Open Source & Linux

It's important to understand that both Linux and Microsoft Windows are used side by side on all student workstations, and that teacher workstations still use a mixture of OS X and Windows.  Morrison continues to be a heterogeneous technology environment.  That said, Linux plays an important and growing role within the district.

Morrison Success Stories
The district utilizes a wide variety of open source Linux based software to protect students and expand their learning opportunities.  The district's web filter is Linux based, and it has provided more effective filtering than the commercial solutions the district used previously.  The district's wireless access points run Linux, and they have proven to be highly reliable (we know because we monitor them and keep data on their uptime).  

Google Apps, adopted across the district as a cloud based email, office-suite, and file storage solution is based on Linux.  The Android operating system on district tablets is based on Linux, and the majority of student devices brought to school under our BYOD policy are Android (Linux) based.  In fact, as of August 7th 2013, Android powered devices account for 79% of the worldwide market.

The Pedagogical Reasoning
Linux encourages kids to become technology creators rather than technology consumers.  Commercial software trains students to accept the limits of current technology, and to simply pay for more capabilities.  Open source Linux-based ecosystems encourage students to engage with technology at a deeper level and create the technology tools they want.  This creative activity pushes thinking up into the Application, AnalysisSynthesis, and Evaluation tiers of Bloom's Cognitive domain.  Hardware based projects using open source code and tools (like 3D printing or even simple PC repair) build useful (and rare) bridges between the Psychomotor and Cognitive domains. 

On the flip side - the consumer of commercial technology buys a computer and never cracks the case open.  The consumer buys software and performs tasks the way the software company dictates.  There is very little opportunity (or demand) for creativity or problem solving.  

In education, a technology platform should remove as many barriers as possible to exploration and creativity.  Open source (Linux-based) software or hardware makes no attempt to limit functionality or access.  In fact, it relies upon the effort of the technology end-user to create that end-user's desired functionality.  For the learner, this translates into fewer limitations on the types of projects that can be completed with open source (Linux-based) tools.

Another way to look at the subject is from the teacher's perspective.  What technology platform can a teacher learn that will pay the greatest dividends in the future?  With Linux and the software that runs on Linux, teachers can send software home with students without licensing concerns, and that software will run on the student's computer even if it's old.  If a teacher needs a video editing solution for a project she can just download one and use it immediately for free on as many computers as she wants.  If she needs a program for flash cards there's one for that as well.

At last count, there were over 65,000 software packages available for free and immediate download on all of the Linux powered student computers at Morrison.  These applications will not suddenly become unavailable, or fail to work with new versions of Linux, or suddenly become too expensive to continue using.  I have never seen a commercial software ecosystem offer that kind of long term payoff in exchange for the effort expended to learn it.  

Don't Just Take My Word For It
People use Linux everyday without realizing it.  The software that powers the Internet is Linux or Unix based.  The software that powers all of the major online service providers (Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, Twitter) comes from this operating system lineage.  Even Apple's desktop operating system "OS X" is based on BSD, which is Unix.  The late great Steve Jobs pioneered the use of Unix in creative pursuits while working with NeXT and Pixar in the 90s.  So, whenever you watch a Pixar movie you have Unix or Linux-like operating systems to thank for this wonderful digital entertainment.

The White House runs Linux.  In July 2001 the White House started moving their computers to a Linux platform. This was completed in 2009. In October 2009, the White House servers adopted Drupal, an open source content management system.  Apparently, Linux is something that both Republicans and Democrats agree on.

The United States Department of Defense uses Linux - "the U.S. Army is “the” single largest install base for Red Hat Linux" and the US Navy nuclear submarine fleet runs on Linux.  In June 2012 the US Navy signed a US $27,883,883 contract with Raytheon to install Linux ground control software for its fleet of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) Northrup-Grumman MQ8B Fire Scout drones.

In April 2006, the US Federal Aviation Administration announced that it had completed a migration to Red Hat Enterprise Linux in one third of the scheduled time and saved 15 million dollars

The US National Nuclear Security Administration operates the world's tenth fastest supercomputer, the IBM Roadrunner, which uses Red Hat Enterprise Linux along with Fedora as its operating systems.

The International Space Station is switching from Windows to Linux. "We migrated key functions from Windows to Linux because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable -- one that would give us in-house control," said Chuvala. "So if we needed to patch, adjust or adapt, we could."

The New York Stock Exchange runs on Linux

The London Stock Exchange runs on Linux

NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab uses Linux for 100% of its flight control operations.  

Linux is used wherever security, performance, and stability matter.  That Linux is free is miraculous.

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Educational Publishing

Open Source began as a philosophy of software development and has spilled over into publishing and to the licensing of creative works.  The Creative Commons licenses provide an organized way to create something like an e-textbook and share it with others.  These licenses allow collaborators to contribute to, redistribute, and use a resource in an almost unlimited way.  

The freedoms granted by Creative Commons licenses allow schools to acquire materials for free, distribute them to all of their students, and even modify them as necessary to suit the needs of the community.