Why don’t we use more free and open source tools in education?

Image | Open Source

Every September, parents put their hands to their heads reviewing the long list of books that they have to buy for their children. However, there is an alternative that more and more teachers are using: open educational resources, free digital materials that are made by teachers who share them with the rest of the educational community.

The organizations Open Source Education Foundation and Open Source Initiative have spent years promoting the development of every type of open format software for education. UNESCO also recently expressed its support for these types of programs, and has urged countries in the United Nations to promote their development and implementation.

In Spain, the National Curriculum Development Center for Non-Proprietary Systems drives the creation of such content, and has even developed an open source program to develop it. The tools are free, Creative Commons licensed and comply with the curricula set by the government. However they haven’t spread as much as we may have expected them to, nor have they come to replace paper textbooks.

The same thing happens in other countries where the use of technology in the classroom is on the rise but hasn’t become the norm. One of the primary obstacles is that there is still a lack of devices and other technological tools in schools, often because of limited budgets. Also, more traditional teachers continue to rely primarily on printed content.
Besides having curricular activities in digital format, the number of online courses has grown, which are as valid academically as physically attending any university. In the United Kingdom, more and more schools are joining the network Futurelearn, a platform that offers different thematic talks through screens.

In the United States, renowned universities such as Yale, Harvard and MIT have begun using digital formats to teach lessons. Brazil and India are also examples of countries that have been promoting these practices. Free software tools allow colleges and universities to save on costs compared with other programs and systems that carry expensive licenses. Despite its advantages, the majority of schools still use computers and software tools trademarks, though some have already switched their computers over to Linux.

Why don’t we use more free and open source tools in education?

Image | woodleywonderworks

Open operating systems allow the development of customized versions according to the needs of the curriculum. Students can also be made administrators on their computers, allowing them to learn new tools and giving them flexibility. However, there are still those who believe that this software is more difficult to use than those that are better known, like Windows or iOS (for smartphones and tablets), usually because they are unfamiliar with the new technologies.

Sometimes, the problem is simply that schools don’t want to leave their comfort zones. Often they aren’t sure that a free product will have sufficient quality, and they end up using better known brands or ones that have been around for a longer time (or those that spend more on advertising). Despite the barriers, “open source” tools continue finding their ways into classrooms and into the minds of teachers. This is something that is needed in our present context and that could possibly help improve many aspects of Spanish and Western educational systems.

The mSchools programme is a multi-faceted mEducation initiative by Mobile World Capital Barcelona, in collaboration with The Generalitat of Catalonia, Barcelona City Hall and GSMA.
Launched in 2013, mSchools supports students and teachers effectively integrating mobile technologies into the classroom. Mobile enables access to up-to-date materials, improves collaboration and strengthens learner engagement, opening up new ways of teaching and learning that improve achievement and employability.
The mSchools programme brings together private and public institutions to help students build important new skills and prepare them for today’s digital world.

Mobile World Capital presents a global vision that effectively integrates mobile technologies into the fabric of the industries transforming our lives. Committed to expanding the mobile experience throughout Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain with strong support of the public and private sector.

Mobile World Capital is leading mobile transformation through commitments in Competence Centres, local Industry Development, and Entrepreneurship and Innovation programmes.

MWCapital offers an open platform and exhibition showroom where citizens can understand and experience how mobile is enhancing our lives: The Mobile World Centre, located in the heart of Barcelona on Plaza Catalunya.

More information: