What are the advantages and disadvantages of Freeware for educators?world_wide_web.jpg

Advantages


One of the primary advantages of freeware is that it is cost-free and is covered by copyright. With all types of free software this is attractive to schools and other organizations with limited budgets as this makes vast resources available with no upfront purchase costs. Another advantage of using Freeware is that it generally comes only with all the files needed to use the program. With freeware that runs on the internet, users may not have any extra functionality as with other expensive forms of software; however, it will may save space on the hard drive, and will help to make the best use of available system memory.

Before downloading any type of freeware, users should research consumer magazines and websites for customer reviews, as well as industry insider information related to the particular software. Users should only download software programs with significant positive recognition from both industry and consumers. When downloading freeware from the Internet, users should read all documentation and always follow the installation directions and use the typical or recommended installation option. Using the Typical or Recommended installation option generally will install all of the needed files to get the most functionality from the software program. When freeware is downloaded from the Internet, a user guide is usually included with the program. Before using the freeware program, users should read the user guide and print out a hard copy for reference in case problems are encountered later with the freeware.

Disadvantages


Some programs that come free, may come with computer viruses and Trojan horses. These may infect computers and take them over. Users should always keep anti- virus and anti- spyware programs up-to-date. There is a lot of false information on the internet. It will cost money to have a virus removed from the computer.

Free resources come at a price, the users time. They are self supported, so users may need to spend time troubleshooting. There are no phone numbers to call for support. Users must use the Internet, and hope to find answers. However, some of the more widely used products are well documented and well supported online.


What is the Real Cost of Freeware?


While freeware can help users in many ways, problems can arise for developers and IT professionals. These problems can manifest from simple daily tasks such as updating the software, collecting data, and using as well as integrating the tools. Such problems can cause consumers to spend hours of extra time and they may end up paying support fees to an outside agency. Time spent sometimes cannot be afforded to such tasks.

In addition, issues arise when attempting to find support for the software downloaded. Users may not know who built it, whether they have credentials, if it has been updated with new features and many more puzzling questions that can cause frustration and result in lost hours or work. And, while users may eventually be able to figure out the bugs and kinks in the software, the costly price of time is one that must be paid and in the end, the user may have rebuilt the whole product – a task that is not easy for anyone.

Furthermore, more obstacles come to play when attempting to rebuild or use freeware software in a specific way. Because no two pieces of freeware come from the same sources, hours of research, conversations and access are required to solve simple issues. The bottom line, although Freeware is free in the sense that it costs no money, it does in some cases cost time when users run into problems with use and integration. Please see the page Evaluation Criteria and Template for Free Software to learn more about key points to consider when adopting any type of free software.


How can Freeware be used in education?


Technology costs money. This is not something new to educators or administrations alike. While sports equipment, textbooks, landscaping and other school expenses may have an allotted set of funds each year, technology cannot be afforded the same costs each year. Because it is always changing, updates, new software, new programs and tech support are in constant demand. It is difficult for administrations or districts to allocate the correct amount of funds to support technology programs because new and improved technology is constantly being created. It is not something that can be looked at every five or ten years, like sports equipment and other areas that need funding. Rather, technology needs attention on a much more regular basis. The new digital nation is wrought with students who are eager to load their YouTube videos, blog about their last date or simply chat with friends on X-Box live. How can schools keep up? How can educators prepare 21st century students to be active and competitive citizens in a world that is constantly changing and with tools that need to be constantly maintained? In order to prepare them properly,administrations, districts and educators need to be constantly and significantly invested in technology.

Many educators look at the new tools and software and immediately shut down. They think that they cannot work with such advancements or simply that they don’t have the time or money to learn how. However, putting such barriers aside, educators and administrations have to acknowledge and embrace the fact that teaching and schools are changing. Technology is changing the way lessons can be approached, curricula can be developed and even the role of educators in this digital world. This costs money and time.

Yet, what seems like an impossible feat is something that can be accomplished with the right research and tools. Administrators can incorporate and embrace technology in every part of their schools with the help of freeware and other programs that come at little to no cost to them. The great part is that many of these technologies are already in place. Attitudes can begin to change and teachers who once thought “there is no way I can do this” can now say to themselves “the technology is already in place and I can probably do this with little or no funding.” The reality of the situation is that technology and everything that comes with it can be expensive. And, while administrators have certain funds allocated to many different departments, technology seems to be one that administrations are hesitant to open their wallets to. This is where Open Source Licensing and freeware can help. Technology can be affordable, sometimes free, and can help to prepare students for the 21st century --a task that can be accomplished with little to no cost to schools and administration.

Because Freeware is essentially free and there are various programs to support many types of lessons, it is now easier for educators to incorporate technology into their classrooms at no additional cost to them or their management.


Check out the Examples of Freeware for education for some great programs that can be downloaded free of charge!