Go Back to School With Linux: Part One

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 27, 2009

Back-to-school time is right around the corner and computers are on the top of most students' lists of things they want or need in time for the first day of class. Of course, there's no reason to drop a ton of cash on expensive software when open source versions work just as well or better. In fact, unlike commercial operating systems from Microsoft or Apple, some Linux distributions have entire versions or application bundles dedicated just to users in educational settings.

This week, I'm going to take a look at three of the most popular open source software bundles created just for student and classroom use. First up, Ubuntu Education Edition, better known as Edubuntu.

Edubuntu is an application bundle designed to overlay your existing Ubuntu desktop. Installation is a piece of cake, simply download the educational addon .iso file and burn it to a writeable CD, or open it via Ubuntu's Add/Remove Applications option found under the Applications tab.

There are four different app bundles to choose from, depending on the age level of the user: Tertiary for university-level students, Secondary for 13-18 year-olds, Primary for 6-12 year-olds, and Preschool for the five and under set. Alternatively, you can download the complete educational desktop and receive all four bundles at once.

Kubuntu users have their own educational desktop too, though not all its components are KDE-based.

There's even a suite of educational games called GCompris designed to build language, math, and reading skills in small children.

Edubuntu comes loaded with software apps for virtually any need a student may have throughout the school year. The Open Office suite of word processing, spreadsheet, and database apps are perfect for putting together reports and presentations, while apps like Totem and Kino are great for watching and editing videos.

Where Edubuntu really shines are its batch of science and math apps. A desktop planetarium, periodic table application, mathematical equation plotter, and percentage calculator are but a few of the options students have at their fingertips to help learn, practice, and drill math and science facts.

Edubuntu is a terrific open source application bundle for all ages of students with all levels of computer experience. It's approachable without being overly simplified, and engaging enough that it will even appeal to kids used to the all the bells and whistles of today's XBoxs and GameBoys.

Don't forget to check back later this week when I take a look at more open source educational software for students and classrooms.