Ubuntu for Schools Part 2: Apps and Software

I previously blogged about our upcoming elementary school Ubuntu Linux project. An important aspect of the migration consists of identifying the software commonly used in our classrooms. After gathering data from our current elementary Mac laptop fleet, we were able to identify the programs most often utilized in classrooms. We were not too surprised to discover that one application alone commanded approximately 90% of all elementary classrooms’ computing time—that application was Firefox. The second most common program was Microsoft Word. In sum, our elementary classrooms spend the majority of their computing time on the web or in a word processor.

Beyond Firefox and the LibreOffice suite, our new machines will be loaded with a variety of open-source educational software. The ever-growing Linux community has generated an extensive pool of free applications for just about any computing need. Ubuntu makes finding and installing these applications incredibly simple courtesy of the built-in Software Center. Similar to Apple’s App Store, the Ubuntu Software Center provides a menu of programs organized by categories. There is certainly a full banquet to enjoy—nearly 36,000 items are offered in the Software Center. Most programs are free while others, typically games, are available for a small fee.

So let’s talk about a few free applications that make the grade for our new Ubuntu laptops. If you are playing along at home, the majority of these programs are available for Linux, Mac and Windows:

Tux Type
TuxType offers a fun introduction to typing for young students. Like commercial programs such as Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, students learn keyboarding while playing interactive games.

Tux Paint
An alternative to Kid Pix, Tux Paint is a creative drawing program for kids. Students may use stamps, magic wands and other colorful tools to create works of art suitable for hanging on any refrigerator door.

GCompris
Similar to the “Jump Start” titles, GCompris offers a suite of engaging activities for math, language arts, science and other subjects. http://gcompris.net/

OpenShot Video
With an easy-to-use but feature-rich interface, OpenShot is a rising star in video editing. Sorry, OpenShot is Linux only. http://www.openshot.org/

This list is certainly not exhaustive; our new laptops will be loaded with numerous free software titles. Plus, classrooms will have access to popular programs such as Skype, Google Earth and GIMP. As our Ubuntu project rolls along, I’ll continue to feature various open-source applications in future blog posts.

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