Innovative use of free and open-source software to support effective learning: exemplars in science education

Yeung Yau-yuen and Kong Siu-cheung
Hong Kong Institute of Education
Hong Kong, China
Wu Xian-qiu
South China Normal University
Guangzhou, China

Free and open-source software (FOSS) are not only provided free of charge for usage and re-distribution but also have a number of important educational benefits which are not usually found in most proprietary software where the users normally have a very limited say in and knowledge of their development. FOSS allows users to participate actively in determining the roadmap for future development of these software through the sharing of modified source codes and/or feedback and suggestions for the inclusion of special features in new/updated versions. This is particularly valuable for educational software as teachers' and students' needs and input are critical in their successful use for teaching and learning.

Based on a feasibility study which included a comprehensive review of the availability and quality of various FOSS for science education, the authors adopted, modified and further developed an array of existing FOSS in some innovative ways to support students' learning of certain science topics which prove difficult for less able students.

In this presentation, two cases of application are discussed, viz.

Finally, there is a brief discussion of the effective use, future direction of development, technical difficulties, limitations and precautions in adopting those FOSS for science education -- with reference to both the subject-specific application as well as the cognitive, psychomotor and metacognitive dimensions of science learning.