Student project suggestion:

Create public domain clipart for #OER for ANY topic in any class. Share on

Handouts, whether they are traditional paper or online creations, benefit from topical images. Why only search for suitable ones made by others? Make some yourself (model good process for your students), or alternatively, have your students make them and provide them a grade bump for their effort.

Physic diagram: positively charged pith balls repel

Make images for your subject, to illustrate a concept.

Calendar Icon

Make icons to help focus the mind while reading a worksheet/student guide.

Encourage students to contribute the images to make them easy to access for you, other classes in your school system and for the benefit of all. is a site which accepts original artwork created with the vector graphic tool, Inkscape.

Inkscape is a Free Software (AKA “open source”) tool you can download and install on your computers at school and at home. There are hundreds of good tutorials to help you and your students get started.

When you or a student publish a graphic to, give your school credit, too. Simply add a tag with a version of your school’s name that will let other teachers search the site for work done by the creatives in your district. There is no cost to set up an account, and the work submitted can also be used as part of a student’s portfolio and resumé, a great component for a college application. All the submitted graphics are, by rule, in the public domain. That makes them totally accessible.

It is easy to export graphics from openclipart to add them to a document in png format, perfect for word processing documents. It is just as easy to get the link codes to include the image on a Web page the way I did above with the physics illustration and calendar icon. You can even download a graphic in original Inkscape (svg) format to remix, modify, simplify, enhance to your specific needs.

If you decide to try this suggestion, please send links to graphics you or your students have created. Your success will encourage others.

I visited a family’s website recently. It looks nice. It appears to be done as a WordPress site. I did notice one glitch. On one page, the last paragraph contains what probably are dashes or double dashes. I’m guessing the writer pasted from Microsoft Word into the WordPress editor used for the site. Unfortunately, Word uses a character code for the dash which html does not properly display.  My browser displayed – instead of the dash. The WordPress editor allows you to look directly at the html by selecting the “Text” tab instead of the “Visual” editor view.


If this happens to your site, I would recommend you edit the page and substitute the html entity code —  for whatever you see there.

Looking at the technical bits: Most current html coding and browsers are set to use a character coding called “UTF-8” or “Unicode.” It is the international extension of the older “ASCII” from the early computer days. You can actually have a lot of fun exploring Unicode. I have done a few pages on it, as it turns out (in case you have not seen them yet).

Happy exploration!

Open Education Resources (OER) come in many forms. Some are complex and fullblown activities or even courses to use. Others are less ambitious.

Clipart might be one of the less ambitious offerings. is a source of clipart produced by almost 4000 different creative people. The clipart is designed using Inkscape, the Free Software vector art tool and is submitted to the site with a public domain dedication to remove any sort of restriction for reuse or remixing. There is no requirement to cite the original author, but it is gratifying and just plain nice to see the work reused.

I recently submitted a graphic of a truck carrying “loads of love” which I had initially created to add as a closing to emails to family.

loads of love

Today, I stumbled across a remix at done by another user: netalloy.

I  Like OCAL

Thanks to all who use a clipart. That’s what it is there for. Have fun. Share your work, too.

Another episode in the “Free vs. Freedom” series.

I just got an email from the educational website Edutopia describing a Microsoft program designed to entrench itself further in the school systems and the homes of students.

  • A complimentary and complete version of the of the latest Office program, ready to install
  • The ability to download Office on up to five compatible devices at no additional cost
  • An easy way to use Office on Android and Apple products

It makes me cringe when I read this kind of glowing announcement. Here is yet another lock-in opportunity instead of another opportunity to embrace freedom.

Schools seem to be urged by people from all around them to pay money for a product which does not give them choice, giving them, instead a sort of leash to wear, getting staff and students used to a proprietary office suite for which they will pay financially in the future. Their work will be easier to read in the then-current version of MS Office. They will be able to exchange their work with peers who have also paid for the tools which use a “popular” un-public, not-open format. And they will be restricted to operating systems which will run MS Office.

Should we blame the editors of Edutopia? They are simply “reporting” the information.

Well, Edutopia did not mention in the same announcement that schools, principals, teachers, school board members, town officials AND students can install the programs like Open Office or Libre Office, giving them far wider access to the same set of “office” tools along with freedom. I do not recall getting a similar email announcement about open source tools.

The open format files can be exchanged across ALL computers running any popular operating system because the file format is NOT proprietary. All the users can even choose their preferred office suite. All the open source office apps (not just Open Office and Libre Office) try very hard to accurately save files in the broadly usable Open Document Format (ODF) instead of the fancy, sometimes undocumented, binary formats employed by Microsoft.

The “announcement” seemed to me to be more of an endorsement.

I am disappointed.

I came across an announcement about an audio editor called “Ocenaudio” available for free which is cross-platform. It sounded good. I looked at the web site and found out that they don’t mention a license. Most open-source/Free Software programs are proud of their use of the GPL or any of the other open licenses.

Ocenaudio does not have an open license according to this forum post.

Just because it is “free” as in gratis, no required payment does not qualify it as Free Software (also often called “open source”). With “Free” as in libre, the issue isn’t cost at all, but your liberty/freedom use without limits, to study it, to adapt the work to your needs and to redistribute your version as long as you don’t try to limit others from those same four freedoms.

For somebody just looking for cheap, I guess there’s no difference. But for those who care to build a strong, community supported software commons, Libre matters way more than Gratis.

When people ask about audio editors, I’ll keep recommending Audacity instead of ocenaudio, too.

LibreOffice is one of the major pieces in many, if not all, Linux distributions. LibreOffice has an installer for Windows and Macintosh. LibreOffice is Free and free. It is very popular throughout Europe. In spite of all that, it is not well known in the United States.

Do you use LibreOffice yourself? Would you like to be involved in promoting LibreOffice in any way? There’s a group forming to do just that. It is now meeting regularly online. If you would like to participate, let me know. I’ll contact you with the details.

One thing the group has set up is a “hackfest” IN BOSTON! planned for the weekend of July 26-27. At the hackfest, participants will share ideas, work on practical tasks, learn how to effectively do bug reporting, hear directly from developers. Save the dates.


“End of Life” seems a bit extreme. “End of Support” is the more accurate phrase. Microsoft has declared April 6 of 2014 as the date.

Is your district still using XP?

Is money the upgrade issue?

Have you considered a GNU/Linux alternative?

For that, is the difficulty of finding support staff an issue?


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