May 2008

Are you and your students simply consumers of knowledge?

Would you feel better about your work (and would your students benefit) if they, and you, became contributors?

Are your textbooks entirely up to date? For example, does your astronomy material reflect the current status of Pluto?

Do your textbooks have easily-to-use links to multimedia content?

Are your textbooks localized? Is there some aspect of some historical event that happened in your town or region, one that isn’t extensively discussed, or maybe not even mentioned?

Some or all of these questions might be answered if you become involved in creating Wikitexts, co-written by students and school staff (others by invitation, local experts?). Wikitexts are probably best considered as extensions or supplements to the standard text. They could be as simple as a homework helper to which students contributed their researched answers to a teacher’s assignments. Students would be better prepared for the follow up discussion by comparing the submitted “answers” in the wiki to their own research results. Maybe you could encourage students in an advanced class to provide information to be used in the school’s introductory class.

Here’s a further link to explore, one that takes the issue head on:


What is a Wiki, anyway? A Wiki is a shared writing/editing environment. Contributors need only have a standard Web browser to access and modify pages of a wiki. The most well-known Wiki collaboration is Wikipedia. People from around the world contribute content to the Wikipedia encyclopedia.

Wikitexts aren’t the same as WikiText. WikiText is the markup system used in Wikis to produce prettier formating (like Web pages).

Questions for your Comments:

Are wikis this the only way? Have you ever done something like this using collaborative editing of your word processor?

Are you a supporter or detractor of Wikipedia?

Do you trust your students to be honest contributors? If not, why?

Every teacher I know likes clip art, and so do students. Teachers are also concerned that they avoid copyright abuse. Students need to be helped to understand copyright.

Here is a resource that connects you to copyright free images for you and your students. Use it as a way to help students learn their responsibilities, too.

The following paragraphs are from the site:

WPClipart is a collection of high-quality public domain images specifically tailored for use in word processors and optimized for printing on home/small office inkjet printers. There are thousands of color graphic clips as well as illustrations, photographs and black and white line art. All are in lossless, PNG format. As of Wednesday, 05/12/2008 there are 21,005 images.

This is a clean and safe site for children and others to find good-quality, printable images.

Except for a few “fair use” items — namely company logos (like the company name on a credit card) or recognizable products (like a particular model cell phone) — all the rest of the images are Public Domain. If you want to use one for a project or a web page, there is no need to ask nor any requirement to attibute or link back to this site. (Appreciated, but not necessary.)

You can browse through the collection right on the site, taking individual graphics by the common method of a right click and save, but for most practical use, you will probably want to download the package of graphics. That way you can place the graphics in a convenient place for use in your word processor, etc.

Public Domain status eliminates the copyright issue. This site’s author has taken the time to collect and verify the status, and you don’t need to. Follow the site’s link Legal and Sources to understand the collection and to see a very good list of graphic sources (which won’t all be processed into effective clipart).

The graphics and a viewer program are convenient to download and to install on either Windows (by way of an installer, and the viewer is Windows-ready) or Linux. For Linux, the viewer is a Python script, so you may need to install Python.

Until next time,

[Martin Owens kindly pointed everyone to another open clip art site, but I think he meant to refer to instead of COM. The dot com site is a search site.]

No, I don’t mean a sitcom on television, and it isn’t a video on YouTube.

Keep an eye on the development of SchoolTool. It is open source administrative software (Think Rediker, Chancery, iPass, etc.)

This “watchable” is currently alpha software with a plan to release version 1.0 in April of 2009. Alpha means you only want to play with it if you are a developer or want to help in getting ideas built into the system. You should not expect to install and run this software in production setting…your school district with state mandated reporting! Nonetheless, you might want to check in to find out what the plans are and keep track of their progress. The developers are being supported through the Suttleworth Foundation. Mark Shuttleworth is the man behind the development of the Ubuntu (and Edubuntu) Linux distribution.

Right now, the software is supported only on Ubuntu and has:

  • Student Demographics
  • A gradebook/attendance package (apparently of an “Eastern European” style – US style to come)
  • Calendaring – shared, web based, resource scheduling (the gym for basketball, boy scouts, etc.)

For more information, check the Web site:

Until next time,

MOSSSIG is relatively new. Some of you have been reading these Blog pages for a while, but wanted more.

FOSS Fest, the first face-to-face meeting on the 29th of April got us a more traditional launch.

Michael Selva’s computer lab was full, but not uncomfortably crowded and people got the chance to try out some open source education software as well as to meet each other. We enjoyed a presentation by Warren Luebkeman from Resara, the company that provides Michael’s lab with support for running Linux (Ubuntu) as thin clients. The operating system and applications run on the lab’s server. Warren, as guest speaker, told us about GNU/Linux and Open Source in general. Thanks, Warren, Michael, and all the rest who came, shared and launched our SIG with style.

We even got a look at the sub-notebook Asus Eee. It comes with Linux as the installed operating system. It is built around solid state storage (think internal flash thumb drive – no spinning hard drive). It is oddly interesting to see the statement “Asus recommends Windows for easy computing anywhere” at the top of the Eee product page. Windows XP Home is a viable option, though the computer cannot handle Vista. Linux runs fine, of course.

Speaking some more about getting in on the ground floor, it looks like there is a group forming inside the larger structure. It is going to focus on making Open Office particularly useful in education. Jump on over to their Education Project Web site:

Until next time…

I like lists. Some would say my favorite list is the grocery list.

There are a bunch of good applications available. I even enjoy looking through the full list on the package manager (Synaptic, with my current install). In the long run, it isn’t as helpful as I might like. I prefer to get recommendations from other users…isn’t that a reason to check here at the MOSSSIG Blog?

Here are a couple of software application lists that may help you choose your next FOSS application.

The first list is a general application list. It doesn’t target education, but then, OpenOffice isn’t “targeted” towards us, either, and we educators use it all the time.

The second list of applications is less targeted at educators, but we live in a networked world, so knowing more about the network and keeping it secure is a must. This second list is one blogger’s opinion of the top 75 FOSS security applications.

The third list isn’t an application list. It also isn’t a grocery list. It is a Linux news list. Collected on a single page are the latest news items about Linux/FOSS/etc.

Please let us know about more of these lists. It is better to have more resources when you are looking for “just the right thing.”

Until next time,