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How open source took root in one Pennsylvania school district

Filed under
OSS

I’ve been working in educational technology for more than 17 years and have spent much of my career advocating for open source in schools. For years, open source in education has gotten a bad rap. Superintendents, school boards and teachers frequently misunderstood open source software to be synonymous with dubious code birthed by mad, degenerate "hackers" who spend dark nights scheming to unleash complex and nefarious plots for social disruption.

Since public education communities have historically been biased toward the traditional, you might guess that, at the very least, open source was long considered a little outlandish. On multiple occasions, I’ve fielded questions such as: Who comes up with this open source stuff? Isn’t it illegal? Why do they just give it away for free?

Part of my journey to challenge this mindset began at the turn of the millennium. As the Y2K bug scare subsided and schools awoke to the promise and power of student technology, I struggled with one of the oldest and most taxing questions a public school administrator faces: How are we going to afford our school technology? Budgets for software and computers were slim, technology staff resources were thin and district leadership felt increasing urgency to provide robust software for our diverse community of students, teachers and support staff.

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