A campaign to raise awareness about open source in Slovakia's schools will continue in August, volunteers announced this Wednesday. Between early April and 10 July, a group of open source enthusiasts visited schools in the cities of Bratislava, Košice, Poprad and Žilina, where they introduced teachers and students to the benefits and fun of using open source software solutions. The campaign will continue in August, with the first visits to a secondary school in Martin, a town in the Žilina district.
The 'Deň otvoreného softvéru v škole' (A day of open source software in school) campaign is organised by the Slovakian Society for Open Information Technologies (SOIT).
SOIT visited each of the primary and secondary schools three times, talking to teachers and students. Involving local free software groups, the volunteers introduced the schools to the benefits of free and open source software to network security, IT vendor independence and promoted the pedagogical value of solutions such as the LibreOffice office suite, the vector graphics editor Insckape and the geometry, algebra, statistics and calculus application GeoGebra.
"In Poprad, teachers shared with us their experience in using open source software. They also showed their open hardware based 3D printer, built from scratch by one of their students", says one of the SOIT members, Michal Kaukič, associate computer science professor at the University of Žilina.
He says that many schools are concerned about the end of support for a decade-old ubiquitous proprietary PC operating system, and are considering switching their PCs to Linux. At a Linux install party in a secondary school in Dubnica nad Váhom, the campaigners helped to install Linux Mint. "To the pleasant surprise of the teachers, this distro works well on the school PCs, which are not powerful enough to use recent version of the proprietary operating system."
On 3 and 4 July, the SOIT conference 'Open source in Education, Research and in IT solutions' took place in Žilina. The fourty teachers and students in attendance could choose between an introduction to Inkscape, working with the Snap! programming language, a hands-on Linux workshop or a beginners course for the programming language Python. "This is a good way to introduce open source solutions to these schools", says Kaukič.
The conference was to mark the end of the campaign. "However, we noticed a lot of interest in Python and so we held an additional 4-day Python course in Žilina on 7 to 10 July, attracting several university teachers and a group of secondary school students along with their teacher. We're now planning to continue with this course in August at a secondary school in the town of Martin."
"We believe that frequent and targeted local actions can improve the open source awareness of the educational community", Kaukič says. "Inadequately implemented educational reform and insufficient funding are major obstacles to the implementation of new ideas. We believe that early adoption of open source solutions is key to the future. We hope that this project took Slovakia one little step in the right direction."
The project was sponsored by the Orange foundation - the charity foundation from the eponymous telecommunications firm.
Deň otvoreného softvéru v škole' (A day of open source software in school, in Slovakian)
About Society for Open Information Technologies (SOIT)
Open source days and weekends, regular and occasional actions of SOIT