What Are Live CDs And How Can I Use Them?

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Here are some free or low-cost alternatives to accepted software solutions. The goal is an education environment that is technology-rich where teachers can accomplish their instructional objectives using free software, minimizing the cost of what they use with children. This goal is within reach and states such as Indiana have realized them through the use of Linux and open source software. However, how can teachers, students and their parents, and district staff begin to realize the benefits of such tools with a minimum of trouble?

In an issue of TechEdge, Marilyn Hagle (Cedar Hill ISD) shared that she thought that...

...bootable CDs might just be the ticket for classroom teachers who wish to incorporate easily the hundreds of Open Source software programs freely available...with a bootable CD, you can run the software without installing anything on your computer.

What a fantastic idea! Following up on this, I wondered what other software solutions might be useful. Until now, we have had shared software that works on the two platforms—Windows and Macintosh—in schools. Increasingly, however, Linux is finding its way into schools and has become a contender that can in one motion, achieve the goal of low-cost alternative software that can impact technology use in Texas schools. This article shares some popular Linux CDs you can start with that are specifically designed to provide you with a friendly introduction to Linux and free, open source software.

While the real benefit of Live CDs comes from the productivity tools available on the CDs, rather than the reportedly educational software—more along the lines of games and tutorials—there are some real gems among the software. The key, though, is that everything you see on a Live CD is free to share with your students and colleagues, a point that is often lost when dealing with Windows or Macintosh software.

Here's a short list of useful CDs with a focus on education:

CD #1 – EduNix
Like all the other CDs, EDU-Nix is known as a “live” CD. That means that it comes with its own computer operating system (linux), does not install anything to your computer's hard drive (so no fear of ruining your computer for other uses), and has a variety of relevant software. That software includes educational, Office productivity, and Internet programs. If you have a computer that can run Windows that can boot from a CD-ROM, then you can easily try this system.

Furthermore, if you decide the software on the EDU-Nix CD is worth sharing with your students, you can make unlimited copies of the CD and share it with them, as well as your colleagues.

While you can find a complete list of software online at http://www.edu-nix.org/software/completelist.php, these math friendly titles also appear on the EDU-Nix CD: 1) Scientific Calculator; 2) Math Command ; 3) KBruch Fractions; 4) Kpercentage; 5) Interactive Geometry ; 6) Function Plotter. Other programs include Kgeography, touch typing tutorial programs (Ktouch and Tux Type), and Keduca. If astronomy is of interest, then programs like Celestia and Stellarium also appear, as well as a few others.

CD #2 – Edubuntu
Edubuntu, like EDU-Nix, features the standard list of productivity tools (such as Open Office, an alternative to MS Office suite). However, it also comes with a few additional programs that EDU-Nix is lacking in, such as Kverbos. With Kverbos, you can practice Spanish verb conjugation. The programs have a built-in set of over 9,000 Spanish verbs for verb conjugations. This is certainly a fun tool to use. You can get a copy online at http://www.edubuntu.org

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