What Do High School Students Know or Understand about Open Source Software?


Only 20 years after the label “Open Source” was coined, the entire tech ecosystem has embraced its values of sharing, collaboration and freedom. Although Open Source Software is pervasive to our everyday life, does everyone and especially the younger generation realize how to leverage it?

Last summer, over the course of 3 weeks, High School students with no prior experience in Computer Science (CS) joined Holberton School’s first Immersion Coding Camp to learn how to code and build their own website.

“Best things that the tech industry could give us”  – Julia (senior at Bishop O’Dowd High School)

Students who had never heard of open source before the camp, got excited about the concept and ended up completely hooked by Git,  Atom or Bootstrap.

When asked to talk about their experience and their understanding of OSS, students have a lot to say! Here is a summary of their feedback.“Over the course of 3 weeks, not only have the students experienced the school approach — project-based and peer-learning — but they also have had the opportunity to be exposed to the tech industry. They visited tech companies such as Scality, Salesforce, Twitch and the VC firm Trinity Ventures. They made connections with engineers, designers, investors and learned how to use open-source softwares that professionals use on a daily basis”

“A great way to learn is by looking at other people’s work and study what they did” – Mickael

All the students realize open source is a great way to explore or learn more about technology on their own, especially when you don’t have computer science classes at school. As Mickael  (sophomore at Redwood High School) says “A great way to learn is by looking at other people’s work and study what they did”. GitHub is a considerable source of information and knowledge, “there’s always a ‘Read me’ file” to help you understand projects.

“It’s really cool that your work can help so many other people because you might have created what people had been looking for” shares Tyler (junior at KIPP King Collegiate).

Students embraced that OSS allows collaboration and mutual support: people are able to share valuable information and anyone can contribute to a project or a product and “it can even become better than what the person made originally”. When coding their navigation bar for example students used the code already available on Bootstrap instead of coding from scratch. It allowed them to express their creativity without the limitation of coding expertise.

“It can even become better than what the person made originally” – Tyler

Another reason why students adopted OSS so easily is because they realized the potential and opportunity it conveys. When using OSS, students feel they earn valuable skills and feel they are given equal opportunity to succeed:  “Anybody can get into the tech industry” says Jonathan (senior at Castro Valley High School). Learning how to use software used by big tech companies equip you best for the real world once you are looking for a job regardless of your social background!

“Anybody can make their own website and create animations for free and nobody’s held back” – Jonathan

As they experienced the benefit of sharing and collaboration (which is not always encouraged in their classroom) students really embraced OSS and its values. They realized they had a steep learning curve over the course of the summer camp and they are looking forward to discovering more software to help them learn more of all aspects of coding and programming.

With no prior knowledge in CS, by the end of camp high school students were able by to build their own website from scratch, implement very sophisticated layouts and create animations. They learned a lot, expressed their creativity and increased their confidence in their technical abilities This coding camp would not have been so rewarding for them without OSS.


Holberton School Summer Coding Camp 2018 is starting on July 9th, more info on our website!