15 ways to empower students with open source tools

Jonathan MathewsPublic

15 ways to empower students with open source tools

The academic year is firing back up soon, so you’ll be seeing more education articles on Opensource.com in the coming weeks.

Recently I read the fascinating book Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Own Learning, by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani. The book led me to think more deeply about my teaching methods and how I like to learn. I think learning should be exciting, and I’m happiest when I’m actively engaged in what I’m doing. Why wouldn’t students in our schools want anything different than that? And why aren’t we doing more to give that experience to them?

While many schools today have a 1:1 ratio of computers/tablets to students, most of them use platforms and software that allow little (if any) modification. Students can’t tinker with the software or hardware. Yet tinkering and experimenting are at the heart of learning. The authors of Empower say that students in environments that foster “making” take ownership of their learning more readily and tend to be deeper thinkers who are more at home with frustration. Ultimately, they wrote, “makers are better equipped for life.”

Tinkering and exploring with Raspberry Pi

As I’ve been working more and more with Raspberry Pi computers, it’s become clear to me that they, along with open source software, are a great and affordable way to bring more tinkering and making into schools.

Since Raspberry Pi is relatively inexpensive (a Raspberry Pi setup with keyboard, mouse, and LCD display costs about a third of a typical $400 tablet) and durable, a classroom of 25 students could be outfitted without breaking the school’s budget.

In addition, the open source software available for Raspberry Pi doesn’t require additional licenses or fees, as is often the case with other types of software.

What better way to encourage making, designing, creating, and evaluating than outfitting your classroom with a set of Raspberry Pi computers?

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