The FOSS-VELS Matrix

By kattekrab, 7 July, 2006

Donna Benjamin
Infonet - Journal of the Victorian IT Teachers Association
2006 Vol 16 Number 3 p17

Matrix: n. pl. ma·tri·ces (mtr-sz, mtr-) or ma·trix·es
1. A situation or surrounding substance within which something else
originates, develops, or is contained: “Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every form of freedom”
(Benjamin N. Cardozo (

Some would argue that Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is one of the key drivers behind the knowledge economy. Google, Amazon and Yahoo are some of the biggest users of Open Source operating and database systems. Now FOSS is making an impact on the Desktop too.

Free and Open Source Software can give schools greater flexibility in making resource allocation decisions. Businesses are increasingly turning to FOSS to cut costs and gain competitive advantage, and are actively seeking people with flexible computing skills and a willingness and ability to adapt to different operating environments. Teachers can use Free and Open Source Software as the basis for helping their students develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours necessary to meet the new standards, and be flexible and productive people in the workforce as employees or perhaps running their own businesses.

Through a global community of developers and users, free and open source software offers educators a participatory framework of tools, rather than a consumptive framework limited to the availability of off the shelf products. It is this global community that makes Open Source Software more valuable than the sum of its parts. Users are actively encouraged to participate in testing and bug reporting, and even invited to submit solutions if they have the skills to do so.

The VELS approach to curriculum is an open door to experimentation with free software as teachers of all subjects seek to integrate technology into their learning areas. Some do not have the resources, others do not have the skills, so the OSV FOSS-VELS matrix aims to be an active resource for educators to access the community that supports Free and
Open Source Software. Anyone can Google this information if they have the time. But one of the aims of the matrix is to be a supportive platform for connections between the education community and the FOSS development community.

There is already a great deal of Free and Open Source Software available for schools. Much of this software can be linked to each of the learning domains in the Victorian Essential Learning Standards. In 2005 Open Source Victoria published a catalogue of such software. Open Source Victoria is now taking the catalog a step further and developing a matrix that aims to connect Open Source software to the curriculum. The matrix will contain pathways for accessing further information and engaging community support.

The Open CD is a collection of free software available for Windows. It includes the Firefox web browser, Thunderbird email client, application suite, GIMP photo editing tool and Audacity for editing sound and creating podcasts. The matrix will focus on tools that are available on as many different platforms as possible, because the reality of school and home environments demands this.

Perhaps most usefully, the matrix will link to examples of how the software is being used in classrooms both here in Australia and around the world. Hopefully this will provide a practical starting point for an ongoing dialogue about using ICT in schools. Our aim is to support educators considering the opportunity Free and Open Source Software presents them in the adoption of ICT that supports all aspects of the new curriculum.

I invite anyone interested in participating in the ongoing development
of the matrix to contact me. I plan to discuss and demonstrate the matrix at the ACEC conference in Cairns in October.

The Software Catalogue for Schools can be downloaded here:

Download and Burn a copy of The Open CD:

Or contact me with your address details and I will send you a copy.

by Donna Benjamin Education Spokesperson Open Source Victoria