Almost three years ago now I was given the privilege of creating a sub project of the openSUSE linux project. That project is known as “openSUSE-EDU” aka opensuse-education. The idea I had was to gather open source software that was specific to education environments and use the many talents of the openSUSE community and it’s full time staff to optimize the software for openSUSE. My first Teammate and mentor into the world of Linux Projects was, Lars Vodgt. Lars is one of the original SuSE linux team and a co-founder of the “openshoolserver” a project that spun off from SuSE just before the Novell buy out , and is today a very useful and powerful tool for educators in Europe. He is wonderful leader, teacher and guide. He seems to handle almost every detail of the project like it is just a minor addition to his daily work, although we all know that the list of software titles and daily updates are far from trivial.
My first concern was in the area of LTSP and the desktop applications that would be used with it, many schools in the US were already utilizing the efforts of ” K12LTSP”, a specialized version of LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project), to reduce the cost of classroom computing. I wanted a SuSE linux version of LTSP because I dreamed of having a ubiquitous login process to my Novell network and SuSE \ openSUSE were the only Linux distributions ever to carry the Novell Client for Linx. Somehow, somewhere, someone brought “Cyberorg” aka Jigish Gohil to the project. Cyberorg has taken us from my simple directions to install ltsp 4.2 as an add on, to having completely integrated, award winning packages that include the GSOC work “easy-ltsp” ( http://en.opensuse.org/LTSP) . Cyberog is now a leader in LTSP innovation and openSUSE’s Kiwi operating system image creation utility, with which he has created several ground breaking Live disks for educators (http://en.opensuse.org/Education/live)
My second concern, and where I spend most of my time, lay in the administrative tools available to schools that could drastically reduce licensing overhead. With the help of Lars’s and others, the repository now includes several administrative and curriculum enhancing titles such as Moodle, ClaSS, openBiblio, Koha and openSIS. openSIS is personal to me as I have been working the idea of a free and open sourced student information system \ Academic ERP (http://en.opensuse.org/Education_ERP) since the very beginning, and I am it’s Project Manager. With these tools it is my hope that we can build a service community that will help educators everywhere build and utilize a modern WEB 2.0 site that not only enhances school management but engages the student bodies to their full potential with communication and collaboration tools native to their technology experience.
Over the last 3 years, much has been accomplished by the many contributors to openSUSE-edu, this year seems to be highlighted by new members who are bringing us the most complete Sugar desktop outside the OLPC project (http://en.opensuse.org/Sugar). The Sugar desktop for those who don’t know is an invaluable resource to elementary school computer integration programs, it uses iconic metaphors to simplify navigation while providing a multitude of challenging and useful programs.
I hope that you will join and contribute with us towards these goals by visiting http://en.opensuse.org/Education and subscribing to our mailing list at http://en.opensuse.org/Education/Communicating#Mailing_Lists
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