The Linux Desktop: Rich with educational software

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.
Written by Chris Clay Clay, Contributor

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.

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