whatever computer platform their employer may be using. It is for these reasons and more that I recommend FBISD invests in non-proprietary software systems such as GNU/Linux.

You can learn why Free Software should be used in education at the following links:

More information on GNU/Linux computers and Free Software is available at: