Older versions of Edubuntu come preinstalled with over 30 educational applications and tools. If you're running the latest version of Edubuntu, there is an add-on CD available that contains these applications. Just pop it in the CD drive and it will ask whether you wish to install applications from the CD. Clicking Start Add-on Installer will bring up the Add/Remove tool with the selection of software that is on the CD. So you can install those applications without having to download from the Internet.
Let's take a walk through the Edubuntu Educational menu, found at Applications > Education. You will find a brief summary for all applications here, as well as more detailed explanations and screenshots of some of the more advanced packages.
This is the administration tool for the GCompris set of tools, which is described a little later. Using this tool, you can create separate profiles for different users of GCompris and enable/disable the list of available activities.
Kalzium presents the pinnacle of periodic table exploration for users of any ages. In its simplest form it provides a quick and easy reference to the periodic table. Kalzium includes 105 of the naturally occurring elements, many of which are accompanied by sample pictures. If the user hovers the mouse pointer over an element symbol in the periodic table, a balloon will appear showing the selected element's name, atomic number, and mass (Figure 10-2).
Figure 10-2 Kalzium
For more advanced users, Kalzium provides a fascinating way to explore the periodic table. Using the left-hand panel, users have access to the timeline, boiling point, and melting point sliders. When users move these sliders, the elements on the periodic table will change color according to their dates of discovery, boiling points, or melting points, respectively. Users can then start to see patterns emerging in the periodic table right in front of their eyes.
As well as presenting the basic information, Kalzium also provides the user with very advanced statistics on each of the 105 elements present.
Kanagram is a simple package that messes up the letters of a word to create an anagram that children must then descramble. The package comes with hints, a cheat feature that reveals the word, and built-in word lists, which can be extended.
KBruch is a math program to help students practice the use of fractions. It comes with four distinct modes of play.
- Fraction Task: In this exercise, the user is given a fraction sum that must be solved by adding the numerator and denominator. The difficulty of the sum can be changed by the user, who has control over the number of fractions to use, the maximum size of the main denominator, and the mathematical operations to use, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
- Comparison: This exercise is designed to test the user's understanding of fraction sizes by making him or her compare two given fractions.
- Conversion: The Conversion mode tests the user's skills at taking a given number and converting it into a fraction.
- Factorization: Factorization tests the user in calculating the factors of a given number. Factorization is a key skill in using and manipulating fractions.
KEduca is a system designed to make it easy for teachers to create and administer tests. Quizzes can take the form of multiple-choice questions and can be further enhanced with images, multiple answers, and varying scores depending on the answer given and time limits. Teachers can also download more example exercises from the KEduca main server. This is the game portion of the package.
This program allows easy creation and editing of KEduca tests.
This modern version of a classic game helps children learn to spell and recognize letter patterns in words. KHangman shows a blank base to start; as the user chooses letters, they are entered into the word if correct or placed on the tries list if incorrect, in which case the hangman begins to grow. KHangman comes with three built-in word lists, but these can be extended easily.
For people wishing to learn about geometrical construction in mathematics, Kig is a must. It is an extremely powerful package but very simple to use. Kig allows users to create complex geometrical abstractions from over 30 simple tools such as points, parallel and perpendicular lines, arcs, bisectors, circles, and hyperbola (Figure 10-3). When creating abstractions, Kig uses other lines and points already on the diagram to lock onto, making it easy to achieve high precision.
Figure 10-3 Kig
Kig also has some testing tools included. Once a geometrical diagram has been drawn, it is often required to prove a concept by showing that two lines are indeed parallel or perpendicular. Kig offers these tools and more in an easy-to-use manner. Just clicking on the tool prompts the user to choose the item to test against. Then, each time the user hovers over another item while moving the cursor around, Kig will pop up with a message to tell whether it satisfies the test case or not.
KmPlot is a mathematical function-graphing program for Edubuntu. The package has a powerful expression parser built in and can plot different functions simultaneously and combine their function terms to build more complex mathematical functions. KmPlot also supports functions with parameters and functions in polar coordinates. KmPlot can create graphs to a very high precision, making it excellent for teaching purposes.
KPercentage is a simple math application designed to test users on percentages. It has three modes of play, giving variability in the type of problem posed. In addition to this, KPercentage has a random mode to test all scenarios.
With information on over 130,000 stars and 13,000 deep sky objects, KStars is one powerful package when it comes to space exploration. The main view in KStars follows the time and date to provide the user with a constantly updating view of the night sky. Constellations are highlighted and star clusters marked for clarity (Figure 10-4).
Figure 10-4 KStars
KStars has a simplistic user interface, which makes it ideal for amateurs all the way up to astronomy experts. Celestial objects can be right-clicked for more information and can then be tracked and examined in even more detail.
In addition to the huge celestial object database, there are some other fantastic features in KStars. The Calculator, for example, allows the user to compute coordinates and other figures for a variety of objects and scenarios. KStars can even be hooked up to a telescope to allow real-time tracking of what the screen shows.
The What's Up Tonight? tool provides users with an overview of what objects will be visible in the sky on that particular night, with the ability to then center on an object and track it in real time. The Altitude vs. Time feature allows users to see how the altitude of a celestial object varies with time during the day. With a built-in scripting language, KStars is the most comprehensive astronomical observation application in the open source community.
In this day and age, typing is an everyday occurrence for most people. KTouch is a tutor that gives help and support to those wishing to learn the art of touch typing. With 15 levels and automatic level progression, KTouch is a fairly advanced tutor program, offering statistics and alternative language options, too.
KTurtle is a Logo programming language interpreter for Edubuntu. The Logo programming language is very easy to learn, and thus young children can use it. A unique quality of Logo is that the commands or instructions can be translated, so the user can program in his or her native language. This makes Logo ideal for teaching children the basics of programming, mathematics, and geometry. One of the reasons many children warm to Logo is that the programmable icon is a small turtle, which can be moved around the screen with simple commands and can be programmed to draw objects (Figure 10-5).
Figure 10-5 KTurtle
By typing in commands such as left 90, forward 4, children are using a language native to themselves while also learning procedural logic. KTurtle can even handle simple subroutines, so it's easy to extend the programming onward and upward.
Kverbos is a tool designed to aid users in learning Spanish verbs. The program suggests a verb and a tense, and the user must then fill in the blanks. The list of verbs can be altered to allow users to tailor it to suit their needs.
KVocTrain is a simple tool designed to enhance a user's vocabulary in a foreign language. Its interface is similar to a spreadsheet and comes with a link to a large array of sample files.
Others Not on the Education Menu
Some educational applications are not located in the Education menu. Here are brief descriptions of two of them.
- Tux Paint: Applications > Graphics > Tux PaintTux Paint is a drawing package for younger children. Though geared toward a younger audience, Tux Paint still packs in some of the more advanced features of drawing packages and can draw shapes, paint with different brushes, use a stamp, and add text to the image. The Magic feature allows many of the more advanced tools normally found in full-fledged photo editors to be used, such as smudge, blur, negative, tint, and many more. There is also the facility to save as well as print.
- GCompris: Applications > Games > GComprisGCompris is a set of small educational activities aimed at children aged between two and ten years old and is translated into over 40 languages. Some of the activities are game oriented while being educational. Among the activities, there are tasks to educate children in computer use, algebra, science, geography, reading, and more. More than 80 activities are available in the latest release. GCompris won the Free Software Awards that took place in France in 2004.
In addition to the educational applications, Edubuntu ships with many other applications. Let's take a few moments to discuss some of the prominent packages in Edubuntu.
OpenOffice.org is the most popular open source office suite currently available. It offers hundreds of features and is extremely easy to use. It can read from and write to all the major file formats used in office environments worldwide, and its user interface is very similar to other commercially available office suites, meaning transitions from and to it are easy.
OpenOffice.org comes with several major components, which make it an ideal choice to be included with Edubuntu.
Writer: This is the word processing part of the office suite (Figure 10-6). Writer includes all the normal features that you'd expect to find in an office word processor, as well as many more advanced tools such as mail merging, macro scripting, and the package manager, which allows extensions to be added to the system.
Figure 10-6 Writer
- Calc: This spreadsheet component of OpenOffice.org offers all the normal features of commercial packages, along with graphing functions, goal seeking, and advanced filtering capabilities on data.
- Impress: Impress is a fantastic presentation builder using an interface that is both intuitive and easy to use. It offers many transition effects to help make presentations more engaging and can set up master pages, which makes creating your presentation even easier.
- Base: The newest addition to the OpenOffice.org suite, Base is a simple and easy-to-use database application. It allows you to create your own databases using tables, queries, forms and reports. Base also lets you connect to an existing database through an easy-to-use wizard, enabling you to administrate and interrogate a variety of database formats, including Microsoft Access, MySQL, Oracle, and more.
Though not included in the default installation of Edubuntu, OpenOffice.org also has two more components that are extremely useful and can be easily installed via the Add/Remove Applications tool. These are Draw, a full-featured drawing package, and Math, a complex mathematical expression builder that enables you to create expressions and formulae to embed in your reports and office documents.
Scribus is a full-fledged desktop publishing package that brings award-winning page layout to the open source market. It allows creation of PDF and PostScript documents ready for printing. Scribus is designed to bring to beginners such professional features as spot color support, CMYK color, high-grade PDF creation, Encapsulated PostScript import/export, and creation of color separations.
GIMP, standing for GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a complete photo editing and graphics package for Linux. GIMP not only includes all the normal features of a graphics package, such as air brushing and filtering, but also handles layers and transparency.
GIMP comes with a whole host of filters for you to use on your images. However, it is also extendable due to the Script-Fu system, allowing you to write your own plug-ins for GIMP to enable it to do repetitive or complicated tasks at the single click of a button.
Dia helps you create professional-looking flow diagrams, UML diagrams, and circuits. Dia is a very mature and easy-to-use product.
Kino is an easy-to-use video editor that has many of the capabilities associated with more expensive commercial packages. Kino can take data directly from a DV camera output and save it to the hard drive for later editing and use. Kino comes with many video transitions, allowing for a large degree of creativity and professionalism in video-editing projects.