OpenOffice.org is Best for Education

Open source software is ideal for use in the education sector. It teaches the value of sharing, a sense of community, citizenship and collaboration. It typifies what learning should be about – the free exchange of ideas and the discovery of new ones.

Collaboration
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Our best thought come from others”. Educators have long recognized the importance of the open exchange of ideas and information within the classroom. This process opens the mind, ignites creative thoughts, sparks curiosity over things undiscovered, which ultimately leads to the advancement of human knowledge. It is thus the responsibility of the educator to ensure that information exchange is free, open and uncensored across verbal and non-verbal communication channels. Open source software makes this easier across varied platforms and applications due to open file formats.

Learning
Open source software shows users what lies beneath. Students can discover the technological principles of the software through analysis of its structure, function and operation. It’s reverse engineering made easy. Learning is not only concerned with acquiring a skill for use today. It requires acquiring the fundamental skills that will benefit students in the long term. Thus, skills taught should be generic rather than tied to one vendor’s product.
Because Open Office.org is free, the student can even take a copy home , thus allowing the student to continue learning after school. This ripples to other member of the family, who get the value of a computer education without the need to spend money on software.

Values
Open source software is ideal for use in education because of the values that it teaches the children. We are often told, “It is better to give than to receive”. The very existence of open source software is based on this idea- – giving something away to total strangers and not expecting anything in return.

The OpenOffice.org Education Project embodies this ideal. This education initiative aims to help teachers , students or anybody involved in education to enter the OpenOffice.org project .

One particular school , Wilmslow High School , located in the United Kingdom, took up the task. As part of this project, 11 students were challenged to create and distribute 50 copies of OpenOffice.org 1.1 CDs to schools and students in countries where commercial software is considered too expensive and/or where Internet access is limited. One group of students downloaded the OpenOffice.org ISO from a mirror site. Another group of students created customised CD labels and wallets using the resources from the OpenOffice.org website.

Based on the teacher, students learned more than just how to download, copy , label and distribute open source software. They learned about citizenship, co-operation and time management skills.

Because OpenOffice.org is an international community which encourages user participation in marketing, documentation, programming, and other aspects of the software, students are able to build co-operative skills across the internet .

Steal or share?

Would you rather steal or share? Open source software eradicates the ethical dilemma faced by students who are forced to buy pirated software because their teacher requires them to use MS Office for reports, projects, etc. Five to nine thousand pesos (P5T-P9T) for a genuine copy of MS Office vs. a bootlegged copy for P50- the temptation is great to go for the pirated copy. But why steal when you can share? Educators should be open as well. Open Office.org can save to .doc, .xls, .ppt formats so students can use Open Office.org at home and continue working on the document elsewhere using MS Office . Educators who have existing files in MS Office file formats can still open their files in OpenOffice.org.
Even support is shared . Support for OpenOffice.org is provided by the OpenOffice.org community for free. Comprehensive online support is provided through newsgroups, forums or mailing lists that consist of hundreds of experienced users.

The OOo Help Outline contains FAQ’s, HowTo’s and per-application help documentation. It can be accessed at http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/OOoHelpOutline
User Help – FAQ Project FAQs are accessible at http://user-faq.openoffice.org/new-faq/index.html

Free training materials can be accessed from Bytebot.net (http://training.bytebot.net/). These materials are free to download and use. However, permission is required if the material will be used commercially .

The OpenOffice.org website (http://www.openoffice.org) shows a list of websites that offer free cliparts, templates, samples and macros

In Good Company

Many schools all over the world are already using open source software. Since 2003, the University of the Philippines advocates employees and faculty to use open source software, Linux and OpenOffice.org. The University of the Philippines Open University is currently using Moodle, a free, open source software package course management system popularly used by educators to create effective online learning communities. A large number of open universities worldwide are already using Moodle.

To see the list of schools and government agencies using OpenOffice.org , visit the OOo Market Share Analysis website, (http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Market_Share_Analysis)

Your school can use it too. On top of the non-monetary benefits of using open source software, there’s also one enticing aspect-its cost. Zero. As school budgets become tighter and tighter , inevitably, the education sector will look towards adopting OpenOffice.org to meet its software needs.

A preacher once said: “There is no greater crime than to stand between a man and his development; to take any law or institution and put it around him like a collar, and fasten it there, so that as he grows and enlarges, he presses against it till he suffocates and dies”

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