martes, 2 de noviembre de 2010

Multimedia, Education, and Free Software

I was surprised today. A colleague showed me a CD that someone gave her in a course related to the Ministry of Education of my country. According to her, the CD contained "software for audio activities."

I took the CD. I expected to find a bunch of windows-only demos with a limited functionality or designed to expire in a month but my eyes read a familiar name: Audacity

Maybe Audacity doesn't mean much in the world of Windows but this name identifies the most famous audio tool in the world of Linux. Audacity is a multi-platform, open source audio editor, as the educational software should be.

Another of the programs included was new to me. Its name is JClic. JClic is an interesting set of educational activities that students can use.

However, it goes beyond that. It also lets teachers create their own activities...

What surprised me most wasn't the software, but the fact that the Ministry of Education is promoting the use of free software. Well, it actually shouldn't puzzle me: in a context of an economic crisis, schools must save costs and at the same time maximize their efficiency.

Moreover, open source applications tend to be inclusive since they frequently run on different systems instead of requiring their users to acquire licenses of OSs that such users can't even call legally their own.

9 comentarios:

  1. The fact that the Ministry of Education is now promoting the use of other computer programs rather than the traditional “Micromundos” is very positive for the educational system of Costa Rica. JClic, for example, is a very useful and entertaining program that teachers can use to make their classes more appealing. In addition, the other program called Audacity can be extremely helpful for teachers of English and French because they can record their lessons with no difficulty and give the recordings to their students in order to make easier the learning process. I truly think that these kinds of computer programs should be promoted more frequently in Costa Rica in order to change our traditional system of education.

  2. @ Beatriz,
    I agree with you. One license of Microworlds is $139. The "lab" license for 6 users is $500...and if your school lab has more computers than that, the site license is $1899. Now...14 years ago, there were about 3000 public schools...that means $1 500 000 (with the license for only 6 kids) much is that in our country's currency? About 750 million, I think. That's way too much money to let just 6 kids per school use that program. Microworlds, by the way, only runs on Windows or Mac which means adding a lot more money for Windows licenses.

    Our country needs to find more sustainable educational alternatives and free software can make the difference.

  3. I think this is a great piece of news because I strongly believe that interactive teaching methods are the best way to improve the learning process in students (children mainly).I ignore how extended this program is or if it's in experimentation phase but I think, without doubts, it's a quite wise decision the implementation of this kind of innovative didactic means. The more tool professors and students have the more successful results they will have.

  4. The promotion of free software by the Ministry of Education is a positive step, and it is giving students the opportunity to acquire knowledge that goes beyond Microworlds; however, the country is not yet embracing all the benefits of free software. Last year, in spite of the economic crisis, the Ministry intended to buy 63,000 software licenses from Microsoft with an approximate cost of $680, 470. According to the Ministry’s information technology director at that time, the main reason why it will be difficult to move to free software is that professors will require a special training, and that represents high costs. I believe that this institution should keep stimulating the usage of free software and identify the advantages that this could bring to the country’s financial system and technological development. Furthermore, paying for the training of professors will be an important investment and not a waste.
    Díaz, C

  5. @luisdiego,
    To tell you the truth, I am not so optimistic about technology in education because many people just assume that technology equals better learning, which I don't fully believe. Actually, some days ago, my students told me that teachers are abusing of PowerPoint presentations. They just read the contents from the wall as they would from a textbook and even turn their backs to the students to keep reading. The same happens with students who use their computers to check their Facebook account while in class. Tech tools are just tools: if users are not well-trained and don't use them to reach specific learning goals, they may even cause a negative impact in the classroom.

    @ Díaz, C.
    Unfortunately, many people believe that training is required just for free software. However, I've heard of people who have serious problems with the infamous "Ribbon Interface" of MS Office 2007. Don't they need training, too? Speaking logically, it is harder to move from the classic interface of MS Office to the Ribbon one than moving to Open Office. More than training, what people need is motivation. Mr.Ballmer's aggressive anti-piracy steps and the soaring prices of his company's products is becoming a strong motivation for some.

  6. In Costa Rica not all schools have the opportunity to interact with technology in class; consequently, I believe that the implementation of these kind of softwares is a great advance in education. First of all because it provides students more option to develop their academic skills in a different way, in a more constructive way I will say. In addition these programs are very useful also because they are not expensive, so MEP can provide, and should provide, this kind of tool to every school for students to learn easily, and also for them to develop different skills related with technology.

  7. There is a common stereotype among some people that Free Software means poor, limited software. However, this is not true. I have Audacity installed in my computer and I’m very pleased with this program; how much did it cost? Nothing! Many people still remain reluctant to try free software because of this stereotype. Nonetheless, many open source programs have the same or emulate almost perfectly the characteristics that many pay-for-it programs have (as Audacity does). Many other people don’t try free software because they don’t know anything about these programs or there is little information available about it. That the Ministry of Education is promoting the use of free software is a great opportunity for students (and future professionals) to be in contact with free software. This is also a great chance for people to put aside their fear of using free programs and giving an opportunity to experience a wide gamut of programs that would help us even more than expensive software designed to do little and cost a lot would do.

  8. It is pleasing to know that the Minister of Education is finally paying attention to the necessity that students have to use useful computer programs. During my years in primary and secondary school I never had enough training about the use of computers; the only programs I “learned” to use were MicroMundos and Microsoft Word. I still have not use JClic, but at least Audacity has been exceptionally useful for me in several occasions. In addition, the utilities that this program offers permit not only students but also professors to take advantage of this tool in an educational environment. As I said before, it is wonderful that the government is trying to prepare students for a technological future.