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4 Educational Linux Distributions

Edubuntu, OLPC

August 2, 2010

As you may know, the Linux and open source community provides a wealth of free operating systems (OSs), called distributions, and software applications. Some are desktop distributions for general-use in the office. However, there are many distributions designed for particular uses.

Today, we'll review 4 different desktop distributions specifically designed for educational and academic use.


Edubuntu is basically the same operating system as the ever-popular Ubuntu loaded with a variety of extra educational applications and games. You can install Edubuntu as a new OS or install the education packages to an existing Ubuntu system. Either way, you'll find many new programs show up under the main Applications menu.

The included Gcompris Educational Suite provides numerous different puzzles and games for ages 2 through 10. Gcompris Administration is also included, giving you a way to control and track the progress of students using the suite.

Edubuntu also provides several mathematic programs. KAlgebra helps you solve expressions and plotting problems. KBruch quizzes you on fractions. Kig is aids you in geometry. Step helps you simulate physics experiments.

There are many more educational programs. You'll also find two typing tutors, KTouch and Tux Typing. KWordQuiz lets you create custom flashcards and quizzes. Parley can quiz you when learning new languages. Marble gives you an on-screen globe and atlas.

There's also something for science lovers. KStars is a virtual planetarium, giving simulated views of planets, comets, asteroids, and other space objects. Kalzium gives you the Periodic Table and details on the elements.

Learning doesn't always have to be serious. Edubuntu provides several educational games. Tux Math is a great interactive math training game. Kanagram tests you on anagrams, scrambled words. KHangMan provides hangman games on a variety of categories. There's even a molecular puzzle game, Atomix.

Edubuntu also comes with some additional graphics applications. You can create and edit diagrams with Dia Diagram Editor. GNU Paint replaces the Krita paint program and Inkspace Vector Graphics replaces Karbon14. QcaD gives you a professional computer aid drawing (CAD) program. Scribus is a page layout and publisher program. Xaos helps you create, manipulate, and inspect fractal shapes.

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

If every child in the world had access to a computer, what potential could be unlocked? What problems could be solved? These are the types of questions that led to the foundation of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project. They've been creating and giving laptops to the world's poorest children, to stimulate education and empowerment through creativity, expression, sharing, and reflection.

These laptops aren't mundane laptops donated by Dell, Sony, HP, Apple, or any other company. They are custom made by the project, both the hardware and the software. The OS is based on Fedora and the GUI is called Sugar. It provides a unique look and feel, giving children a stimulating interface to many educational applications and games.

Since the OS of the OLPC project is open source, you can download and use it yourself. Maybe load it on your child's PC or laptop at home, or use it in the school or church.

The Neighborhood view in Sugar displays the icons for the many different activities on the desktop and places the icons of friends next to the particular activity they're currently participating in. They can, of course, browse the web and share links among their friends. There are many apps, including a basic word processor, calculator, chat program, journal, and video cam. Logic, memorization, and musical games are also educational and fun.

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