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Running head: FREE AND OPEN SOURCE 1

Free and Open Source Technology for Schools

L’Emuelle Moody

Liberty University

EDUC 696

Dr. Casey Reason

April 30, 2018


Proprietary technologies currently control the technology aspect in most private, public,

and higher education institutions. These technologies, typically software, are created by an

organization or an individual that has complete control over a secret source code, patent, or

formula used in the technology’s creation and do not allow for any form of modification by

outsiders. That form of control does should not have a place in education because twenty-first

century school districts that rely on technology to support differentiation used in learner-centered

instruction must be able to improve their technologies and customize it fully to meet the needs of

their learners at all times. Sharing to benefit all is Biblical and stated in Proverbs chapter eleven,

verses twenty-four through twenty-five that states “One person gives freely, yet gains even more;

another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever

refreshes others will be refreshed.” Unlike proprietary technologies, Free and open source

technologies allow for sharing and improvement of technologies for the benefit of the society.

This research study justifies the integration of free and open source technologies in all

educational institutions and the use of a one-stop resource website for free and open source


Keywords: (free and open source, proprietary software, Linux kernel, FOSS, GNU, source code)

Free and Open Source Technology for Schools

The purpose of my study will be to ascertain the significance of integrating free and open

source technologies into schools. This research will be used to justify the use of free and open

source technology and in conjunction with creating a free and open source information and

resource website for schools. Sharing and giving through mediums such as free and open source

technology is justified by Biblical means and again reflected in first Timothy chapter six, verses

seventeen through nineteen that says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to

be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in

God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do

good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they

will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they

may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Customizable, free and open source technology can be used to support learner-centered

differentiated instruction that allows for instruction of all students regardless of their special

need, race, gender, or socio-economic status. The Great Commission calls for Christian teachers

to reach all students, including the diverse, special needs, and struggling learners doing, and

doing everything possible to help them become better equipped to impact the world for Jesus

Christ (Ackerman, 2012, p. 3).

Proprietary and Free & Open Source Technology

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and SourceForge (as cited by Thankachan &

Moore, 2017) stated that the term Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) arises from the

conjunction of two organizations, Free Software Foundation (FSF) and Open Source Initiative

(OSI), where FSF takes a value stand on software development and distribution, while OSI

promotes the economic and practical side of Open Source Software certifying its software to

guarantee the right to modify, distribute, and use the software freely (p. 187). The Source

Initiative (as cited by Zoetewey, 2013) defined open source software technology as software that

has open access to its source code, no-cost distribution, and able to be somewhat freely modified

unlike proprietary technologies (p. 324). Free and open source are blended together because

nearly all free software is open source, and nearly all open source software is free according the

Free Software Foundation (Zoetewey, 2013, p. 324). These technologies may also be referred to

as Open Source Software (OSS), Free Software, Libre Software, or Free/Libre/Open Source

Software (FLOSS) (Thankachan & Moore, 2017, p. 187).

Proprietary software technologies, also referred to as closed-source, are copyrighted

commercial technologies in which the source code remains secret property of its owner, but the

technology can be purchased, leased, or licensed from its vendor/developer (What is Proprietary

Software?, 2018, para. 1-2). Anyone that purchases proprietary technology must comply with an

end-user license agreement or terms of service agreement typically stating that the purchaser is

only using the proprietary software for what it is intended for and will not modify or re-distribute

outside of the agreement terms or risk being sued by its vendor/developer, or creator (What is

Proprietary Software?, 2018, para. 2). Customization of proprietary software is limited to what

its vendor/developer, or creator allows that eventually can become a problem when educational

institutions that follow a constructivist approach to education attempt to customize the

technology to benefit all students.

Advantages of Free and Open Source Integration

Proverbs chapter twenty-two, verse six says “Start children off on the way they should

go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” To prepare modern learners to

function in this twenty-first century digital workforce, instructional staff on all levels of

education must teach students skills that they will not turn away from including creativity,

communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, technological proficiency, and

global awareness (Sheninger, 2014, p. xviii). The instructional personnel of educational

institutions at all levels are content experts of the subjects they teach, and the integration of

technologies are used to support and customize learning by making instruction more efficient,

motivating through engagement, and relating material being learned to the learners’ previous

experiences to make it more meaningful and lasting (Hamilton, 2015, p. 3). Graham (2009)

stated that “information and events must be connected to the students’ lives and experience if

they are to be meaningful and to impact their behavior” (p. 175). Hamilton (2015) suggested that

students have the right to use technology in every classroom, all the time because research has

found that students comprehend content at more long-lasting levels when technology is

integrated into their lessons (p. 6-7). Free and open source technologies provide opportunities

for all students to use technologies that can be customized to their learning style in every

classroom all the time where proprietary technologies cannot always do the same because of

their copyrights and user agreements. God gave humans, especially teachers, the responsibility

to exercise control over the world around them and to creatively and rationally develop its

potential and not to be slaves to a curriculum guide, teacher manual, or even proprietary

technologies (Graham, 2009, p. 111). Most teachers use a modern constructivist learner-centered

approach to instruction where the students are active participants in acquiring knowledge, social

interactions, and relating new information to their previous experiences while the teacher

facilitates instruction by providing appropriate materials that may include free and open source

technology, and guiding students through their differentiated activities (Hamilton, 2015, p. 9-11).

In 2018 there are free and open source technologies that have been created as an

alternative to almost every major proprietary software available. The 2017 Horizon report

suggested that trending technologies in education included gamification or game-based learning

(GBL) which makes learning more motivating and engaging by integrating lessons into

competitive, intuitive games where students can compete against others or themselves allowing

for immediate feedback to the user (Freeman, Adams Becker, Cummins, Davis, & Hall

Giesinger, 2017, p. 7, and Lothian & Ryoo, 2013, p. 11). The game engines used in free and

open source games allow for the developer or even an education intuition’s IT staff in

collaboration with the developer to have complete access to all the game engine’s programming

source code and are free to modify the engine as needed which allows the game to be customized

to meet the learners needs (Lothian & Ryoo, 2013, p. 14). In a study conducted by Botana,

Abánades, & Escribano (2012) the found that integrating beneficial proprietary computer algebra

system (CAS) software for student use is very difficult because of its lack of availability and that

its free and open source counterpart, CAS Sage, as a real teaching alternative to proprietary CAS

because it eliminated the accessibility problem while providing

state of the art computational capabilities (p. 734). Another benefit of free and open source

technology is its facilitation in the flipped classroom model which can provide higher order

exploration opportunities for students such as Zengin (2017) found during his research on the use

of Kahn Academy combined with FOSS technologies such as Maxima and GeoGebra that

allowed students to benefit from technology effectively while learning rigorous concepts with

higher levels of difficulty (p. 90). Outside of the obvious advantages in the classroom, free and

open source technologies benefit educational institutions by valuing transparency, rapid cycles of

testing, collaboration and sharing within communities explicitly oriented toward experimentation

and collective accumulation of knowledge (Santo, Ching, Peppler, & Hoadley, 2016, p. 280).

Disadvantages of Free and Open Source Integration

Romans chapter fifteen, verses one through two says “We who are strong have an

obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please

his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” Like anything in this fallen world, there are always

critics of anything that may be of positive benefit amongst brethren and so goes the same for free

and open source technologies. No technology, thing, or person is perfect in this world, but as

previous Bible verses said, “let each of us pleas his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”

Although disadvantages of free and open software are noted by critics, they do provide

opportunities for improvement through collaboration because they are free and open source.

Some disadvantages of free and open source technologies discussed in the referenced journal

articles are lack of trained IT support, resistance to change by older instructional staff, lack of

broadband infrastructure when used in poor communities, less overall features compared to

proprietary software, pirated proprietary software, and tensions among the shared community of


Thankachan & Moore (2017) stated that the lack of free and open source trained IT

support is a problem that can be addressed by training technology competent

coordinators/administration and using them in to train other instructional staff, thus increasing

their technology self-efficacy with free and open source software and giving them the ability to

train a school community of staff along with training at other schools in the community (p. 192).

Providing adequate training to older staff can build their confidence with free and open source

technologies and motivate them to be more supportive and less resistant to the change. The lack

of broadband infrastructure in poor communities can be resolved by funding for upgraded latest

generation broadband services through funding from government resources and/or private

charities. Thankachan & Moore (2017) found in their research study involving the integration of

free and open source software in Kerala, India that broadband infrastructure problem was solved

by support from the government-managed telephone company BSNL that agreed to provide

wireless broadband connectivity to all government schools, support from the national e-

governance plan (NeGP) via use of their government’s Wide Area Network (KSWAN), and

support from the EDUSAT, or educational satellite that provided a broadband network to all

schools through interactive IP-based technology (p. 193).

Unfortunately, free and open source software may not have all the features that closed

source technologies have, but this problem can be resolved with hard work and collaborative

efforts of the free and open source community developers. Pirated proprietary technology

directly affects the use of free and open source technologies because of the corrupt legal system

in poorer countries that are tied up with litigation along with unethical practices of secular

education systems that allow for use of pirated proprietary software, thus causing educational

systems to turn away from using free and open source software. The last disadvantage is

tensions among the shared community of free and open source technology developers. Lothian

& Ryoo (2013) said that open source software is often community-driven which in turn

requires maintaining communication between different developers along with tracking

tasks and by utilizing open-source platforms, researchers become a part of that

development community and should be familiar with how the community is organized (p.

15). Without proper communication channels in the free and open source community,

unclear developments arise, and tensions can form.

Financial Advantages and Disadvantages

In reference to the high cost of proprietary software, Hoe (as cited by Thankachan &

Moore, 2017) suggested a solution to high software costs would be to use free and open source

software (FOSS) because the technologies have a fundamental freedom of being able to use,

distribute, modify, and redistribute the modifications made to software without licensing fees and

with source code (p. 187). Mathew chapter twenty-one, verse six says “For where your treasure

is, there your heart will be also.” Using schools’ financial resources strictly for purchase of

proprietary software licenses can be very costly and put strain on the school community,

especially if it is already economically disadvantaged. Free and open source technology allows

for educational institutions to keep their money for other school community culture building

projects like the what Willis (as cited by Van Brummelen, 2009) described when he said that

“students (need) to do more than ladle out soup to the homeless or pick up trash, they (need to)

apply what they’ve learned in the classroom, develop leadership and communication skills,

become more caring and responsible citizens while helping community needs in the process” (p.

239). The possible financial disadvantage of using free and open source software could be its

cost of initial implementation in entire school districts. This could be costly in a sense because

the school district may have to pay an outside contractor to distribute the technology throughout

the educational institution and/or train all staff where as this support along with all applicable

warranties are included with the high cost of proprietary technologies. But, there are solutions to

the IT support and training issues of free and open source software as addressed in the former


Conclusion: FOSS One-Stop Resource Website

Mark ten, verse fourteen says “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to

them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of

God belongs to such as these.” For teachers to follow Jesus’s instruction, we must reach

all students and can do so through differentiation. Van Brummelen (2009) suggested that

optimal student-centered learning requires differentiated learning strategies such as

varying the type and complexity of activities, challenging more able students, preventing

frustration in weak students and giving all students opportunities to use and display their

personal strengths because not all students think, learn, solve, and create in the same way

or at the same rate (p. 219). Integration of technology to support differentiation so that

students acquire necessary twenty-first century skills is absolutely necessary. The issue

arises when school systems have to make a choice between purchasing costly proprietary

technologies or selecting a cost saving, community building, customizable alternative

such as free and open source technology. The research in this paper justifies the use of a

one-stop, free and open source technology website for school instructional personnel.

This is a subscription free website can be used to provide background information on free

and open source technology, online resources linked directly to FOSS online websites or

downloads, tutorials on how to use various FOSS technologies, and the ability to make

suggestions for FOSS additions to the website.


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