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flowersPart of the Free Software Movement, Open Source Software stresses freedom of access to the tools of technology. Although the software is generally available at no cost to users, developers must be aware of the restrictions based on copyright and licensing associated with the product.

The example on the right was created with an open source graphics software tool called TuxPaint.

check Read Open Source Software in School Libraries by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson in Teacher Librarian (June 2006, Vol. 33 Issue 5, p55-57). Requires an IUPUI login.

check Read Freedom or Nightmare. This is a web-based version of a presentation by Annette Lamb.

Skim The Best Free Software of 2010. Not all the software is open source, but it is all free.

Licensing Options

When you create your own projects, you may wish to add a license for their use. The two most common options are those supposed by the GNU or Creative Commons.

Sometimes referred to as "copyleft" instead of "copyright," this type of license assures freedom to share with or without specific restrictions.


Many software developers distribute their software under the checkGNU General Public License. According to the Free Software Foundation, "licenses for most software are designed to take away your freedom to share and change it. By contrast, the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software--to make sure the software is free for all its users." They also state that "we protect your rights with two steps: (1) copyright the software, and (2) offer you this license which gives you legal permission to copy, distribute and/or modify the software." Finally, they remind people that "free software is a matter of liberty not price. You should think of "free" as in "free speech."

There are different types of licenses. For example, the GNU Free Documentation License is intended for use on a manual, textbook or other document to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it, with or without modifications, either commercially or non commercially.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons CCASL license. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that offers flexible copyright licenses to meet specific needs. Like the GNU licensing, there are different options. For example, at wikispaces they list four options when setting up wikispace based on Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike No-Derivitive-Works Non-Commercial 2.5:

The OSTG (Open Source Technology Group) was founded in 1996 to provide unbiased content, community, and commerce for the Linux and Open Source communities. Their web SourceForge.net is "the" place to locate and document open source software.

Closed Source. The opposite of open source software, these programs have licenses that do not provide access to the program's source code. Closed source materials may be provided to end users free, however these users may not modify the code.

The Controversy

Although open source is a great alternative to commercial products, the approach has gained both supporter and critics.

checkRead Free for All: Open Source Software by Karen Schneider in School Library Journal (8/1/2008).

To learn more about some of the controversy, explore the following articles:

Open Source Examples

There are many open source software packages that are as good or better than their closed source competitors. For instance, Audacity is very popular for audio recording and editing. You can even find operating systems such as Ubuntu or Edubuntu to use rather than Windows. However the biggest barrier to use is incompatibility of software with existing resources and systems.

Explore some examples of popular open-source software:


Open Source Resources


Learn More

20 Most Popular Open Source Software Ever

EdTechTalk: 21st Century Learning: Open Source - podcast

K12 Open Technologies

Open Source Resources for Education

School Forge

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