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GPL Edutainment Software 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the number-munchers-2k8 dept.
haxot writes "I'm the technologist at a local library. In our lab, I've managed to get some recognition for tools such as GIMP and Open Office, and even such toys as Bomberman and BZFlag. Now I'm turning towards the children's computers, which are mostly filled with ancient, buggy, rather boring games that try to be interactive TV shows rather than something entertaining. I'm looking for good OSS games and education suites (preferably multi-platform — I want to be ready for an OS switch to Linux). I'm not picky about the license; I'd just like the software to actually have that 'neat' appeal. Some examples I've found already are Gcompris and Tux Paint. My focus is the 2-year-old to 8-year-old range, but I'm happy to hear teen-oriented suggestions too. Since it's a public library, however, I can't have any software on the computers that is risqué, gory, or violent."
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GPL Edutainment Software

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  • by conner_bw (120497) on Friday April 25, 2008 @06:36PM (#23203620) Homepage Journal
    This is my list of cool apps, although probably more for teens, any smart motivated kid will go far:

    Pencil, A traditional 2D Animation Software (Linux, OS X, Windows - GPL)
    http://www.les-stooges.org/pascal/pencil/ [les-stooges.org]
    Newly discovered by me, simple, fun, and effective.

    Blender, A 3D content creation suite (Linux, OS X, Windows - GPL)
    http://www.blender.org/ [blender.org]
    You can do video compositing, and sound, and a whole lot more.

    Renoise, A music program based based on the design principles of the module tracker (Linux, OS X, Windows - Shareware)
    http://www.renoise.com/ [renoise.com]
    Love this app, very educational for anyone who wants to learn from the ground up. Optionally there's the less powerful MilkyTracker [milkytracker.net] which is GPL

    Audacity, software for recording and editing sound (Linux, OS X, Windows - GPL)
    http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
    A sound editing workhorse.

    Processing, a programming language and environment for people who want to program images, animation, and interactions (Linux, OS X, Windows - GPL)
    http://processing.org/ [processing.org]
    Probably for the gifted class, a very results oriented way to learn programming
  • Mindrover (Score:5, Informative)

    by khayman80 (824400) on Friday April 25, 2008 @06:39PM (#23203640) Homepage Journal
    I highly recommend "Mindrover". In this game, you build and program a little robot that goes through obstacle courses, fights other robots, etc. It's got an intuitive graphical programming language (though you can edit the files directly for a more hands on approach). You get to program the robot's default behavior, define how it responds to threats, program "hunting" strategies, etc.

    There's a demo available online, I recommend at least trying it out: http://www.mindrover.com/ [mindrover.com]

    Oh, and there's a Linux version too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Rudeboy777 (214749)
      It does look kinda cool, but doesn't seem to meet the poster's GPL requirement
      • While the headline says "GPL", the summary says "I'm not picky about the license". I guess the poster doesn't know what the L in GPL stands for...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by cerberusss (660701)

      "Mindrover". In this game, you build and program a little robot that goes through obstacle courses, fights other robots, etc. It's got an intuitive graphical programming language (though you can edit the files directly
      This game scared the living hell out of me. My 9-year-old nephew started editing the files directly and turned this game into a nightmare where one giant robot called Azr43L enslaved humandkind and started eating babies.
    • Their link to the Linux version is broken.

      Which figures. I tried to start my nieces on Linux, but didn't get far. The first problem is that some children's websites use Shockwave. Flash goes a long ways, but not enough. Must have Shockwave. While it's possible to run Shockwave in Wine, it doesn't work well on the very old and slow computers that parents typically give youngsters. I managed to persuade them to stick with Linux since there wasn't that much that required Shockwave. But it didn't last.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 25, 2008 @06:41PM (#23203652)
    Website is here [mit.edu]. It's a different approach to teaching programming fundamentals to kids, somewhat akin to the concept behind LOGO.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mmurphy000 (556983)
      And, for us programming geeks, Scratch is built on Squeak [squeak.org], the open source implementation of Smalltalk.
    • by mykdavies (1369)
      As well as Scratch, there's a lot of other interesting educational stuff built on top on Squeak, eg eToys [laptop.org], Plopp [planet-plopp.com], Dr Geo II [laptop.org] etc. The fact that it's on the OLPC XO is driving a lot of development work for new activities as well.

      There's an article [squeak.org] at news.squeak.org that mentions an interesting series of posts by one of the developers of Dr Geo II who is building up an introduction to Squeak features for educators.
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Friday April 25, 2008 @06:43PM (#23203672) Journal
    My focus is the 2-year old to 8-year old range, but I'm happy to hear teen-oriented suggestions too. Since it's a public library, however, I can't have any software on the computers that is risqué, gory, or violent.
    No gore, cuz it is a public library. Otherwise it'd be cool for the 2-8 year olds.
    • It's amazing -- you quoted it, yet you obviously didn't read it...

      My focus is the 2-year old to 8-year old range, but I'm happy to hear teen-oriented suggestions too.
  • by joeflies (529536) on Friday April 25, 2008 @06:43PM (#23203678)
    It seems that there are modern day ports of LOGO [berkeley.edu] and Robot Odyssey [happypenguin.org], both of which were pretty influential in my early education and gravitated me towards computer science ever since.

    Disclaimer, I haven't actually tried the software in the links above.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Angostura (703910)
      There's a very nice port of Logo for OS X here: http://www.alancsmith.co.uk/logo/index.html [alancsmith.co.uk]. It's free as in beer, but not as in speech.
  • by SoupGuru (723634) on Friday April 25, 2008 @06:45PM (#23203690)
    One thing I remember from working at a school years ago is that educational games tend to suck really bad.

    There's just no motivation to be fun. Speaking from a proprietary standpoint, what factors does an educator look for when deciding which games to purchase? Cost and what the learning topics are. "Here's a game that teaches multiplication and is $10 cheaper than all the others." Fun doesn't fit into the equation. And it's not like many educators are test-driving these games either. Oh, and these are typically poorly written games too.

    My point being, the educational games sector is filled with poorly made products that feature very little fun and are a pain to administer. Hopefully some open source options don't suffer from the same issues. Hopefully you'll be able to sort through the crap and find some good ones though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Bah, you just haven't tried the right ones. Obviously The Oregon Trail didn't suck, it was played by millions of a full decade. (I'm sure it's still on most school computers today.) Rocky's Boots, which badly needs a revival, was a great way to learn logic and programming. I had it on my C-64 when I was a kid, and I don't go a week without thinking back to something I learned in that game.
      • by yomegaman (516565)
        Was Oregon Trail really educational? What exactly did it teach? M.U.L.E. was a much cooler strategy/allocation game, plus it teaches kids the important lesson that gambling is fun and always profitable!
        • by Blakey Rat (99501)
          Oregon Trail was all about risk management and long-term vs. short-term gain. It wasn't educational if you set the difficulty to "easy" and just constantly hunted deer and buffalo.
    • While on the whole your right, the 1st game i remember playing was a maths challenge on the acorn, took you through a maths based version of jack and the beanstalk. never finished the damn thing tho.

      In the Ubuntu repos i spotted a few but none seamed promising, id suggest finding a computer with over 512 ram and using a liveCD to test out the games, if you find anything, as its OSS chances are it will be available for windows too.

      However here are very few programs for kids under GPL, they dont really confor
      • by CSMatt (1175471)
        There's software that can get you laid? Tell me more.
        • "So I said, narrow the focus. Your "use case" should be, there's a 22 year old college student living in the dorms. How will this software get him laid?"
          http://www.jwz.org/doc/groupware.html [jwz.org]

          Basically its a rant about why groupware sucks and why if OSS wants to kick outlooks arse we should do what he says, If somebody had listend maybe we wouldnt be stuck with facebook :(

          The theory goes something like if users like the software they're going to show it to people, they're going to use it your user base keeps
    • "My point being, the educational games sector is filled with poorly made products that feature very little fun and are a pain to administer."

      This is true for the entire software industry not just educational games. Also I think branding something 'educational' is kinda silly, education happens when you learn something new and modify your worldview to account for it. As a child in the 60's I loved Disney comics, adults told me they were a waste of time yet when I got older I realised I had I learnt stuff
    • by Khaed (544779)
      I disagree. The Carmen Sandiego game I played was great, and I loved Oregon Trail (especially when my entire harem made it!), and when I was younger I recall some strange math program that was kind of fun. And I didn't even like math.
  • http://www.codenautics.com/lemonade/ [codenautics.com]

    Just like the Apple II classic. Teach them capitalism so they don't end up on drugs ;)
  • by Locutus (9039) on Friday April 25, 2008 @06:55PM (#23203776)
    Sqeak is a Smalltalk-like language and environment, runs on many platforms and has a package called e-Toys. It's on the OLPC

    I believe they have other education software too so here's a link for you to search for yourself:

    http://www.squeak.org/Features/Education/ [squeak.org]

    LoB
  • Dope Wars (Score:5, Funny)

    by ceroklis (1083863) on Friday April 25, 2008 @06:56PM (#23203778)
    A very educational game to learn all you need to know about drugs, guns, prostitutes, loan sharks and New York geography. Highly recommended! http://dopewars.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
  • Physics and Software (Score:4, Informative)

    by macneib (1038802) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:02PM (#23203844)
    Phun is an educational, entertaining and somewhat addictive piece of software for designing and exploring 2D multi-physics simulations in a cartoony fashion.

    http://www.vrlab.umu.se/research/phun/ [vrlab.umu.se]

    Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. Alice is a teaching tool for introductory computing. It uses 3D graphics and a drag-and-drop interface to facilitate a more engaging, less frustrating first programming experience.

    http://www.alice.org/ [alice.org]
    • by LMCBoy (185365) *
      Also consider Step [kde.org], which from the description of phun sounds similar to that program.

      Step is part of the KDE Edutainment [kde.org] module (or rather, it will be soon...)

    • crayon physics, numpty physics, pocket physics, are all pretty good and offer somewhat similar ideas. there's a flash based variant called magic pen [fizzlebot.com].
      google for the others since you'd need to install an application.
  • You can't. Really? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pclminion (145572) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:06PM (#23203880)

    Since it's a public library, however, I can't have any software on the computers that is risqué, gory, or violent.

    Exactly why not? Does your library also lack risqué, gory, and violent books? What the hell sort of library is this?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by TomRK1089 (1270906)
      I'm pretty sure that, given the ages specified in the actual post, there'd be plenty of parents objecting to that material being aimed at their children, just as parents protest the inclusion of said material on television. That's not to say there aren't kids (like myself at that age) who will be reading those books anyways, but I suppose the idea is that it requires the kid to actively seek it out, rather than stumble onto it rather easily.
    • by westlake (615356)
      Exactly why not? Does your library also lack risqué, gory, and violent books? What the hell sort of library is this?

      The library that has a children's section. The library that restricts access to other collections.

  • try K12LTSP (Score:2, Informative)

    by dalesyk (302267)
    Take a look at http://k12ltsp.org They focus on educational software and thin clients. Both would be a good fit for a library environment.
  • Frozen Bubbles. Fun, and teaches some geometry.

    http://www.frozen-bubble.org/ [frozen-bubble.org]

  • Free alternative (Score:3, Insightful)

    by meregistered (895132) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:21PM (#23203982) Journal
    Hello

    Having children in that age range, and having looked to some degree I haven't found any GPL educational games that really got my kids interest (Tux paint held the 6 year olds attention for an afternoon).

    What has held my children's interest are games on the following websites:
    http://www.pbskids.org/ [pbskids.org]
    http://funschool.kaboose.com/ [kaboose.com]
    http://www.starfall.com/ [starfall.com]
    http://kids.discovery.com/ [discovery.com]
  • How about Line Rider as a flash game?

    http://www8.agame.com/mirror/flash/l/linerider_v1_5.swf [agame.com]
  • by PineHall (206441) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:28PM (#23204028)
    Check out OpenEducationDisc [theopendisc.com] and OpenDisc [theopendisc.com].
  • SimCity was just open-sourced, and there is the even better Lincity-NG, but where are the open source clones of Number Numbers, Carmen Sandiego, Oregon Trail, etc?

    kde-edu is a nice start, but if there were more education programs, I think Linux would make more inroads in schools. Introducing kids early on to the concept of free software, and choices in picking your software is very important.
  • by MtHuurne (602934) on Friday April 25, 2008 @08:06PM (#23204240) Homepage
    The KDE Education [kde.org] package contains some impressive applications. The KDE Games [kde.org] package contains some nice casual games. In KDE4, many of them were given new good-looking SVG graphics. Also since KDE4, they can be run on Windows and Mac OS X natively (and on Linux too of course). The Windows port is a work in progress; maybe not something you should install tomorrow, but something to keep an eye on.
  • Edubuntu? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by linuxwrangler (582055) on Friday April 25, 2008 @08:25PM (#23204362)
    I'd find a machine and see what you think of Edubuntu ("Linux for Young Human Beings").

    http://www.edubuntu.org/UsingEdubuntu [edubuntu.org]

    My daughter is 3-1/2 and loves the stuff on Linux. She was typing her name on TuxPaint before she turned three but we had to click on the icons for her to set it to text or other modes since the mouse was too big and unwieldy.

    So I bought her a laptop mouse which is perfect for her small hand. Big mistake. She will now sneak into the computer and start up "Paint Penguins" (TuxPaint), draw something, print it and come show us.

    If she's bored with that she plays "Running Penguins" (SuperTux) or "Bubble Penguins" (Frozen Bubbles) or steals my Blackberry to show where Nana lives on Google Maps.

    If she finds my bank-account numbers I'm in trouble. But seriously, Linux has plenty of edutainment software available and Edubuntu packages it in one place. It it also designed for classroom (and therefore, I suppose, library) use with features like centralized-management (LTSP) and such.
  • Seeing KStars in KDE reminded me that there are a couple of really good FLOSS astronomy programs out there.

    One is Celestia [shatters.net], which lets you travel/fly through the solar system, the galaxy (including several other known solar systems), and the local universe!

    I know there's also a similar FLOSS planetarium program (Earth-based, rather than space-based), but I can't find it right now. Through in a pinch, Celestia can work like a planetarium [cornell.edu] too.
    • by solanum (80810)
      Stellarium is what you are thinking of, at www.stellarium.org Multi-platform, and used professionally, needs a 3D card though.
  • My kids both love Tux of Math Command...

    http://tux4kids.alioth.debian.org/tuxmath.php

    Here's my five year old son playing...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D20yCEDye2Q
  • You did say "teen-oriented"...

    Firebug, for one...

    Or just include source and compilers for everything you can find. Gentoo might be a good fit for that (though not for much else).

    And of course, anything you can get as a shell/interpreter. irb, python, erlang, etc.

    Another possibility: Xen. Make it possible for people to load whatever they want onto a (temporary) virtual machine image. See if people start writing their own OSes...

    One more, while I'm at it: Core Wars. Allows you to write bots that attack each o
  • For astronomy (Score:4, Informative)

    by SlowDancing (687920) on Friday April 25, 2008 @09:22PM (#23204668)
    Stellarium [stellarium.org] for star charts and constellations. Windows, Mac, Linux versions. Highly recommended.
  • Just get KDE (Score:4, Informative)

    by ChameleonDave (1041178) * on Friday April 25, 2008 @09:30PM (#23204702) Homepage

    You don't really need individual suggestions, as most of the decent open-source educational programs out there are part of KDE. The latest version of KDE will hopefully be installable on Windows this year.

    Just install the full package, and you'll have stuff like KLatin and KVerbos for learning languages, as well as star-gazing software, plus KTurtle, KTouch and a load more.

  • Why do you limit yourself to GPL only. Are you really going to alter source for applications for kids... Probably not. You are better off getting freeware, shareware and arguable gray area of legal of Abandon-ware. As well open if you can use windows the more will be available. Linux is barely making a nudge in the desktop assuming that there will be slew of applications for kids is just crazy thinking, Linux's knitch is really in the Server.
  • by Petaris (771874)
    In our school we run these and some othere that are less game like (and for older students).

    Tux Math: http://www.newbreedsoftware.com/tuxmath/ [newbreedsoftware.com]
    Tux Typeing: http://tuxtype.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
    Tux Paint: http://www.tuxpaint.org/ [tuxpaint.org]

    The newbreed software site has a number of programs there. There are actually quite a few educational titles around, I like gtypist for the older students as it is fast, modifiable, and has a lot of lessons. Its curses based though so it will turn some people off if they have a fear of
  • My first thoughts were these two:

    Of course, having Google Earth is bound to chew up a lot of bandwidth, so use your best judgment.
  • My older son (now 4) learned how to use a mouse and the basics of computers from a Toddler Game [happypenguin.org] when he was just two years old. I highly recommend this game for children between 2-4. Although its not 100% finished, enough of the game is there to keep toddlers occupied.
  • Edutainment? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ChilyWily (162187) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @03:11AM (#23205956) Homepage
    Yuck! I cringe whenever someone uses that word. Perhaps because lately I feel very much offended that a lot of 'Information' out there is in fact nothing more than a subtle (or increasingly not-so-subtle) attempt at Marketing.

    Please enough already - no more of this Hollywood style, flashy, 'make believe' stuff with specious vocabulary. There is a certain spark in the Human psyche that gets lit whenever a person truly gains comprehension or insight into something they did not know before. Especially with Children, in my humble opinion, what's need is to light that little flame. 'Edutainment' makes it seem like it's a bitter pill that must be sugar coated with oodles of artificial sweeteners to be palatable.

    I say, leave them kids alone. Let them discover the joys of the Earth without the myopic view of Google Earth and look for the Stars in the night sky ... rather than on a computer screen. Teach them well those basics that our ancestors took so long to truly comprehend, preferably with a pencil and paper.
  • SimCity / Micropolis (Score:3, Informative)

    by Danious (202113) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @04:47AM (#23206138) Homepage
    The original version of SimCity was recently Open Sourced, more info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micropolis_(software) [wikipedia.org] and download. at
    http://www.donhopkins.com/home/micropolis/ [donhopkins.com]
  • The GPL version of SimCity Classic from Maxis is called "Micropolis", and is available on Google Code [google.com].

    There's an old version based on TCL/Tk, which runs on the OLPC, Linux, and also on the Mac with X11.

    And I'm in the process of rewriting it in C++/Python/GTK/Cairo/Pango, which runs on Windows, Mac OS/X and Linux (including the OLPC of course).

    Lots more stuff about it on my web site [donhopkins.com].

    -Don

  • it is, for the lack of other word, a "Simulator" that allows you to travel across the Solar System and even farther. Very good educational software.

    http://www.shatters.net/celestia/ [shatters.net]
  • the bbc's [bbc.co.uk] cbeebies have a number of games, many are lightweight fun games, some have a little learning (reading), and a few are very good. the nice thing is that you could whitelist that web page and be fairly sure there's nothing nasty on that sub URL.
  • Shouldn't the focus be it being "good" rather than "GPL"? Maybe you can get both in the same criteria, but I'm just surprised the primary objective is that it's GPL - you might find proprietary is the way forward; would that be a road block? Sounds to me like it would be in this scenario.
  • A fun little game where you guide a toy train around a track while your train gets longer in a manner similar to snake.
    Probably that falls into about that age bracket.

    Includes a quiz section on the "Rights of Man"
    I'm not sure if that can be disabled or made an arbitrary quiz module.
    Seems likely, given it is OSS that is it possible at some level.

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