Jay Pfaffman puts forward the case for open source – Part 1 and Part 2 (via E@zyVG). There have many such articles that pitch for open source, but this stands out because unlike many others, Pfaffman focuses on the free as in speech aspect. Many of us assume that open source is free as in beer, however, its core principle of free as in speech is what provides most value. This aspect of open source can aid in better learning.
I have been writing about using open source in education and I hope it happens earlier in developing countries. There are many talks about proprietary software being dirt cheap for educational purposes. But when the source is available students, especially the ones interested in programming, can get much deeper understanding and power to customize. Even otherwise, any institution can avoid vendor lock-in by using open source. Students can understand the power of software, good software, if they can customize the tools that they themselves use.
One other important influence of open source is the experience that a student gets out of interacting with the community. Of course there are communities around proprietary software, but in open source the community is a core ingredient. Working with them to understand the software is nothing less than working with a distributed team – something that even a lot professionals still yearn for.
Also, the open source tools today are ahead of the proprietary counterparts in adoption of standards and interoperability. This can help students in understanding value of standards and their impact on quality right from the roots.