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Back to school with open source: Five tools for less stress and better learning

open source resources for school

For parents: Shopping for back-to-school supplies, textbooks, clothing, and other accouterments can be frustrating and expensive. To help take the sting out of this ritual, students and parents might consider turning to free, open source software and tools in preparation for a new year of study. 

For students: Beyond cost savings, open source software empowers students to take ownership of their work and be free of software licensing treadmills. And, perhaps the ultimate educational opportunity is the ability to examine, analyze, and contribute to open source software and tools like these.

For teachers: Turning theory to practice, students can learn by doing as they help with documentation, quality testing, bug review, or even code contributions. Teaching is not simply the delivery of content, via lecture-taxi, to passive minds. Participation and collaboration ignites powerful learning, and empowers students to engage in thoughtful, meaningful scholarship. And open source can be the catalyst.

Here are five great open source applications for learning. Share this list to your favorite student or teacher!

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Desperate times call for Tux Paint

Tux Paint for open education

Bill Kendrick created Tux Paint in only a couple of days. A friend asked why there wasn't a free and open source drawing program for kids, something like GIMP. Bill chuckled, knowing that many adults have a hard time learning how to use GIMP, much less kids. He replied, "I can probably put something together." 

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Is open source the missing building block to improved nutrition for schoolkids?

cooking

At the start of every new year resolutions on diet and health abound. Yet there seems to be little discussion on schoolchildren's health and nutrition, and taking a more open education approach to it. This is remarkable since childhood obesity and diabetes are at record levels in the US. Today there are 12.5 million obese children—three times as many as there were in the 1980s—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Open source provides schools with low-cost, high quality software

open source in education

Open source can provide schools with high quality, well-functioning IT solutions at low cost, according to a case study done by VTT, a Finnish government research institute. The researchers looked at the use of Linux and other open source applications by the Kasavuoren Secondary School in Kauniainen, a municipality near Helsinki. The case study, available since May 2011, underpins a plea to schools to increase their use of free and open source software. 

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Open collaboration: A look at nine (very) different communities

Incredible work comes out of open source communities. But communities far removed from the world of software development often thrive following the same principles.  

Openness. Sharing. Collaboration. Transparency. Meritocracy. A common purpose.

Following are nine stories from nine very different kinds of communities. Yet all follow the open source way, in their own ways. » Read more

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Seven things I would change about my schooling

Teacher-bashing and union-bashing seem to go hand-in-hand these days, especially in the opening remarks of school reform discussions. Yet when I look back with a critical eye on my own schooling—a hodgepodge of rural and suburban public, private, and homeschool experiences—it's not bad teachers or active unions that come to mind.1 Rather, a series of systems, opportunities, and curriculum gaps needed the most improvement.

So without further ado, here are seven things I would have changed about my own school years. » Read more

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