EdTech Moment 55: OSAlt.com

Published on October 7, 2013 by      Print

Last week we took a look at an open-source alternative to Microsoft office called Open Office, but then I realized that we haven’t talked about what open-source software is.

Today we’re going to talk about open source software and take a look at a website where you can find alternative open-source software for you to use in your classroom. Today we will take a look at http://osalt.com.

Most software is developed by private company and they own the licenses to distribute and sell the software. When you buy software from the company, for example buying a license from Microsoft to use Microsoft Office you’re licensing a certain number of copies for your use. Open-source software is software that has an open license. This is software that is developed either by a company or buy a group or collection of people that are just developing the software on a volunteer basis, but the advantage of the software is that it is free and open for you to use. The reason it’s called open source is because the primary source code used to create the program is also open and freely available so that developers can take that code and make changes and improvements to the program. The terms of the license say that any improvement or changes that you made to the code need to be also made freely available and that’s why it’s called open source because the source code is open for anyone to manipulate change and then also share that source code openly.

The advantage for teachers is that this software is free to use and it doesn’t cost anything to put it into your classroom, which can be especially expensive when putting it into a lab with many computers.

The problem then becomes how do you find this open-source software. Here we are at a website called OSAlt.com, OS for open-source, and alt stands for alternative. This is a directory of open source alternative software for other software titles that you might be more familiar with. For example on the site if I wanted to do a graphics project with my class but I can’t afford The expensive license for Photoshop, I can come to OS alt and type in Photoshop and find several open-source alternatives for doing graphic manipulation like I would do in Photoshop.

Are you currently using Open-Source software in your classroom? Let us know what your favorite open source alternatives are and we can talk about it more on the show.

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