Open Source Software for the classroom

Published: 15 May, 2008

Open source software is a great resource for the classroom and, in particular I found it an excellent source of tool sets for my ICT courses.

We were using Ubuntu (Linux) as the desktop operating system so many of these tools are in the repositories but many are also available for Windows and Mac OSX. While not a prerequisite for use in the classroom it was beneficial to use tools that students could take home and use on whatever system they had available. It was also important that the tools were fairly stable, mainly for teacher sanity but also to help build the students' trust in open source software. I also appreciated the tools with a large community around them as I was able to point students at a wide range of resources and encourage them to find their own solutions to issues.

So here are the tools we were using:

The main tools:

  • Open Office: word processing, spreadsheets, presentation. (Linux, Windows, OSX)
  • Gimp: raster image manipulation. (Linux, Windows, OSX)
  • Inkscape: vector image manipulation (Linux, Windows, OSX)
  • Blender: 3D modelling and animation (Linux, Windows, OSX)
  • Scribus: desktop publishing (Linux, Windows, OSX)
  • Planner: project management (Linux, Windows)
  • Audacity: sound editor (Linux, Windows, OSX)
  • Kdenlive: non-linear video editing (Linux, OSX)
  • Scratch: simple, visual programming environment (Windows, OSX, Linux - using WINE)

Infrastructure:

  • VirtualBox: virtual environment (we ran Windows in it and students were free to experiment with other Linux distributions)
  • iTalc: allows the teacher to take control of student desktops
  • Wine: environment for running Windows applications on Linux
  • Skype: internet telephone system (note: not open source but freely available for use)
  • Likewise Open: authenticate non-windows systems against Active Directory