Linux and Education

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4 Educational Linux Distributions

As you may know, the Linux and open source community provides a wealth of free operating systems (OSs), called distributions, and software applications. Some are desktop distributions for general-use in the office. However, there are many distributions designed for particular uses.

Today, we'll review 4 different desktop distributions specifically designed for educational and academic use.

Edubuntu

Edubuntu is basically the same operating system as the ever-popular Ubuntu loaded with a variety of extra educational applications and games. You can install Edubuntu as a new OS or install the education packages to an existing Ubuntu system. Either way, you'll find many new programs show up under the main Applications menu.

The included Gcompris Educational Suite provides numerous different puzzles and games for ages 2 through 10. Gcompris Administration is also included, giving you a way to control and track the progress of students using the suite.

Edubuntu also provides several mathematic programs. KAlgebra helps you solve expressions and plotting problems. KBruch quizzes you on fractions. Kig is aids you in geometry. Step helps you simulate physics experiments.

There are many more educational programs. You'll also find two typing tutors, KTouch and Tux Typing. KWordQuiz lets you create custom flashcards and quizzes. Parley can quiz you when learning new languages. Marble gives you an on-screen globe and atlas.

There's also something for science lovers. KStars is a virtual planetarium, giving simulated views of planets, comets, asteroids, and other space objects. Kalzium gives you the Periodic Table and details on the elements.

Learning doesn't always have to be serious. Edubuntu provides several educational games. Tux Math is a great interactive math training game. Kanagram tests you on anagrams, scrambled words. KHangMan provides hangman games on a variety of categories. There's even a molecular puzzle game, Atomix.

Edubuntu also comes with some additional graphics applications. You can create and edit diagrams with Dia Diagram Editor. GNU Paint replaces the Krita paint program and Inkspace Vector Graphics replaces Karbon14. QcaD gives you a professional computer aid drawing (CAD) program. Scribus is a page layout and publisher program. Xaos helps you create, manipulate, and inspect fractal shapes.

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC

If every child in the world had access to a computer, what potential could be unlocked? What problems could be solved? These are the types of questions that led to the foundation of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project. They've been creating and giving laptops to the world's poorest children, to stimulate education and empowerment through creativity, expression, sharing, and reflection.

These laptops aren't mundane laptops donated by Dell, Sony, HP, Apple, or any other company. They are custom made by the project, both the hardware and the software. The OS is based on Fedora and the GUI is called Sugar. It provides a unique look and feel, giving children a stimulating interface to many educational applications and games.

Since the OS of the OLPC project is open source, you can download and use it yourself. Maybe load it on your child's PC or laptop at home, or use it in the school or church.

The Neighborhood view in Sugar displays the icons for the many different activities on the desktop and places the icons of friends next to the particular activity they're currently participating in. They can, of course, browse the web and share links among their friends. There are many apps, including a basic word processor, calculator, chat program, journal, and video cam. Logic, memorization, and musical games are also educational and fun.

Qimo 4 Kids

This is another Ubuntu-based distribution, similar to Edubuntu, but a bit more visually attractive to youngsters. It includes modifications to the panel menu and adds a shortcut menu to the desktop. Best of all, Qimo 4 Kids features a character named Illa. She's a cute and cuddly little polar bear.

Oimo 4 Kids comes pre-installed with numerous free and open games that are both educational and entertaining.

Qimo 4 Kids runs from a LiveCD, and also has a hard drive installation option.

KnoSciences

This distribution is designed more for higher education. It's Knoppix-based LiveCD that's also installable on hard drives. It's loaded with many open source applications, most related to mathematics and science. It also features the basic workstation programs, Firefox web browser, OpenOffice suite, media player, a PDF viewer and more.

KnoSciences includes several interactive geometry applications, such as Declic, Edugraphe, and GeoGebra. Examples of algebra applications are Giac/Xcas, Maxima, and Yacas. Space simulators Celestia and Kstars are also included. You'll find many chemistry applications, such Chemtool to draw chemical structures, Katomic, a chemistry game, and Ghemical, a computational chemistry application.

There are even more educational distros out there--two more you might want to check out are Skolelinux and UberStudent.

Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer. He's authored many networking and computing books for brands like For Dummies and Cisco Press. He is also the Founder and CEO of NoWiresSecurity, which helps businesses easily protect their Wi-Fi networks with the Enterprise mode of WPA/WPA2 encryption.