At first blush, the new offering, with a proposed release this fall, appears to have the makings of a serious competitor. Designed as an add-on "EDU-CD" to accompany the upcoming 10.3 release of openSUSE, the so-called "SLEducator" is designed to "[ease] the installation and configuration of an educational network and student desktop." More specifically, the Education group of the openSUSE community defined some extremely ambitious goals for themselves:
This project has been created by members of the openSUSE community. We do not want to create a new distro out of this or a fork that requires large amounts of code maintenance, since that would be futile. We only want to add certain packages and features that pertain specifically to educators and student users alike
With openSUSE we get a chance to "reach the world" keeping this idea in mind , the "EDU-CD" should manipulate the build process to produce, by default, a machine that can be both: desktop\thin client server and administrative suite for one school or by specific choice create the individual component servers that can communicate with each other to create the administrative infrastructure for an entire school district.
If you've been following my posts, you know that I've had some really positive experiences with Edubuntu (the "it-just-works" factor goes a long ways for me). The educational add-ons proposed for this project add not only LTSP support (we can only hope that it will be as easy and turnkey an implementation as that represented by Edubuntu), but also several administrative tools that Edubuntu is lacking. The developers have proposed the inclusion of two major open source student information systems (Centre and ClaSS), 2 different library automation systems, and a customizable social networking platform, designed to provide a school-centered alternative to MySpace and Facebook.
The list of proposed features goes on, but includes, among others, computer lab control software (iTALC, that allows management, locking, remote control, and demos on Linux and Windows machines) and Moodle (a platform similar to Blackboard). If these administrative and server-level features can be implemented in a well-integrated and logical fashion, this particular toolset could take open source educational software much farther into the mainstream.
Like Edubuntu, the openSUSE initiative also has a standalone desktop component and desktop feature set geared towards a wide range of educational needs. Specific applications to be included are the usual suspects (Gcompris and KDEedu), as well as some noteworthy packages like Noteedit (music composition software), Quanta (a very solid WYSIWYG editing environment), and Accelerated Reader.
James Tremblay, founder of the openSUSE Education project, responding to another of my posts, drew my attention to this project. The group is actively seeking input and testing, and has a growing "wishlist" of applications that the community has requested. Please check it out and offer suggestions. I encourage you to talk back below about features you would like to see in any project of this sort as well as open source tools that you have been using successfully in your schools. This project seems to be coming together at lightning speed, so get in your $.02 now. I'll be starting to test applications myself over the next few weeks and will post more as this crystallizes further.
Here's my initial contribution to the wishlist to get things started:
- Scratch - currently there isn't a full Linux port for this really cool bit of programming/animation software out of MIT Media Labs. Maybe inclusion in this project could be just the needed impetus.
- Virtualization software - this may already be included in openSUSE's main repositories, but it would be valuable to ensure that educators had access to a Windows environment if needed (and if they were appropriately licensed, of course)
- KSeg - this is a great open source version of Geometer's Sketchpad
- An IM client specifically integrated with the server to facilitate quick, in-school communications, especially between teachers and administrators; whether for emergencies, planning, or sharing files easily, something that didn't involve AIMExpress would be much appreciated.
Please talk back below with thoughts and suggestions. Thanks again to James Tremblay.