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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 March 25, 2020

    How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes effectively.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    1. Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    2. Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    3. Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    4. Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    5. Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    6. Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    7. Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    8. Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More Note-Taking Tips

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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