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Examples of Open Source Software/Materials for Education and Home

CNET Video Describing Open Source Software

Blackboard/LMS Alternative:

Moodle logoMoodle is an open source Learning Management System (LMS) that provides an alternative to commercial systems like Blackboard. In May of 2010 it had over 48,000 registered sites serving 35 million users in 3 million courses. (Moodle Statistics) Moodle runs on Unix, Linix, Windows, Mac OS X. Moodle provides the standard features and tools of most Learning Management Systems. For those interested in Moodle but unable to host see the non profit project Key To School who offer free hosting.


Mahara logoMahara is an easy to use, user centric e-portfolio system capable of showcasing authentic teaching and learning materials. Users easily create and manage different views with text-based materials, video, audio, blogs and wikis. Mahara allows teachers and students to build a web-based digital presence that is professional and appropriate. Additionally, Marhara can help build a diverse community of practice for life-long and life-wide learning, support local and global collaboration via social networking, develop and showcase technological literacy, leverage student motivation by encouraging students to publish dynamic multimedia work online, provide visual evidence of a student's developmental process and achievements, creates a space for dialogue, feedback, and assessment and integrate into existing learning management systems Privacy levels are set by the user, making it appropriate for multiple audiences. As an online system, it provides anytime anywhere access and fosters a dynamic learning community. (See Mahara Demonstration Here)

Open Textbooks

CK12 logo


A non-profit organization that has a mission to provide online up-to-date, standards-aligned textbook content free to K-12 students in the U.S. and around the world. Their online system is designed to be collaborative. Content is customized and educators can self-publish the books known as FlexBooks. Founded in 2007 by educators, editors, engineers and advisers. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is a member of the advisory board. For educators who need to consider the cost of books and who want to customize content, CK-12 could be a viable option. See a presentation on Authorstream:CK-12

FlexBooks Demo

Sharkespear logo

Open Shakespeare: The marriage of text and technology

A project of the Open Knowledge Foundation that includes multiple editions of Shakespeare, introductions and critical essays, tools for annotating, searchin and analyzing text

Microsoft Office Alternative:

Open Office

OpenOffice is a popular example of open source software. As a free alternative to Microsoft Office, Version 3.2 is available in over 100 languages for Windows, Mac and Linux and now offers full compatibility with Microsoft Office 2007 files. Additionally, it is capable of opening password protected Excel, Word and PowerPoint files. (Gilbertson, 2010) Freely available for download, the product can be modified after joining the Open Office community. Users contribute to the project by reporting technical issues. Created in 2000 and licensed as open-source, it had been download 6 million times by 2002, and by 2009 it had been downloaded 100, 000,000 times. In January 2010 Oracle, the owner of OpenOffice, announced that they would be producing a fully online cloud version called Oracle Cloud Office similar to Google Docs. (Lai, 2010)

For help with OpenOffice see their Documentation/Tutorial wiki page or OpenOffice.org Training, Tips and Ideas by Solveig Haugland

For educational use, OpenOffice provides a cost free alternative to Microsoft Office. Because it has been around for at least ten years and it is consistently being upgraded, it is a valuable resource to teachers and students who do not have Microsoft Office.

Photoshop Alternative:

gimp logoGimp began as a semester-long project by Spense Kimball and Peter Mattis at the University of California in 1995 by . Although Gimp does not say that they are trying to replicate photoshop, most reviewers recommend it as an alternative to Adobe PhotoShop. It can be a simple paint program, a high quality photo retouching program or an image converter and it can be augmented with multiple plug-ins. Available for both Mac and PC, it offers users a no cost solution to higher priced image and photo manipulation programs. Because it has been around for quite awhile, it has improved over time making it a great product for teachers and students.

See also Gimpshop a modified version of gimp that looks and feels even more like Photoshop

Dreamweaver Web Authoring Tool Alternative:
Kompozer logo


If a user wants to author web pages and doesn't want to buy a program, Kompozeris a good option. From their web site: "KompoZer is a complete web authoring system that combines web file management and easy-to-use WYSIWYG web page editing. KompoZer is designed to be extremely easy to use, making it ideal for non-technical computer users who want to create an attractive, professional-looking web site without needing to know HTML or web coding."
To watch a video tutorial series see the first link for background on Kompozer and what the series will cover. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=balaIg2aLkg
The second one shows how to download and install Kompozer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEQFhGNdk_A The third in the series gives a quick Walk Through of Kompozer

Audio Editor and Recorder

Audacity logo


An open source audio editor and recorder available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. With this easy to use software, users can record live audio, convert other types of audio to digital formats; edit multiple audio file formats; copy, spice, and edit audio and add special effects. According to CNET editor's review, "Audacity has leaped to the top of our list with its clean interface, excellent features, and support for 32-bit floating-point audio." (CNET, 2008) If you want to export .mp3 files, don't forget to download the LAME encoder as well.



Musopen is an online music library of copyright free (public domain) music. Their aim is to give the world access to music and to set it free. From their site, "There is a great deal of music that has expired copyrights, but almost no recordings of this music is in the public domain. We aim to record or obtain recordings that have no copyrights so that our visitors may listen, re-use, or in any way enjoy music."

Survey ApplicationLime Survey logo


An open source survey tool to download that provides unlimited number of surveys, unlimited questions and survey participants, 20 different question types, printable versions, ready made questions, open and closed participant surveys, supporting 50 languages. Gives links to their online freemium service.



Scratch is a programming language that enables kids to create their own games, animated stories, and interactive art and share their creations with one another over the Internet. Scratch builds on the long tradition of Logo and LEGO/Logo, but takes advantage of new computational ideas and capabilities to make it easier for kids to get started with programming and to extend the range of what kids can create and learn. Scratch was developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at the MIT Media Lab, in collaboration with KIDS research group at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. The ultimate goal is to help kids become fluent with digital media, empowering them to express themselves creatively and make connections to powerful ideas.

Additionally, Scratch is an online community where all the members publish, remix, and share their projects, discuss and learn about their experiences in forums, and build networks of friends and collaborators. In other words, the SCRATCH online community is an "affinity space", in which people learn (informally) through participation. The community has grown very fast and after one year of being online has reached 149,286 registered members and now displays 200,273 projects --15% of these projects are remixes of other ones.

General Repository

Schoolforge logo


A great listing of open source software for education from SchoolForge who aims to unify independent organizations that advocate, use, and develop open resources for education. They advocate the use of open texts and lessons, open curricula, free software and open source in education.

Wikipedia Foundation


Wikipedia and its associated parts are often referred to as open source, but its founder doesn't like it to be called open source. So for our purposes we'll place it here even though it really fits somewhere between open source and freeware. See CNET for more discussion. When using sources like Wikipedia, teachers should always teach the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate information. Most valuable information in Wikipedia is referenced, and has original sources at the bottom of the page. Bottom of the page references can be used for further investigation.

Wikiversity-Learning Tools

Project for learning resources, learning projects and research for all levels of education. Search by subject, grade

Wiktionary-Dictionary and Thesaurus

More than a standard dictionary, it includes rhyme guide,phrase books, language stats, etymology, pronunciation, sample quotations synonym, antonyms, translations and a word of the day.

Wikibooks-open content books to edit

Over 2400 open-content textboks, annotated texts, instructional guides and manuals. In general only includes instructional books and does not include most fiction and non fiction that is not instructional. See more What is Wikibooks

Wikiquotes- Quotations

Online repository of sourced quotations in various languages written by everyone

Wikisource- Document Library

An online collection of free content publications. Over 140,000 texts in English

Wikispecies- Species Directory

A comprehensive catalogue of all species for scientists and everyday users with over 220,000 articles.

Wikinews- News Reports

News contributed by global users. Strives to stay neutral, omit opinion and commentary. Main types of reporting are synthesis reports, and original reports such as first hand news.

Wiki Commons Media repository

Repository of free-use images, sound and media files. Over 6,000,000 media files. Contains images/media licensed under GNU Free Documentation License, Creative Commons, Public Domain, and other free software licenses.



Firefox is a Web Browser like Internet Explorer, Opera, or Google Chrome. Its advantage is good security, flags and blocks of dangerous sites. Includes many add-ons applicable to education that allow customization. Firefox, has more add-ons than any other browser, from ad-blockers to javascript-blockers, from toolbars to password rememberers, security add-ons, blogging add-ons, and much more. Additionally, browsers like Firefox, Opera and Safari are less prone to viral attack than Microsoft Explorer.

File Sharing


FrostWire, a Gnutella Peer-to-Peer sharing client, is a collaborative effort from hundreds of Open Source and freelance developers from around the world. In late 2005, concerned developers of LimeWire's open source community announced the start of a new project "FrostWire" that would protect the developmental source code of the LimeWire client and any improvements to the Gnutella protocol design. Developers of FrostWire respect the GNU General Public License and consider it to be the ideal foundation of a creative and free enterprise market. FrostWire has evolved to replace LimeWire's BitTorrent core for that of Vuze, the Azureus BitTorrent Engine.

Game Emulator


MAME is an emulator designed to recreate hardware of arcade game systems. Its intent is to preserve gaming history and to prevent vintage games being lost. They seek to reference the workings of emulated arcade machines. The ability to actually play the games is a nice side effect. The name is an acronym for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator.

Math and Science Applications


Sage is mathematics software that provides the user with a free open source alternative to programs such as Magma, Maple, Mathematica, and Matlab. Sage can be used for research and teaching across different areas of mathematics including algebra, geometry, number theory, linear algebra, calculus, and many more. Sage combines nearly 100 open source software packages into a unified interface. For a full list of these components click here.


Yacas is an open source computer algebra system which uses its own programming language. This program was designed for symbolic manipulation of mathematical expressions and numerical computation. The fact that this program is open source allows the user to add new algorithms to the library of scripts that come with the program.


Octave is open source software designed to perform numerical computations. Octave tools can be used to solve problems such as linear algebra, roots of nonlinear equations, integration, and differential equations. Octave features a numerical programming language which, for the most part, is compatible with Matlab. Additional packages covering many different topics can be downloaded from Octave-Forge.


K3DSurf is software that allows the user to explore mathematical models in three, four, five, and six dimensions. Designed to be very user-friendly, users can rotate, translate, animate, and morph many different mathematical models with the click of a mouse. Parametric equations and Isosurfaces can be drawn using K3DSurf. A table of all the functions supported by K3DSurf can be found here.


Stellarium allows the user to turn their computer into a planetarium. This software shows the sky in 3D the way it would be seen it if the user were using binoculars or a telescope. The user can enter coordinates into the program and view that specific location in the sky. The open source feature of this software provides the user with the opportunity to add their own deep sky objects, and constellation images.

Stellarium Tutorial


With KMolCalc the user inputs a chemical formula and the software calculates the molecular weight and chemical composition. One feature of the software is that the elements and group names in KMolCalc can be translated into different languages. Also, the user can add new elements and groups to KMolCalc.


Kalzium is a digital Periodic Table of Elements which provides an overview of information about each element including melting point, electron affinity, electron configuration, and mass to name a few. Kalzium also has features such as a molecular weight calculator and an equation solver for problems in stoichiometry.

See more on Open Source on Open Educational Resources (OER)