The Linux Desktop: Rich with educational software

The Linux Desktop: Rich with educational software

Summary: Linux for education is a great win, for all PC users. I have read about schools making the move to open source and Linux in the classroom, with countless success stories.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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Linux for education is a great win, for all PC users. I have read about schools making the move to open source and Linux in the classroom, with countless success stories. I have been a GNU/Linux user for many years, and I admit that I have never really dug into the open source educational software that is available for the Linux desktop, until recently. I also read many articles written by Windows users about how Linux is dead on the desktop. Is it really? When I see articles that put down the Linux desktop, I am almost 100% assured that the author has not even tried to download a copy of GNU/Linux, installed some software and actually given it a test drive. For those that have actually used GNU/Linux enough to know what it is, you generally hear a completely different tone. Linux is definitely not taking over the market, but it is FAR from dead; there is a huge amount of software that comes with each and every GNU/Linux distribution that a lot of people are not even aware exists. To me, this makes the Linux desktop a very viable and economical solution for educational environments. It is also fine for business and personal use as well, but that is a harder nut to crack. As I have found for myself, it is definitely worth taking a look at what software is available; I guarantee you will be surprised.

Sure, I've used some educational software for GNU/Linux like Stellarium and Celestia which are excellent astronomy programs, but I've never really looked to see what is available for children. I've installed GNU/Linux PCs in environments where young children were using the computer but never really took the time to see what additional software they could benefit from. When I started looking to see what is available now, what I found was a huge treasure chest, full of software for all types of applications, ranging from mathematics, typing, memorization skills, counting, letters/number recognition; the list is virtually infinite. There is definitely no shortage of software here, and even I am surprised at the huge list of titles that are available. Best of all, with just a few clicks any one of them can be installed, looked at, and uninstalled if desired. It reminds me of long ago when I would enjoy browsing shareware for Windows, and would download and try various programs. This was before Windows became saturated with shareware. Today, the Internet is flooded with Windows software, but the issue I commonly see is that too much effort is put into marketing the software and making it look good, that the educational value has diminished. Keep in mind that open source software is written by the very people that use it, so all effort is put into making the software for its intended purpose, not to attract buyers.

So, these are a few sites that I found very useful for browsing what is available. Most of them contain a list of software that is available, which you can then jump into your favorite GNU/Linux distribution and download.

The KDE Education Project : This site lists the programs created specifically for KDE. I had no idea many of these even existed, very good stuff here.

Schoolforge.net : This site is dedicated to promoting open source software for education. Be sure to check under Education Software on the left side of the page and select the GNU/Linux operating system at the top of the list.

Tux4Kids : This site is the home for 3 great programs for kids: tuxpaint, tuxmath, and tuxtyping. We've already had kids using tuxpaint which they absolutely love.

Kids's Software for Linux : A PDF file with a presentation about childrens software for Linux. A very good overview of the author's finding about this subject. It also contains a small list of software available which are top titles.

A few other programs that I will definitely be checking out:

- tuxtype : basic typing learning game - tuxmath : basic math learning game - kanagram : anagrams game - earth3d : virtual earth software (looks similar to Marble which is a virtual globe) - ktuberling : potato face game - khangman : classic hangman - blinken : similar to Simon pattern game - mnemosync : flashcards program for testing yourself - mathwar : addition/subtraction game - simultrans : learn about transportation for the economy - senken : city building - childsplay : similar to GCompris, one of the top rated packages - pytrail : similar to Oregon Trail, the classic U.S. History game

This is hardly a scratch on the surface of what is available, but it gives you an idea of just what else is on the horizon that you haven't seen yet. These just caught my eye within the first goaround. So jump into your favorite Linux desktop, and take a look at what is out there. I am sure you will be amazed as well.

Topic: Open Source

Chris Clay

About Chris Clay

After administering Linux and Windows for over 17 years in multiple environments, my focus of this blog is to document my adventures in both operating systems to compare the two against each other. Past and present experiences have shown me that Linux can replace Windows and succeed in a vast variety of environments. Linux has proven itself many times over in the datacentre and is more than capable for the desktop.

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  • Heh, I'm both lead developer of Tux Paint (and was original creator of TuxMath), as well as author of that "Kid's Software..." PDF. (And I'm still president of that LUG.) Proof that I have too many hobbies. ;)
    anonymous
  • Bill : I can say that from an end user's perspective, I appreciate all of your work developing great open source software. I can only hope that we can demonstrate to others that there are mountains of great open source software titles available, and that we no longer need to look at proprietary platforms and software.
    Chris_Clay
  • I believe what would help is a website listing all available education software. I work with a couple of k-8 schools and their biggest complaint is they don't have time to look for the software.

    Bill thank you for all your great work.
    jecker-20127
  • jecker : I definitely agree. The sites I listed are definitely good projects that support and provide this. Fedora also has a couple of things, like:

    - The Fedora Education spin:
    http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/SIGs/Education
    Once this is finished, it will provide a base installation that will include everything in one shot. What I find interesting is that it also includes server applications, such as Moodle, that is widely used today. This is a great idea and I hope it moves forward.

    - Fedora educational software:
    http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/SIGs/Education/Apps
    This is a list of Fedora packages that will be included in the educational spin. But, I know this list is not everything that is included with Fedora itself, there is more educational software available for Fedora in addition to this list.

    On top of this, educating the schools that this software is available is a big step as well. With Microsoft lobbying and trying to force its software in schools, hopefully the schools will become aware of and realize the cost savings and huge benefits of using open source and GNU/Linux instead of Windows.
    Chris_Clay
  • For 5 years, I was at a school which ran the Linux Terminal Server Project on the student machines with great success (from our point of view). We had a constant battle with the staff, who were "too busy to learn something new", but as we constantly proved, there is nothing to know.

    We used to run open evenings, whereby we would let parents loose on the system. I would say to them, "we're going to write a letter, off you go". After a few blank looks, as to where Microsoft Office was, I would ask "What do you need to write a letter?". "A word processor", they would answer and lo and behold, they would take the menu option "Word Processor". Similarly for a menu option "Spread Sheet", which makes much more sense than something labeled "Excel".

    We gave every student a modified version of the OpenCD, which contained the Windows ports of the programs we ran, and said if they used it there would be no compatibility issues. If they insisted on binging in documents from M$ Office, and these documents couldn't be opened, that were their problem not ours. The biggest issue we has was with unfinalised CDs, which the students would bring in with homework on. Nero is happy to read and write unfinalised disks but our Linux system wasn't that good at reading them.

    I also discovered there were differences between the Linux and Windows versions of OpenOffice, especially with regard to OOBase, but once aware of these, the teachers would point these out.
    openhgs
  • openhgs:

    That is an interesting story and good information. It is interesting to see the resistance to change. While I can understand the frustration from learning a new process, it is inevitable because even Microsoft will change its software from version to version.

    It will be interesting to see when other organizations adopt the OpenDocument standard, which seems to be the best global solution for having a standard and open document format. Some organizations still strictly enforce MS Office only which should be overturned. Students turning in work are forced to save in MS Word format which as we know, exporting from OpenOffice can sometimes cause problems. If they would only accept a more open document standard as OpenDocument, these problems would go away.
    Chris_Clay
  • I think it's worth thinking about the people who NEED desktop software, rather than dismissing that segment of the market from new development. And Open Source software is very important to supply especially during the current hard economic times. There are plenty of users who cannot afford either updates to old hardware or the pricey name brand software. Open source has been a lifesaver to an old computer user like me who finds a senior citizen income insufficient to support the shiny new gadgets or commercial programs. I wonder if handicapped or bedridden people find the new tiny *pods and *books and such even useable! There are a lot of us out here who increasingly look for Linux based inventions, and are very grateful for the wealth of useable-- even essential -- and excellent programs.
    zdsusan