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10 More Linux Resources for Kids

10 More Linux Resources for Kids

10 More Linux Resources for Kids

    Yesterday, I wrote about Linux distributions designed with kids’ needs in mind and some of the software for children that runs on Linux. Today I thought I’d share some of the other resources I came across while researching a likely candidate to install on my nephew’s and niece’s new PC.

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    1. Switching Your Kids to Linux by Scott K. This is a great primer for parents getting ready to give their kids a Linux system. The author walks parents through the steps of getting your kids ready, such as making sure open source software like Firefox, Pidgin, and Thunderbird are already installed on any Windows systems your kids might use, so that when you give them their Linux system, the only thing they have to get used to is the new interface, not new programs.

      Be sure to read the comments on this one for some further insights and advice from other parents who are teaching their kids to use Linux.

    2. The Linux for Kids Experiment. Paul Barry at Linux Journal relates his experience getting his kids to use Linux – which proved to be easier than even he had thought. One good tip he gives is to set up a window with links to all the kids’ favorite apps (or the most appropriate ones) so that kids can access them more easily. Again, there’s some good information in the comments, too.
    3. SchoolForge is a directory of open source educational software. Though SchoolForge includes software for Windows and Mac as well as Linux, most programs will run on Linux and everything is clearly marked.
    4. Open Source Programming Languages for Kids. Although not every kid will be interested in learning to program, some will, and Linux offers plenty of tools to help kids learn from basic to pretty advanced programming concepts. Ryan McGrath reviews three programming languages and kid-friendly environments to learn how to use them. These will run on Windows or Mac, too, so don’t feel left out  if you aren’t quite ready to build a Linux system for your kids!
    5. Using Linux to Teach Kids How to Program by Anderson Silva. Since programming is a complex skill, parents may want a little direction in how to get their kids started. Anderson Silva discusses some of the basics of LOGO, a programming tool where kids learn programming syntax to make a “turtle” draw pictures.
    6. KidZui is a Firefox extension that transforms your plain-vanilla browser into a kid-safe Web browsing environment, with access to hundreds of thousands of pre-screened websites, videos, and games. It is vital, of course, that you teach your kids safe browsing habits and that you provide appropriate supervision when they’re using the Internet, but for younger kids this can be especially difficult – how do you explain what they shouldn’t do without having to explain concepts they may not be ready to understand?  A safe “sandbox” like KidZui offers a safety net to back up your own instruction – and helps parents find fun stuff for their kids to do online, too!
    7. Adobe Flash Player. Because of licensing issues, many Linux distros do not come with Flash installed. However, your kids will quickly tire of their YouTube- and Flash-game-free computer, so it’s a good idea to get it installed quickly. Just go to the link from your kids’ Linux computer, select “Linux”, and follow the instructions to get Flash up and running on your Linux box.
    8. Free eBooks and AudioBooks for Mobile Computers. I went looking for a decent eBook reader for my nephew’s and niece’s computer, and found this site with links to dozens of eBook resources. Because it’s intended for mobile computing, some of the resources listed are for Linux-based PDAs, not PCs, but other than that there are a lot of great resources here, from readers to websites to download free AudioBooks and eBooks.
    9. YuuGuu. Since I’m going to be supporting this computer, I want to have some way to access it remotely. LogMeIn, my preferred remote access service, doesn’t have a Linux server yet (though one is supposed to be coming by the end of this year). VNC works great and is pre-installed on most distros, but is complex to set up on a home system behind a router and without a static IP address (if none of that means anything to you, it would be even more complex for you to do!). YuuGuu is the only desktop sharing service I could find that is both free and Linux-ready, so I’ll give it a try – the only downside is that it looks like I”ll have to have someone initiate a session from the kids’ computer in order to do remote support.
    10. My Game Company is a distributor of “family-friendly” games for all platforms, including Linux. Linux isn’t known as a gaming platform, but there are some pretty good titles out there, and even some commercial games. The owners of My Game Country screen them all for excessive violence, foul language, and adult sexuality to provide parents with games they can be sure won’t raise too many difficult questions in young players’ minds. Although the owners are explicitly Christian, the game content itself is not Christian – and I think the standards they use will please most parents Christian or otherwise.

    I’m a little disappointed at the lack of resources available for parents looking to explore Linux with their kids. It’s surprising, since Linux has virtually created the huge niche of childhood computing as an affordable alternative to Windows for schools in poor countries. There are now-defunct sites like “linuxforkids.org” that appear to have once been developing resources, but are now only link farms. I’ll be happy to see new players on the field paying some attention to what seems poised to become an important computing niche.

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    Maybe you know some good resources. If you know of anything, let us know in the comments!

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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