Open technology options for schools

There are hundreds of open applications that schools can use for everything from productivity tools to course management; here are some of the most popular options:

The Apache Software Foundation–Best known for its suite of open-source web servers, Apache is described as an organization that provides support for the Apache community of open-source software projects. According to the foundation’s web site, Apache projects are characterized by a collaborative, consensus-based development process, an open and pragmatic software license, and a desire to create high-quality software that leads the way in its field.

Creative Commons (CC)–An open consortium of artists that provides free tools for authors, scientists, artists, and educators “to easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry.” Like open technologies, Creative Commons promotes the sharing of art through collaboration and encourages authors and artists to use their own discretion in how their works are used on the internet, and elsewhere. “We’re a nonprofit organization,” states CC on its web site. “Everything we do–including the software we create–is free.”

Curriki–A global online education and learning community, Curriki is an organization dedicated to improving education by empowering teachers, students, and parents with universal access to free and open curricula. The organization reportedly is building the first and only internet site for a complete, open course of instruction and assessment for K-12 schools. Founded by Sun Microsystems in 2004, Curriki now operates as an independent nonprofit.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets–A free, web-based word processing and spreadsheet program that keeps documents current and lets the people you choose update files from their own computers. You can, for example, coordinate your student group’s homework assignments, access your family to-do list from work or home, or collaborate with remote colleagues on a new business plan, according to a description of the product on Google’s web site. For more, visit and type in Google Docs.

Firefox–Built by the open-source Mozilla Foundation, Firefox is an alternative, open-source web browser meant to compete with Microsoft’s popular Internet Explorer. The latest version, Firefox 2, is downloadable free of charge over the internet and contains features such a tabbed browsing and a new spell-check feature for use with blogs and web-based eMail programs.

Linux–A free Unix-type operating system originally created by Linus Torvalds with the assistance of developers around the world. Developed under the General Public License, or GNU, the source code for Linux is freely available to everyone.

Moodle–A free, open-source course management system (CMS). Developers say the software was designed “using sound pedagogical principles” to help educators create effective online learning communities. Users can download and use it on any computer. The resource reportedly is scalable from a single-teacher site to a 50,000-student university.

Nvu (pronounced N-view)–A complete web-authoring suite for Linux users built to rival leading Windows-based programs as FrontPage and Dreamweaver. Developers say the goal was to give users with absolutely no knowledge of HTML the ability to build a manage web pages using open source software.–A multiplatform and multilingual office suite and an open-source project. Compatible with all other major office suites, the product is free to download, use, and distribute, according to the web site.

GIMP, or GNU Image Manipulation Program–A freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring. It works on many operating systems, in many languages, and is used in some schools as an alternative to proprietary programs like Adobe’s Photoshop.

The Sakai Project–Produces an online collaboration and learning environment for schools. Many users of Sakai deploy it to support teaching and learning, ad-hoc group collaboration, support for portfolios, and research collaboration, developers say. Sakai is a free and open-source product that is built and maintained by the Sakai Community. Sakai’s development model is called “Community Source,” because many of the developers creating Sakai are drawn from the “community” of organizations that have adopted and are using Sakai, the web site says.

Tux Paint–A free, award-winning drawing program for children ages 3 to 12. It combines an easy-to-use interface, sound effects, and an encouraging cartoon mascot who guides children as they use the program, according to the web site.

WordPress–A state-of-the-art personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. It reportedly is designed to help users work with blogging software.

Wikipedia–The largest encyclopedia on the internet is a free resource that allows users to post and edit factual entries on just about any topic imaginable. Users can create their own entries, add to existing topics, or simply browse the site for reference information. Developers like to refer to the site as a constant “work-in-progress.”

Zoho Virtual Office–An alternative to Microsoft’s Office suite. The product, downloadable for free over the internet, contains a range of productivity and publishing tools, including resources for document creation, web sharing, online calendaring, instant messages, tasks and reports, announcements, and more.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at