Sunday, 25 January 2009

Eight Reasons to use FREE (Open Source) Software

Having blogged about specific software for the past week, I thought it might be useful to come up with some reasons why it is worth spending the time reading the blog and then downloading the software and trying out with your class. 

1) It's free!
Well this goes without saying but by my reckoning just by using free podcasting software and an eBook creator (rather than downloading software to help you or getting someone to do it for you!) would save you between £350 and £500! Money better spent on, well, whatever you want really.

2) The software is robust
Much of the free software mentioned here and elsewhere, has been in development for years and has had large investments in time and people. Audacity (podcast software) for example was developed out of a US University and over 100 people have contributed to the software over the last 4 years.

3) The software is always being developed
As open source software relies on donations, keen users and programmers to study the software, make suggestions and add elements. Because the code is 'open source' (anyone can see it) then you get lots of great ideas implemented from users across the globe.

4) The people who developed it want to make 'great software'
If you are offering your software FREE the people are always going to say "What is the catch?" This means that the developers have a tougher nut to crack. They have to make really excellent software that has true value - not the value placed on it by a marketing department.

5) Increasingly schools are being catered for by Open Source Software makers
As open source software has become more widespread different markets are being targetted and schools is one of them. At this year's BETT Show there were stands or talks from these people and Its not cheap to exhibit or run a seminar at BETT so you know these organisations are serious.

6) Home access becomes easier
With free software there are fewer demand on parents to pay for home licences or dial into your VLE. They can just make it happen with a computer and internet access and a little bit of time. Watch out for Parents Guides coming on this blog.

7) It works!
I have been using all of these tools with my children and in the schools that I work with. My experience has been that children are able to take even some of the more sophisticated software and run with it and create amazing projects. Feeling confident in this aspect of the software is critical to making it work.

8) Did I mention IT'S FREE!
Pretty important given budgets can be an issue throughout the year. Free software and a bit of time can save hundreds of pounds which might get you an extra set of books, some pencils or even just a longer school trip!

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