Monday, June 25, 2007

Live from the NECC - Free Software

Well, after being bumped from my flight I was able to catch the next one and arrive in Atlanta only a couple hours late. The first session I caught was this morning.

When the Best is Free: Open Source Software in Education
David Thornburg, Thornburg Center

I'll be seeking Dr. Thornburg out at future conferences I attend. He was a very dynamic and entertaining speaker. One of his opening quotes illustrates this quite well.

"No operating system in history has done more to advance Linux than Vista."

Thornburg's presentation went through lots of great free and/or open source software. Here's the list of what he covered. I've included links to my own blog for those things I've covered previously.

Celestia - Solar System Exploration. I usually explain it as Google Earth for the Solar System and nearby galaxies.

Scratch - Programming language from the MIT Media Lab. Thornburg's site is the only place to get the Linux version from. Scratch uses blocks that can be clicked and draged to write programs very easily. I had my eight year old son programing last summer with this. One of the cool things is there are lots of different spoken languages you can have menus and commands displayed in.

PhET - Lots of really great science simulations on the web. They can be installed locally if your network is not reliable.

MVT - Mathematical Visualization Toolkit. Function plotter, derivatives , numerical integration. 2D and 3D plotting.

MathTrax - This is an equation plotter. The cool thing is it returns a text description of the function in words based on your function. This was originally created for vision impaired kids, the text description can be read to the kids.

JAlbum - Build website picture photo albums. Thornburg showed an elementary assignment, students take pictures objects that look like a letters to create the whole alphabet.

Cmap - Concept mapping tool, while not as pretty as Inspiration, it is free. Users can get suggestions from the internet, looking for related words. Collaboration - multiple students can work on the same map at the same time.

Molecular Workbench - 3D models of molecules and such. It comes with lots of ready made models. This was shown near the end of the presentation, so he didn't get much time to talk about it. I will definitely have to spend some time with this later.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this summary, Steve! I wasn't able to make the session, so it's handy to have access to the content.

I really look forward to playing with Scratch this summer. It promises to be a great addition to my middle school computer science classes.

Unknown said...

I read in today's L&L Daily Learner that Dr. Thornburg handed out cd's of software. Can I get a copy from someone?

Steve said...

He did pass out a CD, but he only had 100 of them. He didn't anticipate such a large crowd at the first session of the morning.

All the software he mentioned is freely downloadable though. Just follow the links in my blog and you can get there.