When it comes to using technology in education, there has been a lot of progress. These days, you see little kids doodling passionately on their iPads instead of papers. Moreover, with the use of desktops and laptops for teaching basic programming and computer essential to kids, technology has become an integral part of education.
That said, as a FOSS enthusiast, the technology that is currently being used in schools is not the best course of action when it comes to introducing kids to computers. Not only are closed-source software and operating systems expensive, they also alienate the students from the ideals of sharing and freedom. iPads, iPhones, and iMacs do nothing except cultivate an insatiable gadget lust that further makes their parents shell out enormous amounts of cash for their kids.
So, what’s the best way to circumvent this problem? Easier said than done, the best course of action against this Apple- and Microsoft- induced phantasmagoria is to switch to the free and open world of Linux. One could very well start with Ubuntu or even go to some specially designed educational Linux distributions. These distros, which are meant for students and teachers, can be used in any schools without costing the institutions a fortune. Also, the kids will get early exposure to Linux as well as to the world of open-source software. So, without further ado, here are some of the best educational Linux distributions.
Edubuntu is quite simply the best and the most popular education-oriented Linux distribution around. The project, which aims at bringing Ubuntu to schools, colleges, and teachers includes some of the best free educational software available. Edubuntu comes pre-loaded with lots of games and applications for students ranging from preschool to secondary school. While games like Tux Paint cater to the needs of preschoolers, apps like Marble help primary school students with their geography homework. Furthermore, secondary school students can take advantage of apps like parley to teach them vocabulary. For college students, there are advanced apps like Inkscape, vym (mind mapping software), and much more. The popularity of Edubuntu is such that the Republic of Macedonia is using Edubuntu in all primary and secondary schools.
Edubuntu can be freely downloaded and installed from the project’s official website. If, however, you want to try it out before downloading it, you can test the web live version of Edubuntu. This unique feature lets you get a first-hand experience of what it is like using Edubuntu without actually installing or downloading anything on your computer. You can use the web live version for 2 hours giving you enough time to get used to the operating system.
UKnow4Kids is a free and open-source Linux distribution compiling educational and gaming software for children 2 to 10 years old. Available as a live DVD, the free OS doesn't require much resources to run and works pretty much out of the box. The project is based on Arch Linux and features custom wallpapers and artwork that your kids would love. As for the desktop environment, UKnow4Kids uses KDE.
Qimo 4 Kids
Qimo is a free and open-source Linux distribution specially designed for kids aged 3 and up. Based on Ubuntu, the free distro features custom artwork and games so that kids would find it enjoyable as well as educational. As the project states “Qimo is designed for early elementary school-aged children. It’s a pretty straightforward idea, a customized version of Xubuntu, designed to be visually appealing, but not overwhelming, for kids.” As far as the hardware requirements go, Qimo (pronounced ‘kim-oh’ as in Eskimo) requires very low resources; moreover, as it can be run from a live CD, you can let your kids try it out without messing much with your production machine.
Not really a Linux distro but an innovative and ambitious project to provide the developing world with low-cost laptops, OLPC has always been in the spotlight since its inception. The project uses a Fedora-based OS with a neatly designed Sugar desktop environment thus providing an interface that is conducive to learning and easy to understand.
Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.