One Compelling Reason …

… to attend NECC 2007.

Here’s Tom Hoffman’s proposal for the conference:

Teachers love freebies. It is in our genes. And as Americans, we value our liberty: including free speech, freedom of religion, and the freedom to organize. As free and open source software such as Moodle, OpenOffice, the Firefox web browser, and the Linux operating system begin to appear in schools across the country (and the world!), many teachers and administrators know that the software is available “for free,” but fewer realize that these free software applications grant specific freedoms to their users.


* The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
* The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs.
* The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (students!).
* The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

These freedoms are based on a compelling vision of “information ethics” sharply different than that currently taught in American schools and libraries. It is an approach based on the fundamental and concrete imperative to help your neighbors and students, rather than the abstract economic construct of protecting intellectual property on behalf of corporations and producers. Even if you don’t agree with it, you need to understand the argument behind free and open source software, one of Tom Friedman’s great flatteners.

Beyond the ethical arguments, these freedoms have great practical value to schools. Free software isn’t just a free sample. The freedom to run the program cannot be revoked or limited. The freedom to adapt the program means that a school can’t be trapped by a single vendor. Because you are free to redistribute the program, copies of all free software can be sent home with each child, or posted for download on the school website. And the freedom to improve the program allows open ended communities to form around applications like Moodle, each member adding new features to grow the whole.

Participants will learn about the origins, history and philosophy of free and open source software, as well as the Creative Commons and open content initiatives. The definitions of “free software,” “open source” and other key terms will be explored in detail. We will delineate the terms of important licenses such as the GNU General Public License and Creative Commons licenses, and discuss their significance for your school . Finally, participants will consider some guidelines for choosing licenses for their own creations.

Long live the movement.

2 thoughts on “One Compelling Reason …

  1. Tell me more about this .
    You are right you mention “free” to educators and it grabs their attention. Are we so different from anyone else? However free education tools….yeah, lets talk. Free Technology…even better.

  2. Alright – it almost makes me want to attend NECC (went in 2001 – very corporate and most issues applied more to the U.S. than Canada. Why can’t Canada have a conference like this?). We need more people talking about open thinking in schools.

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