When the establishment leadership team sat down to design the information systems for the school we looked first at what we're trying to achieve; not the budget we had to achieve it. Our vision at ASHS is:
At Albany Senior High School
- we nurture each other
- we inspire each other
- we empower each other
to achieve highly and become good citizens.
In addition to the vision, we have 11 values which include:
- Families as part of our learning community.
- Fairness, openess, honesty and trust.
- Learning together and making decisions together.
- Curiosity and enquiry, creativity and innovation.
- Contributing to our local and global communities.
- Diversity that enriches our learning community.
By the time the cost of this software licencing is applied to office suites, graphical manipulation, video editing, music composition, 3D modelling, space exploration, language learning, mind mapping, flashcards, vector graphics, animation, desktop publishing and programming software, we have a problem. The decision we faced as a school was to use proprietary software and impose a learning tax on our community or to use open source software and give everyone access to a full range of powerful, free learning tools. It's no surprise which way we went. If you're interested in the software we use, there's a summary here.
Open source software also supports the learning of our community (local and global) through an unbeatable business model. Any features we have developed for us, we contribute back to the community, meaning a dollar spent by us literally helps the whole world. If I pay a proprietary software developer to improve their product, they can then sell that to every customer they have, meaning a dollar spent by us can be used to extract another dollar from that company's other customers. They sell the feature we paid for to everyone else. It just doesn't make sense, and I think it's only a matter of time before the open source business model makes serious headway in software 'sales'.
Just to clarify this also: not all of our software is open source. We still use a couple of products that have no comparable open source equivalent (like Final Cut Pro) because the tool is the most important thing. We won't deny a student the ability to study and learn because of an ideology we have. Our ideology is to do the very best by our students, it just so happens that open source software does this most of the time.
A few posters on discussion forums have also focused on the amount of money the school has saved as a result of being open source. It's true that we save a six-figure sum each year in hardware and software costs, but this is just a handy spin-off from our decision to be open source, not the reason we did it.
It's free as in 'freedom' not free as in 'free beer'.