Linux

10 Linux applications that are perfect for educational environments

Teachers and school administrators are having to get creative about finding quality educational software they can afford. Jack Wallen introduces 10 topnotch open source solutions to help manage and administer educational programs and teach children of all ages.

Teachers and school administrators are having to get creative about finding quality educational software they can afford. Jack Wallen introduces 10 topnotch open source solutions to help manage and administer educational programs and teach children of all ages.


Good educational software is hard to come by. And with ever-tightening budgets, it only makes sense that many schools are turning to Linux and open source software to save money. Most people have no idea how many outstanding educational applications there are for the Linux operating system. In the following list, you should find at least one application that's just right for your situation.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: ATutor

If you are a teacher, you should definitely look into ATutor. It's online software that allows you to manage your courses and gives students a means of keeping up with what's going on with course work. With ATutor, you can post assignments, tests, grades, and more. Students can create accounts and keep track of their particular classes and assignments. Students and teachers can also keep in touch with one another via email and messaging. ATutor lets you create workgroups to group students for projects, classes, etc. Once you deploy ATutor, you will find your teaching life much more organized, and your students will thank you for it.

2: iTalc

iTalc is a powerful didactical tool that allows you to watch and control computers for educational purposes. You can show demos and even lock computers to get the attention of your students. iTalc will also allow you to reboot or shut off machines remotely. And unlike other more costly solutions, iTalc is free and released under the GPL. iTalc also supports Linux and Windows XP and will soon support Windows Vista.

3: Online Grades

Online Grades allows teachers to post students' grades and attendance online. It takes exports from many popular gradebook apps (such as Easy Grade Pro and Gradekeeper) and displays them online. Online Grades gives each student/parent, teacher, and/or administrator his or her own unique login, to keep security high. A parent with more than one child in a school using Online Grades will need only one login for all of their children. Online Grades was originally based on Basmati and is released under the GPL. The cost for this system? $0.00. You will find different areas for administrators, faculty, students, and parents.

4: Open Admin for Schools

Open Admin for Schools is an outstanding open source application that allows schools to do full student administration, including enrollment/withdrawal, student reports, attendance, schedules, report cards, fees, medical reports, and discipline. Open Admin is broken into four sites: Administration, Teachers, Parents, and Special Education. Each site is tailored to meet the needs of that specific group. One powerful aspect of Open Admin is that it allows administrative types easy access to the demographics of their school. With competition being a big issue in schools, knowing your demographics can keep you ahead of the curve.

5: FET

FET simplifies the complicated scheduling of K-12 and university schedules. It uses a heuristic algorithm to take these things into consideration: days per week, hours, subjects, activities, teachers, years, groups, subgroups, buildings, rooms, and time/space constraints. After you enter all of the necessary data, FET will run the algorithm against it. If a scheduling problem occurs, FET will show you the problem so you can make corrections. FET is available for Linux, Windows, and OS X.

6: GCompris

GCompris is geared toward educating children ages 2 to 10 through various activities and games. Some of the activities are focused on helping children better understand how to use a computer; others focus on standard subjects, such as: math, algebra, science, geography, and reading. Currently, GCompris has more than 100 activities. And since it's open source, you can add to it and share your additions (if you have the ability to do so). If you are interested in developing for GCompris, the download includes full documentation that describes the internals of the system.

7: Edubuntu

Edubuntu is a Linux distribution geared specifically for educational environments. It includes educational software, tools, content, and themes. Edubuntu is based on Ubuntu 8.10, so it will enjoy longterm support. The applications that ship with Edubuntu include Dia, GCompris, Gobby, Gnu Paint, Inkscape, iTalc, kalgebra, Kalzium, Kbruch, Kig, and kmplot, among others. For anyone looking for an education-focused operating system, Edubuntu certainly makes the grade.

8: KStars

KStars is a desktop planetarium that is part of the KDE Education project. It offers an accurate night sky simulation from any location on the planet. KStars includes over 100 million stars, 13,000 deep-sky objects, eight planets, the sun and moon, comets, and asteroids. KStars offers features for teachers and students, as well as amateur astronomers. Its outstanding features include observing lists, FOV editor, "What's up tonight" tool, Attitude vs. Time tool, and Sky Calendar tool.

9: KWordQuiz

KWordQuiz is a flashcard-based application aimed at helping vocabulary training, but it can be applied to many other subjects. If you're familiar with the Windows application WordQuiz, you will instantly know your way around KWordQuiz. One of the most outstanding features of KWordQuiz is that you can download data files of various subjects (anatomy, music, geography, languages, history, etc.). KWordQuiz can also read/write WordQuiz files, so any data file you have for the Windows equivalent will work on this application.

10: ChildsPlay

ChildsPlay is a suite of tools aimed at helping young children learn various maths and languages. The tools include: Memory, Letters, Numbers, SoundNPic, and many more game-oriented applications. ChildsPlay uses a plug-in system, so you can add and remove different games as they are needed.

What educational tools do you use?

Education is a critical function of the PC. And with our current economic situation, schools and educators should be looking toward open source for solutions to help manage and administer programs and teach children of all ages. This list of education-focused open source software only grazes the surface of what is available. Have you found an open source tool that has solved a problem for your students or your institution? Or do you have a need that the open source community can fill? If so, share with your fellow TechRepublic members.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

13 comments
Jaqui
Jaqui

like basic typing apps? ktouch and the gtypist apps for teaching basic typing skills. the KDE Educational group of apps includes a number of "games" designed for younger children to improve some core educational skills, like kanagram, a mixed up word game, khangman, a math game [ basic mathematics, not algebra ] there is even a very basic programming toolkit in it, kturtle, a computer game of the old stand alone Simon game kblinken [ memory improvement ] educational games suitable for pre-school and kindergarten use.

chinedup
chinedup

V-class a collaborative application found in Metasys OS was omitted in the list.

dkeats
dkeats

Please have a look at Chisimba. You have a full eLearning environment, gradebook, blogs, wikis, podcasting, video and presentation capability, a complete presentation repository similar to SlideShare but with realtime presentation, full implementation of ePortfolio spec, numerous assessment tools, problem based learning, ability to integrate XMPP based services (via mobile phone for example), as well as integration with ANY web 2.0 type application via filters. All under GPL and all integrated. And works in cloud.

doug
doug

Is far more fleshed out than the Edbuntu release. I tried and it found it wanting. The OpenSuse EDU team did a great job and I had a working LTSP system without having to spend the hour or so poking through documentation trying to get it working in Edbuntu. One mouse click was all it took. All the educational software you mention is right there in a Gnome environment with Italc. You can even run it from DVD live with a LTSP environment and Italc. You missed the boat with Edbuntu, perhaps because a Novell bias? Not that it is bad, it just simply doesn't hold a candle to the OpenSuse effort.

oz_ollie
oz_ollie

I'd also suggest you look at Moodle - http://moodle.org/ - with 200 times the installation base it is much easier to get support.

kenscale
kenscale

Many of us are on tight budgets and the costs of schooling at home comes out of the same budget for groceries and gas. We typically belong to support groups, sharing ideas, resources, and problems. All too often I see questions posted regarding applications that are good/sound and inexpensive or free. Groups would generate their own support, posting questions and comments and getting replies the same day, or days after. The price is right for sure. I think it becomes a question of what you're used to. Similar to the teacher with MS Office only experience.

LarryD4
LarryD4

What???? Schools are turning to Linux??? Not sure where that is happening, but here on the east coast. If anything, more and more schools are phasing out whats left of the MACs and are moving to Windows. And I can't see any reason to move to Linux either. The whole point of moving off of MAC was because 99.9% of the students have windows based PCs at home.

chan.ji.gray
chan.ji.gray

You article is wonderful. But do you thind Moodle is a outstanding course solution for university or high school?

indyolin
indyolin

I work at a Private school that started out as a home school Coop. This year we will be graduating our third senior class. I'm not sure if the parents can appreciate us teaching "Open Office" instead of Microsoft Office, since they themselves use Microsoft products at work.

indyolin
indyolin

I think the point of the article was to say Public schools "should" turn to linux, or in some cases Windows based implementation of Opensource software such as "Open Office". But it does mean that the students will have to have "Open Office" in their programs menu, right under "Microsoft Office".

educationtalk
educationtalk

Mac, Windows, Linux. It does not matter. What matters is that it all runs cross platform in browsers. The perfect environment to do this is in is Linux. From a TCO and open standards perspective, it makes the best sense. Casey

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