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Sunday August 31st 2014

Open Source Education Projects





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As of this writing, there are only 28 hours left in the indiegogo campaign to build the Ubuntu Edge phone, and the campaign looks to be $20 million short of the goal. On the bright side, this also means that there were 10,760 people willing to pay a good chunk of money for a phone that they most likely didn’t need. For the past month, Larry the Free Software Guy has been posting a list of worthy projects that are in need of funds every time he mentions Ubuntu Edge. If you are disappointed in the fund raising campaign this list might be worth a look.

Let’s just admit right up front that you need to understand a bit more about how a computer works to use Linux on the desktop instead of Windows or OS X. With that in mind, recycling old computers and loading Linux on them is a perfect for educational computing. If the Ubuntu Edge represents the ultra-sleek, high-end side of the open source spectrum, here are a few projects from the opposite side.

Reglue – "Recycled Electronics and Gnu/Linux Used for Education. Reglue, in a nutshell, gives free Linux computers to under privileged children and their families."

Partimus – "… providing computers and Free Software system administration support to several San Francisco Bay Area schools."

CrunchBang – "A Debian GNU/Linux based distribution offering a great blend of speed, style and substance. Using the nimble Openbox window manager, it is highly customisable and provides a modern, full-featured GNU/Linux system without sacrificing performance." Obviously, you can substitute your favorite Linux distro. I plan on giving #! a try soon.

Tux4Kids – "Develops high-quality software for kids, with the goal of combining fun and learning into an irresistible package."

Software for the Public Interest (SPI) – "SPI is a non-profit organization which was founded to help organizations develop and distribute open hardware and software."

It is a bit sad that the places where open source software can do the most good are often the most overlooked. Public institutions like schools should almost be required to use open source, as the opportunity for the kids to really learn how a computer works are great. Unfortunately, I have seen far too many technical education plans for K-12 that center around memorizing where to click on the magic box as opposed to truly learning how a computer and the Internet function.

Supporting projects like Reglue can not only have a positive impact on less privileged families, it can actually give them a competitive advantage in the quality of their technical education.

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