4 ways open source transformed education in 2020

Open source tools fueled innovation in teaching and learning in 2020, as schools moved online to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Family learning and reading together at night in a room


The COVID-19 pandemic required a paradigm change in education in 2020, as face-to-face interaction between teachers and students was largely replaced by remote learning beginning in the spring. Opensource.com writers helped teachers, students, and families around the world rise to the challenge with examples of open software tools fueling innovation in teaching and learning.

To document the transition to online instructions and help people adapt to it, our writers offer information about content-creation tools and lesson ideas that will keep teachers and students learning well into 2021 and beyond.

Open source tools for students

Necessity is the mother of invention, and as work from home and learn from home became the new normal, students and teachers needed a stronger infrastructure for teaching and learning. Opensource.com Correspondent Alan Formy-Duval is one of the innovators who created an effective solution. His daughter needed a computer and a dedicated learning space to meet her remote learning needs, so he repurposed an older computer for her using Linux. Follow his step-by-step guide to create a better remote school environment for your family.

Alan also shows how you can make your remote learning environment closer to an in-person experience by recreating the sounds of a traditional classroom to ring a school bell at home

Learn a new language

With most students working from home, great educational content is more important than ever. Correspondent Jess Weichler shows how to teach students to use Scratch to code their first algorithm. In the article, part of a series about teaching kids to code, Jess says, "with more kids learning from home this year, it's important to engage them with unique learning opportunities. The classroom looks very different than it did before, and it's going to continue to evolve. So should the lessons we teach."

Once your students have mastered Scratch, you can introduce them to Python, the most popular programming language out there. Correspondent Moshe Zadka offers a full tutorial on building an interactive game using Python. Python has earned its reputation as a wonderful programming language for beginners. Playful learning is a great way to learn, and Moshe shares all the information you need to get started.

And when you're getting started with Python, I recommend you use the Mu editor and Python's turtle module. My article includes step-by-step directions for installing Mu on Linux and some sample Python code to get you started.

Programming languages aren't the only new type of language you can learn. One of Joshua Allen Holm's goals in 2020 was to improve his Spanish, and he used open educational resources to do it. Try his six open educational resources for learning Spanish to add a valuable new skill to your resume.

Open source tools for families

Moshe Zadka's daughter wanted a coloring page from a favorite cartoon. Rather than using an open source image editor like GIMP, Moshe decided to edit graphics with Jupyter and Python, and he tells you how in his article.

Stay-at-home orders have created many challenges for families. Many folks adapted and looked for opportunities in other places as museums, state fairs, and other cultural and educational opportunities were shuttered. Opensource.com editor Lauren Pritchett supplies five open source activities for kids to keep your family learning when you don't have places to visit.

Open source tools for teachers

Lauren Pritchett says, "Public education has always been a core value in my family. It was instilled in me from a young age that everybody deserves fair access to high-quality education. This virtue continues to influence me as I raise children of my own, one of whom will be entering kindergarten this fall. Open source is the perfect match for public education." To encourage this, Lauren gives teachers the ultimate open source back to school guide.

If you need new ways to manage your educational content, you can't beat open source software and tools. Peter Cheer uses Hugo, which leverages Markdown and prebuilt themes to provide a simple and easy-to-use content management system (CMS).

WordPress is a go-to content management system, and I detail some educational plugins that extend WordPress to meet your classroom's needs.

If you're in the market for an open source learning management system, give Moodle a try. My step-by-step guide explains how to create a Moodle server on an extra computer.

Christiano Fontana shares a wealth of tools for teaching physics using open source tools. He is a researcher in the physics and astronomy department at the University of Padova, Italy. The tools he recommends can be applied to many disciplines, not just physics. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for more innovative ideas.

Mathias Hoffman, an economics professor at the University of Zurich, recommends six open source tools for creating content for virtual classrooms. Take your teaching and content prep skills to the next level by following his suggestions.

The open source ethos has always been about creating opportunities for people. Teacher Stu Keroff and student Cam Citrowske explain how to help your community bridge the digital divide by leveraging Linux and open source. Stu is a social studies and technology teacher at Aspen Academy in Savage, Minn., and director of the school's Linux club, the Penguin Corps. Cam is an Aspen student and a member of the Penguin Corps.

Educational innovation rests on open source

Open source provides nearly endless opportunities for students, teachers, and families to innovate and take advantage of rich educational content. The open source ethos encourages people to make educational resources available to their communities at a reasonable cost. When the open source community connects developers and learners of all ages around the world, the opportunities are practically infinite for elevating education for all.

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Educator, entrepreneur, open source advocate, life long learner, Python teacher. M.A. in Educational Psychology, M.S. Ed. in Educational Leadership, Linux system administrator.


I am a high school teacher looking for an alternative open source, browser-based, free journaling platform for student writing. I have been using Wordpress for about five years, and while it works ok, I'd like to see if there are simpler, more elegant platforms that focus just on journaling. I'd like to be able to collect rss feeds from each student's blog, have students share and read each other's work, and have some control over privacy settings when publishing their writing. If you have any suggestions, I'd be really interested to hear them. The most interesting alternative I've found so far is https://listed.to/, which does require an extra step of signing up to Standard Notes first.

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And dont forget https://www.thenational.academy/ which will hopefully revolutionise education too.
Synergy runaway for the next few years?

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