Home > Desktop User > U.S. Schools: Not Ready For Linux

U.S. Schools: Not Ready For Linux

US schools are not yet ready for Linux. Yes sad to say, it is not because they can’t do Linux or don’t need a feasible, safe and renewable source for technology. US schools are not ready to accept Linux because they don’t feel the need.

1. Teachers Resistant to Change
You may be shocked to know that most teachers really look at technology as an evil requirement. Teachers feel overburdened with creating lesson plans, managing ever increasing problems with students, left with little energy or desire to learn new technology. Even proposing the idea of Linux will be met with heavy resistance just because it means change.

2. Teachers are Not Accountable for Technology
Teachers must be held accountable for their implementation of technology into the classroom curriculum. Just because you take kids to a computer lab it does not mean that they learned anything from that time. Teachers must have a clearly outlined requirement for what they are responsible to teach to students in technology. Many school districts have technology goals but the teachers are not really held accountable to achieve the goals. Goals need to be measured on a regular basis. You can argue their are Federal mandates for technology but all that is talk because on the local school system level…no one checks if teachers are doing anything worth while in technology. In reality, most teachers are not doing anything new in technology so how could you ever suggest Linux.

3. School Boards are Technology Clueless
In fact, if you look at schools systems closely you will find that many school boards have people on them that are completely unqualified, especially in technology. I have been to countless school board meetings trying to explain and demonstrate technology goals especially as they relate to Linux. I understand that school board positions are thankless and most people would not even consider it but if you want technology and Linux in schools you must get people on school boards who have an understanding of the technology needs and how Linux can meet those goals.

4. Change the Grant Process
Grants are the worst thing that could ever happen for a school district. First, almost all grants are directly tied to Microsoft software. Second, most school districts use grants to purchase technology they cannot sustain. So that, they have a surge of technology and in a few years they are back to total junk. If school districts see technology as important they need to budget for training and equipment. I have never seen a grant for Linux! Each time I have written a grant and suggested Linux it has been challenged, challenged by individuals who really have no idea about Linux or technology. If you want to see Linux in schools create some Linux grants.

5. Create a Technology Plan
Schools need 5 year technology plans that they are forced to implement and be accountable for. Sure, ERATE requires a technology plan for schools but most teachers have never seen the plan and no one implements the plan. And once again there is no accountability for the plan. The school slaps together a plan and submits it to the state and it is given a rubber stamp. Here in Montana the schools send the technology plans to the state and it was discovered that the state did not even read the plans…just approved them.

Water runs down hill and sad to say that describes the US school system. Until we as Americans can individually and as a country demand more out of schools and educators, Linux is only a remote option.

  1. bigbearomaha
    March 8, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    You may want to clarify this by saying U.S. Public Schools.

    There is a record of numerous private schools successfully incorporating Linux into their plans.

    As long as the administration is ready to support the staff and students in training and support, it is not much different than when the school transitions from XP to Vista.

    Big Bear

  2. Parent
    March 8, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    “If you want to see Linux in schools create some Linux grants”
    Nope, create Linux jobs. When Linux becomes a required skill to get a job then you’ll see education react to the market need. Right now, I do not want my children to waste their time learning useless skill (that des not helt to get a job in real life).

    I tried to look for a non software/server admin jobs in my local area that require Linux. The result is ZERO jobs.

  3. March 8, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    I really think it is not only in US, in Ecuador we would like also that teachers would teach technology to kids by the use of Free Software, but because they only hear the word “Linux” the teachers get scared, so is very hard to change their minds.

    I am agreed also that schools need to create a short term plan to migrate the education to Free Software. I think the students will be happy to learn something new, but the teachers will be the ones that try to stop at any cost the project, maybe micro$oft will show up with new free trip-seminars to them outside the country also.

    I hope that US can be a good example of Free Software at Schools

  4. audun
    March 9, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    In Norway there’s a program for use of Linux in schools, which had some success, especially after Microsoft started a campaign against pirated software which forced the schools to pay for all software. Though, there are huge problems with interoperability, as the wider networks around the schools use Windows. This goes both for kids with Windows at home, as well for the muncipal and national networks that schools have to connect to.

  5. Tel
    March 9, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    I see thin clients as a better idea for schools, with a web browser on them and some sort of remote application protocol (could be RDP, VNC or even just X11, or all the above). Get the teachers to deploy and manage the thin clients because they are pretty simple and if one gets broken just replace it. The thin clients could run linux but it wouldn’t really matter much what they ran.

    Someone else (not the teachers) should manage the central servers where any actual applications live and network links are relatively cheap so this doesn’t have to be onsite at the school (but it could be). Schools don’t need all that many applications, just the basics really. They just need stuff that’s simple and stable.

    When it comes to teaching, don’t teach any technological details, certainly don’t even think about teaching OS level stuff. Just use the browser as a means to an end so students can do research through google, wikipedia, etc. Any technological specifics you try to teach will be out of date too fast. Better to teach basic principles, maybe a little bit of Java programming to get the idea of how programs work, some spreadsheet to get the idea of using maths in a grid, and perhaps a very elementary network or something relating to communications.

    The rest of the time is better spent learning maths, science, history, and the traditional subjects. Someone who understands principles can pick up any specific technology very quickly.

  6. MSH
    March 10, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    The poster “Parent” reveals the root cause of the sad situation in public schools. “Parent” is the prototypical parent who cares enough to vote in school board elections, and could also represent the typical board member. Linux is a “useless skill” because these people are not technical people, and they hold onto false assumptions, partly based on MSFT FUD but also their own experiences and prejudices.

    First off, the use of Microsoft infrastructure is NOT universal in the job market, not even in non-IT careers. “Parent” doesn’t get that–all they know is that they have Windows on their own PC, and they spend a lot of time on Windows manipulating MS Office documents at work–if they use a PC on the job at all.

    If you child held a summer job at a fast food restaurant or as a cashier in a department store, they’ve already dealt with non-MSFT computer systems (ranging from Linux to SCO UNIX to IBM Mainframe apps through a 3270 terminal emulator. If you work at a bank you probably use a terminal emulator or a web front end to interact with a mainframe app. If you work for a large enterprise you will no doubt cross paths with an ERP application that runs on a big IBM system or even Linux. Windows is NOT universal, and even in your all Windows school students will certainly NOT learn how to use all the applications they will encounter in their careers, Windows-based or not.

    Secondly, and more importantly, is that this is GRADE SCHOOL we are talking about–NOT a vocational school, or an industry training centre that churns out MCSEs, or a night-study course at the Library. This is where children are supposed to “learn how to learn”–develop critical thinking skills, how to be analytical, how to be creative. At that level, it is extremely short-sighted to teach a particular technology “skill” at the expense of learning how to use technology in general. I was introduced to computers with the PET, Apple II and C64. At home, I learned CP/M and later got an Atari 800 then an ST (deliberately chosen BECAUSE they were different from school, so I could get more variety). Finally towards the end of Grade IX at school we got our first serious exposure to MS-DOS (v2.11 by that time). I graduated Grade XII before windows 3.x became truly widespread and got my degree before the Win95 hype had died down (doing the majority of my schoolwork on HPUX and Sun workstations, where I learned the UNIX command line and how to navigate the CDE desktop). Almost NONE of the “hard skills” I learned are relevant anymore, so why worry about what kids learn today? The end result for me is that I can adapt to new environments very easily and accept change.

    Such a viewpoint as “Parent”‘s does a HUGE disservice to students. Microsoft is not an open system, it is not modular, it is not transparent and it is not built to inter-operate by nature, so it is inherently a POOR choice in an educational environment. When you learn Windows you learn little of value about computing–you learn how to be an Office drone. In a few years, their relevant “hard skills” will be OBSOLETE. They learn touch-typing in an outdated version of MS Word, then they are thrust into a job where they have to learn how to use SAP, custom apps, newer versions of Office, everything. Chances are these kids have Windows at home anyways, so by exposing them to alternatives at school you are preparing them for the inevitable situation of having to adapt to differing technologies.

    Education in technology since I finished school has degraded SO severely it is upsetting to me. Well intentioned as it is, this misguided notion that children in primary school need to learn Windows to obtain “employable skills” has damaged our education system. Kids graduating grade XII now have known nothing but Windows–they’ve been eased from Windows 9x to XP and all the while learn NOTHING about programming concepts or computer architecture beyond the very basics. As a result 95% of them are “computer grandmothers” (you know, the stereotypical technophobic old lady that is held as the “acid test” of user-friendliness). Too many kids have MSFT locked into their brains to the point that they’re uneasy even with MAC OS X (unless it’s on a “cool iPhone”), part of a nasty feedback loop that produces future backward-thinking teachers, administrators and parent hard-wired to dismiss (often superior) alternatives to MSFT.

    If only educators would fight such asinine thinking. No teacher would suggest we drop Shakespeare from the high-school curriculum to devote more time to writing project status update reports, memos and executive summaries, nor would they suggest cutting abstract math skills to focus on reconciling their bank statements or balancing a till. Writing an essay on Macbeth or silly positional papers? Finding the maximums, minimums and intercepts of a polynomial? Calculating derivatives? Solving a set of linear equations? Geometry? PAH! What a waste of time! Nobody does that on the job, why do high-school students waste their time learning that? If educators and school boards faced those arguments from “Parent” they’d dismiss him out of hand as ignorant and short sighted. Why is it that with technology it is suddenly considered not only an acceptable attitude but also a wise and prudent one?

  7. Tom
    March 15, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    To quote a teacher in Maine that IS using Linux in his school, “We don’t teach a child how to drive a Ford, or a Chevy, we teach them to drive a car.” The same concept is used in his school. He has Linux desktops all around with the ability to run Linux applications, OR remote desktop into a Windows terminal server. Plus, here in Maine, we also have Mac iBooks in 7th and 8th grades. All three technologies live happily together, BECAUSE of Linux. The common storage server is a Linux server. Open Office is installed on all three as well.

    It is really about stretching the school budget dollar. Either pay hundreds, thousands of dollars for licensing fees, or adopt free software, cut costs and maybe even lower taxes. (Sorry, got carried away with the taxes comment)

  8. geoff
    March 17, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    MSH #7 above – Well done!

  9. C Stewart
    April 2, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    I work in a Microsoft dominated school District. Our network admins are all Microsoft only types. Our Technology Director is a Microsoft only guy. All I hear is MS, MS, MS… We spend about $112,000.00 per year for our MSA license. Just finished a technology assessment that shows how many of our schools do not meet the minumum State standards, 64%. WE can’t afford new computers, we are buying 3 year old off-lease. And yet we cling to the mantra that we must teach Windows on a Microsoft platform to our children so they will be able to get jobs when they graduate. Yeah, if they need to know Office 2003 on a Windows Xp machine set to Windows 98 classic view with a desktop shortcut to everything they may need to do, we have them all prepared alright. One of our school board members dared to suggest a Linux alternative. He was soundly dismissed as a heretic.

  10. mudarwan
    June 6, 2009 at 2:54 am

    I am Mudarwan from jakarta, Indonesia.

    I Think beginlinux is very upset to know that US schools are not yet ready for Linux. but don’t feel so bad about it, “It is always hard to do things for the first time”.

    Our School has begun to use Linux (Mandriva 2008.1) since July 2008 and like what you have said, we also have problem with “Teachers Resistant to Change”. But we continue with our efforts until present time.

    So…. keep on trying to introduce & use Linux in your schools

  11. June 7, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement and good luck

  12. Doogle
    July 19, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    One poster mentioned that they have never seen jobs advertised in their area for people that work with Linux. I think this will change. Many governments are operating with Linux. It is also becoming more popular in developing nations. In Germany, India, China, the Middle East, and South Asia it is becoming very useful.

    RE: teachers resistant to change. The administrators have to take a hard line on this attitude in order to make any changes in schools, especially with ICT. I have seen schools and companies do this successfully.

    Re: IT skills at school vs. real life. Yes, many of the things taught in schools are skills based, not concept based. Mixing concepts of deeper thinking, flexibility, and other life skills into the lessons will help. This is not an easy task, and schools are resistant to this as well. At the same time, something such as HTML, database structure, and ethics can be thoughtful and meaningful lessons that allow students to at least understand how these things work. Reflective thinking is an important life skill as well, and is useful in any subject area. Hopefully the skills plant the seeds for some students to be motivated to learn more in their own time, just as they do with reading, sports, humanities, art, etc.

    Good luck to everyone on the ongoing changes to make computer instruction meaningful and relevant, regardless of the country you are in.

  13. Edmundas Daunoras
    June 4, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    I think that schools (especially high schools) should use Linux.
    Linux is becoming more and more popular and in by the time this generation finishes with school and goes out to the real world for jobs, I bet they will suggest you to learn Linux. And learning it is definitely not useless and it is fairly simple. I am a 10th grade high school student and couple of days was all it took for me to learn how to operate it.

  14. March 17, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    The comments here are inspiring!! I might have to steal some ideas and use them. I own a small tech support company and I’m hoping to start selling sleek Linux-ready desktops (mini-ITX) to industries such as education. I’m trying to put together some ideas as far as what to offer for support and training. I’ve worked for schools and after-school clubs with Linux and LTSP. I have a good idea on what might actually work as a business model to aid in promoting the use of open source software in society as well as give the future of our planet something they can be proud of..Hoepfully. 😉

  15. Tom
    September 10, 2011 at 1:06 am

    I don’t think that teaching kids a nonstandard operating system will do them any harm. Linux has a lot of commonality with windows, people who are good with linux adapt to windows very easily, people who learn only windows, have a hard time adapting to linux because linus is much much harder to use than windows. The kids will be fin no matter what OS you teach them, in fact my elementary school used nothing but macintosh, and I ended up just fine. (just about anything > macintosh.)

  1. March 10, 2009 at 1:15 am
  2. April 27, 2009 at 1:19 am

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