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Teaching teachers how to share software, one computer at a time.

I met today with some new teachers at the KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy regarding computers in their classrooms. There is a 5th grade math teacher who wants to use our GNU-Linux computers to allow the kids to do math problems online. There is social studies teacher who wants to use our Linux computers for research. There is a 7th grade social studies teacher who wants to use our computers for video editing.

The funny thing is that these teachers are very liberal, but they are not interested in hearing about how our Linux computers help build community. For me, personally, the best thing about GNU-Linux is that it fosters belief in community. Sure, Linux computers are technically superior to Microsoft Windows and Apple, but that is not what gets me excited about free open source software (FOSS). For me, the best feature of FOSS is the freedom. We, the community, control FOSS code, not some behemoth corporation who just views users as a revenue source.

But for these teachers, they are only interested in getting their kids on the Internet. They really don’t care about the rest of it. Or at least I have not found out the best way to get them interested in it. Maybe my messaging is wrong. Maybe it is my tone of voice. Maybe my timing is not good. I am willing to explore improving in all of those areas.

So for the time being, I tend to just stick to the numbers game. Every Linux computer that comes to life is a vote for freedom. If we are to prevent digital lockdown, we are going to have to recruit large numbers of people to our cause. Many of them will have opinions that differ from mine. I know that I need to be able to work people who have different opinions. I would rather see large deployments of GNU-Linux than have everyone agree with me. To me, the code itself teaches freedom every time it is used, in small but important ways.

For example, free open source software often is not sold in an “App Store” but is distributed for free as in beer and free as in free speech through the mirrored repositories all over the world. If we can get teachers to understand that the code is there for them to use and explore, we will have caused them to question why they need to rely on a hostile corporation such as Microsoft or Apple, who will restrict their ability to share the software. When people have spent so many years using Microsoft or Apple, they need to be taught how to share free software. My personal hope is that by just using these Linux computers, the teachers will get a powerful, real-life lesson in how wonderful and freeing it is to share.

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