I always thought the Gimp a good photo editing software. Of course it gets even better if you can use your Android tablet as a sketch pad to your computer. Think how powerful this could be in an art class or even just in a regular classroom?
So Google Maps pretty much ended the need for paper maps. With the computer, laptops, tablets, phones, and then GPS devices, who carries a map book any longer? When I taught fourth grade social studies, though, I made it a point to order transportation maps. If students could not learn the basics of map reading, they would have no hope to read online maps.
With this in mind, I recently came across a way to make print map books using Google Maps, a photo editor (I choose Gimp), and a word processor (Libre Office). Find the link with detailed directions at the Instructables website (http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-Map-Book-Using-Google-Maps/) where you can find many other great projects for your classroom.
So how could you use this? One thing I used to do, in our study of North Carolina, was divide the students into groups, assign each group a city, then they needed to create a presentation ‘selling’ their city for additional economic development. With this, I can see creating a ‘prospect document’ that they would send to potential investors showcasing the events and attractions in their area. You could obviously adapt that to any city in the World using Google Maps. Or how about in a study of the Ancients…mapping various points in Greece and Rome, and then adding reports to each. Maybe a map showing population growth and/or decline in certain areas. I think the prospects are probably endless. Lots of good ideas! And then take it further with a Donors Choose grant or PTA sponsorship…put on a good spiral binder and maybe even laminate the pages.
This week, in Denver, the main national technology in education conference occurs, ISTE. Renamed from NECC, this conference brings together about 20,000 educators and administrators for a few days worth of sessions on everything ed tech. I attended NECC a few years ago in San Antonio and was pleased to see an Open Source thread.
This years conference also looks like it contains an Open Source thread, including options on:
- Gimp–the open source photo editor
- Moodle–the course management system
- GCompris–the early ed software that replaces things like RabbitReader and that I reviewed: here
- Drupal–another course management system
What NECC/ISTE always missed out on, while doing the OSS applications well, were the sessions for planning to move forward with open source. This year, however, it looks like they address that better with sessions on:
- Saved from the Recycling Bin: Open Source Operating System Opportunities, which I guess would talk about putting Linux on older machines
- Curriculum 2.0: How to Find Awesome Open Source Curricula Online, which will discuss using Curriki
- Meeting 21st-Century Needs with Free Software, which is probably self-explanatory
Now, I just hope folks will ignore the glittering presentations of proprietary software and take a look at these ones. Unfortunately, even though wanting to go to Denver, I am home, so I will not attend, but I hope to find some online artifacts later, whether videos or handouts. Lots of good open source content!
Looking for an open source application to one of your proprietary ones? Not sure what’s out there in a particular category? Then you definitely need to visit the OSALT website. Osalt, or Open Source As Alternative, lists top open source applications and top proprietary applications. Right from the front page you can begin finding good OSS alternatives to programs such as Photoshop, Citrix, iTunes, and Nero Burning ROM. For instance, it lists Amarok (I use this one!) and Songbird as alternatives to iTunes. I definitely recommend Amarok, as I use it. Songbird is a great choice, although they recently stopped Linux development.
On the site, you can click one of the Top 10s and see a review of the application. Looking at Dia, for instance, you will see a link to the website, a brief description, a rating (3 out of 5 stars), and other apps similar to Dia. Dia, if unaware, allows you to receive some of the Visio functionality. In schools, we use it in place of Inspriation.
You can also just search or go through the directory. A definite must is to subscribe to their RSS feed, to receive updates of new software. Osalt definitely will help you in finding the Open Source alternatives to go an open source world!
Another NCTIES come and gone. NCTIES is North Carolina’s branch of ISTE, the international organization for school technology. When I went to NECC a few years ago, an entire strand was devoted to Open Source sessions. So what did I find at NCTIES that excited me? It was definitely less on the open source side this year, which surprised me. With the economy slacking and school budgets tight, I figured more would be look for cheap/free alternatives. Although we definitely seem to witness the Google effect. They continue to take over the world, and the number of Google sessions proved that!
With all the focus these days on portable devices, I really expected some sessions on iPhones, Androids, nooks, and Kindles. I guess many iPod Touch sessions did go on, but nothing on the mobile phones/eReaders, which really surprises me. Does this mean North Carolina is behind the country? Does it mean our country is behind the world? Or are no educators doing anything with these devices yet? I assume many of our students do possess them, but maybe just not being integrated instructionally yet.
I did attend a Linux in the Classroom session. The presenter was a tech facilitator in a small early college (40 some students). They bought Dell Latitude 2100s and use Ubuntu Netbook Remix on them. One surprise was that he uses Dropbox to provide a place for students to share/save content, as they do not connect to the network. With Ubuntu One right there, I wondered why they did not use that, but I assume that was due to personal preference. Something else that I will look into is their use of OpenDNS for the laptops at home. Like us, they use Lightspeed at school for filtering. Because of the Security Agent not running with Linux, they needed something for home. OpenDNS is the solution they chose, and it only costs them a $500 per year license. Pretty smart! Great to see a Linux session at an NC conference though. Hopefully more in the future!