Distance learning, online classrooms, and e-learning are no longer new concepts. Students these days are multi-tasking between work, study, and entertainment. Add to that the freedom from classroom atmosphere and the physical presence of a teacher. It is small wonder then that students find it difficult to focus on their school work. Teachers too face new challenges in the digital classrooms. In the year 2013, Open Source introduced tools that could help teachers teach and students learn in a focused and distraction free environment that they could create themselves in a “cloud” of their own making. Highly customizable and extensible, these tools help teachers and students organize, sort, and share documents, notes, and much more.
Focus writer is akin to a text editor. It provides a simple writing tool free of distractions. The tool is available in multiple languages on multiple platforms such as Linux, Mac, and Windows. Apart from the usual text editing features the tool provides a multitude of features such as built in alarms, auto-save, auto-spell checker, and multi-document support, multiple-session support, built-in statistics features, daily target organizer, and customizable themes. These features make focus writer a tool that helps both students and teachers purge out external distractions and concentrate fully on their work. It relieves the writer of all extraneous processing tasks and allows him to focus on the subject matter at hand thereby completing his work with alacrity and accuracy.
Moodling is the new way of teaching and learning. MoodleCloud mimics a classroom in a virtual environment. It is a popular LMS (Learning Management System) with its Open Source nature being one of its strongest features. Zero vendor lock in and total ownership of content, make Moodle popular for tutoring, official conferencing and much more. Its fifty user compatibility is an added advantage. Where classrooms exceed this number, they can switch to local servers with Moodle without any difficulty. The software is flexible allowing customization at individual level. It is available free without any hidden costs. It is highly scalable and compatible with multiple platforms. Above all, it supports a multitude of languages and is ideal for global classrooms.
An open source WYSIWYG HTML editor, Brackets can be used to teach HTML and CSS. It brings to students the joy of instantly viewing their creations in a browser. This acts as a great motivator and students learning HTML can experiment with different page layouts, fonts, colors and themes. If simplifies learning HTML and CSS with the ease of a multi-featured and highly customizable editor. Brackets is actually a text editor that doubles as an HTML editor (or the other way round if you prefer!) which is being constantly upgraded by its makers. Each release brings new features such as Instant Search and new Character Supports.
Youthful minds are busy minds! In addition to all the distractions of multimedia, texting, and twitter they have to contend with managing course work, organizing notes, attending lectures, completing assignments and a lot more! RedNotebook comes to the aid of the students (and teachers too) helping them organize large volumes of digital content and keeping track of their schedules. Free of all the organization tasks, students can complete their work within a short time freeing themselves for other activities. RedNotebook has all the functionalities of a text editor coupled with added features such as hash tags for tagging documents, export facility to enable submission (or forwarding) of documents, a digital diary, and in-built back-up facility.
Remember the cupboard in the school staff room that stored all the notebooks submitted for correction and marking? OwnCloud provides that to online teachers and educators. This tool not only allows teachers to stash the numerous projects, coursework that students turn in, it also protects the privacy of both students’ and teachers’ personal data by allowing them to take control of their own data in their own private cloud. Fully customizable, ownCloud allows sharing of documents and files with sync capabilities. The software comes with its own web interface and is compatible with a number of operating systems. It facilitates private sharing within the cloud with the functionality of browser-based editing. Additional features of ownCloud include sharing across devices, open architecture, and high scalability.
The GenX is a technology-oriented generation and getting them to enter and remain in classrooms is the biggest challenge for teachers. An introduction to open source tools is often all that may be required to meet this challenge, says ByWater Solutions Community Outreach Vice President, Nicole C. Engard. Jon Roberts from Davis, Utah, uses these tools to teach Math and Science. These tools are being effectively used by teachers to teach a multitude of subjects and courses. High customization and high scalability are the two main features that endear students and teachers alike to these tools. In an age where education is becoming more and more personalized, open source tools enable students to study in groups while at the same time providing for their individual needs by allowing them to customize the software to their requirements. Teachers too can teach students from diverse backgrounds and having varying needs within the same digital classroom without having to worry about adjusting to their individual needs. Open source is undoubtedly the answer to every student’s dream of having the system adjust to his needs. It is the embodiment of every teacher’s dream of being able to manage a large classroom where every student understands and imbibes the lessons taught.