28 Aug 2012

Edubuntu 12.04: Let’s Learn It!

The 1st of September is just around the corner.

Where do you live? I don't know the rules of your residence country, but Russia, where I was born and spent most of my life, has a rule: the 1st of September is the start of the school year. Even if this day falls on a weekend, like we have it in 2012, schoolchildren must have their great event, especially those who go to school for the first time in their lives.

Nowadays, one of the most popular purchases for the pupils and students are computers. Being it Linux Desktop or Laptop, you still have an option to install your own operating system on it, specifically to help your child, or maybe yourself, to prepare the homework.

This occasion gave me an idea to write some posts about applying open source operating systems in the educational process.

There are several Linux-based OSes, which fall into this category, and the most well-known of them is Edubuntu. Let's start with it.

Edubuntu, as you can understand from its name, is an Ubuntu-based operating system for the educational process. It targets two main groups of people: those who study and those who teach.

The ISO image of Edubuntu 12.04 "weighs" more than its close relative Ubuntu. It is 2.6 GB. The download options include directly loading from a mirror or using the torrent. I downloaded the image using the torrent, and Unetbootin'ed it onto the USB stick.

So, the Fujitsu-Siements Amilo Pi 1505 laptop is ready, USB stick is plugged in. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!

Booting up

The boot menu of Edubuntu 12.04 was similar to many others I've tried so far from a Live USB created by Unetbootin. There are options to run without installation, to check disk, to check memory or to start an installation.

The splash screen of Edubuntu 12.04 is similar to Ubuntu, with a difference in colour palette. The dominant colour of the splash screen is grey.

Edubuntu did not ask me any additional questions during the boot. This is different from Ubuntu, which asks you about the option to run installation or Live run in the middle of the process. I had answered a similar question at the very start, as you can see. Maybe this is because I've never tried a LiveUSB run of Ubuntu 12.04.


Little differences between Live runs of Ubuntu and Edubuntu appeared right during the boot process.

Anyway, I finally got to the desktop. It was generally the same Ubuntu 12.04 desktop with the Unity interface, with a few changes:

  • The Ubuntu logo is replaced with an Edubuntu one. It is very similar with a minor tweak towards “education”.
  • There is a button “Start LTSP-Live” on the Unity Launcher. It is strange it did not start on my Live USB run of Edubuntu 12.04, because this application, Linux Terminal Server Project, is specifically designed for Live run. 
  • The desktop is not in Ubuntu's purple-and-orange theme, but rather a more scientific image with stars, satellite dish or radio telescope and a deep well, where an astronomer sits.

Apart from the default wallpaper, Edubuntu 12.04 comes with a nice selection of alternative images. They are the standard Ubuntu ones, plus some more Edubuntu-specific. I think they would nicely fit classroom computers for chemistry, biology or astronomy classes. In other words, the Edubuntu team gives you a nice set of alternatives.

Is it different from Ubuntu?

Overall, there are not many differences between Ubuntu and Edubuntu in terms of underlying functionality. Therefore, I will not describe here the stuff I usually cover in my reviews: network connectivity, keyboard layouts, mounting of an external share, multimedia playback. Instead, I will send you to the respective review of Ubuntu 12.04, where all these things are already covered.
For example, Edubuntu 12.04 comes without audio codecs or Flash player, but all of them are easily installable.
Edubuntu 12.04
comes without Flash player, but it is easy to install

Flash videos? Just few minutes, and they are available even in the Live USB run of Edubuntu!

Yes, it is different!

Even if Edubuntu is not different from Ubuntu in basic content, it still does not mean that there's nothing to talk about. The major difference is in the stuffing of the distributions.

While Ubuntu is targeted to the more general public and thus contains only the most common software, limited to the 700 Mb CD size, Edubuntu has a different approach. The additional nearly 2 GB of the distribution image are taken by additional software. All of this software somehow relates to the educational process.

Without listing all of the available applications here, I will sample a few of them:

  • Graphics section contains the diagram editor Dia, CAD tool LibreCAD, fractal display tool Xaos, and publishing tool Scribus. Of course, it also contains the more or less standard open source image editors: GIMP and Inkscape.
  • Internet tools include lab management tool Epoptes and Gobby Collaborative Editor. Epoptes gives you an option to monitor the activity of students withing the lab, or broadcast your own screen to them. Gobby gives teacher and students to work together on a single document with an option to synchronize between different computers.
  • There are many more games in Edubuntu 12.04 compared to Ubuntu 12.04, and most of them are aimed on gaining new knowledge through fun activity, like word-learning games KHangMan or Potato Guy.
  • There is a separate section of the menu called Education, where you can find both scientific-educational and learn-through-fun applications: Tux Math game to learn math, Marble globe to see the world, or Lybniz graph plotter to check the graphical display of math functions.
  • Apart from the special educational tools, Edubuntu provides a set of tools for setting up and monitoring the computers at the school class. One of the tools, Epoptes, is already listed above. In the same category are applications like Privacy settings, Profile Manager, GCompris Administration and some more.
Some educational applications
in Edubuntu 12.04

What are the benefits of Edubuntu?

The benefits, from my point of view, are in readiness of the system for the educational process. It has some tools that can help young computer users to learn. Whether it be it only the basics of counting like Tux Math, or serious trigonometry in Lybniz, you get the tools straight away. Of course, many more applications are available to download.

Another benefit, which comes from Ubuntu's roots, is the ability to use the system in variety of languages. The level of translation depends on the language you require, but, generally speaking, Ubuntu's packages have the most translations of the operating systems on the Linux landscape.

Last but not least, Edubuntu is a Free Open Source Software. It means that schools which implement Edubuntu extend the love of Open Source to the loveliest people in this world: children.

Convert your present Ubuntu OS to Edubuntu

What if you are a parent of a youngster who needs the educational tools, but you already have Ubuntu or Kubuntu installed on your home computer, and you do not want to re-install the operating system?

Apart from the full-size implementation of Edubuntu, you can turn Ubuntu or Kubuntu installations into educational ones. The Download page of Edubuntu's web site contains the information on how to do this. There are several options, from preschool to university levels.

Edubuntu 12.04 is not the only operating system targeted on the "market" of education and learning. I have mentioned this fact at the beginning of this post. Stay in touch, and I will tell you about Edubuntu’s alternatives as well.

Video used in the screenshot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKS2JRidfmk


  1. Don't forget the GCompris package which covers quite a range of early learning topics at very simple levels - Tux is ubiquitous and the early exposure can prepare children for the wider services of Edubuntu. GCompris runs on many recent versions of Ubuntu including 12.04

    I cheated a bit with Edubuntu and fronted it with LXDE. Snappy, very snappy, with all the range of Edubuntu facilities. Perfect for people who don't like Unity.

    If you want to go the whole hog, there's also a dedicated educational version of Debian...

    1. Yes, LXDE will be definitely snappier than Unity, especially on low-end computers.
      Edubuntu, Debian, OpenSuSE, Zorin... the list is quite large actually.