As you probably know by now, I use Ubuntu 🙂 You can read about why I choose to use Ubuntu in my introductory post, for now I will focus on some of its benefits in educational settings.
No need to worry about outdated programs and compatibility issues
One of the more frustrating aspects of teaching within a Microsoft world happened last year with the introduction of the docx file extension default in Windows Vista. As a way of getting customers to upgrade to (ie – buy) their new operating system, Microsoft created a brand new file extension for Vista that is not compatible with any earlier versions of Microsoft world. There is a way to save a document as a regular .doc document but most students just click save and the default gives them a docx. It’s so much fun when a student comes into class prepared to present a project or continue working on one they began at home and they can’t because none of the school machines can deal with docx documents.
There are ways around it – I’m sure zoho.com or google docs can open docx documents by now but one of the reasons why students still save their work to usb is because we can not always rely on the Internet being up and running in our classroom (admittedly that is improving – yay!).
The best way around it though is to have a teacher with OpenOffice on her laptop. OpenOffice is Ubuntu’s default Office-type program suite. OpenOffice can open all kinds of documents, including docx and pptx. So no worries. Heck, if you insist on using Windows you can still install OpenOffice. Won’t you feel better about using a program that has been built by a community, new versions can be upgraded free of charge because it is free and open source software, and is compatible with other programs?
Programs don’t need to be outdated with Ubuntu. Ubuntu’s Update Manager, which comes with Ubuntu, notifies me of any software updates/upgrades that are available. Easy as pie. No need to purchase new software and go through removing the old and installing the new. My system does it for me and since I use free (as in freedom) and open source software, there is no need to purchase anything (or to have to think of any moral or criminal implications of illegal downloads).
Easy access to educational software
Ubuntu has a few different ways of finding out about and installing software. Two of the easiest ways are Synaptic Package Manager, which comes installed on Ubuntu, and Ubuntu Software Centre, also automatically included in Ubuntu for the past 2 releases. With both programs, you open them up, do a search for what you want (type in education and browse through the findings), find out more about it, then click install. The software automatically installs to your system in the right place (for example, if it is a video program you will be able to find it in the menu under ‘sound and video’, 9 times out of 10 there is no need to restart your computer in order for it to appear either).
Look how easy it is to find programs via Software Centre! (click on the image to actually be able to see it without a microscope)
And this is what I get when I click on Education. Note that there is a scroll bar, there are many more below the bottom of the screen 🙂 (again, click on the image to actually be able to see it without a microscope)
Remember, all of these programs are free and open source. You are free to download them and use them and even tinker with the source code if you like in order to tweak them or create your own programs.
Ubuntu also provides a complete operating system for educational purposes. Edubuntu can be installed on a school server.
Think of the financial implications of this –> there are no licensing fees. None.
Along with the no licensing fees (why more schools don’t use this I don’t know!) (Actually, I do know. Fear of linux.), you automatically have access to a plethora of free and open source educational programs that are included in the basic operating system. My school uses windows. Though our program (I work in an alternative program within the school) has a collection of its own mini-laptops. I am working on convincing our head teacher to allow me to play with Ubuntu on a few of the laptops, with a plan to gradually ubuntu-ize our program 🙂
You can also install it directly on your own computer, without using the server version. If you look closely at the second image above (click on it to make it bigger) you will see this:
Installing the educational desktop will give you a version of Ubuntu that automatically comes with educational software, without the need to add them on your own.
There are other benefits. Those are some to start. If you can think of some that I haven’t mentioned, please add them as comments for all of us to benefit from.