Creation of educational texts using free and open source software

Creation of educational texts

Much of the educational possibilities of the Internet are wasted. I have spent years arguing with organizers of "online radio school workshops" who are unable to understand that without spending much more they could also incorporate video and interactivity. The same can be said with regard to school newspapers that move to the screen the paper format, instead of opting for blogs or responsive web pages.

Having said this, there are times when the use of traditional formats has its advantages.

This series Of articles seeks to help people not entirely familiar with technology to use it so that they can respond to these times of pandemic. Said people can't spend too much time learning how to use certain software. In that sense, the simpler the result, the shorter the learning and production time.

It is likely that a reader will ask me why I'm not talking about LaTeX. Simply because it seems too complex for the purpose I described above.

Alternatives for creating educational texts

When I was in high school there were two classic math book authors; Repetto and Tapia. Repetto's books were printed in black and white and in tiny type. Those of Tapia used colors and fonts of different sizes but easy to read. I can't cite statistics, but in my personal case I got much better results when I switched to Tapia's books.

At the university I used books by foreign and Argentine authors. The books of foreign authors (basically North American) had perfectly identified the titles, subtitles, relevant information and examples. The Argentine books hopefully interspersed some subtitle or graphic. With the former, study time was significantly reduced.

The moral of all this is that if you are going to create texts, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Look for it to be readable: Keep in mind that the text will be read on screens of different sizes so use a font size that can be seen on small screens. Don't be too creative with the typography or design. The simpler the better.
  • Use titles, subtitles, bullets and italics to identify different parts of the document.
  • Keep in mind that the objective is that they can read you. It is good that you want to spread free formats, but today almost all word processors are compatible with Microsoft formats. In contrast, the .odt format cannot be read on all devices

Types of educational content in text format

In general we can create 3 types of content:

  • Editable texts
  • Desktop publications.
  • E-books.

Editable texts

Editable texts are those that are written in a word processor and are saved in formats that other word processors can open and edit. They are the easiest to create.

These editable texts can be created using desktop computers and mobile devices. To do so, you can use installed word processors or cloud services such as Google Docs or Office 365.

Most Linux distributions include the LibreOffice office suite, which is free and open source. Can be downloaded for all operating systems from here.

Desktop posts

If a more complex diagram is needed, we can use a software for the layout of desktop publications. These programs are the ones used to create newsletters, magazines or books.

The great advantage of this type of program is that we go beyond the rigid scheme (left, right, up, down) imposed by word processors. Each of the components of the text can be moved across the work surface according to our needs.

The result can be exported in pdf format (to view on screen or print) or graphics.

The best open source application for creating desktop posts is Scribus. Scribus is cross-platform and available on most Linux distributions.

E-books

Electronic books have the advantage that allow you to intelligently navigate text using hyperlinks. They also facilitate reading on different devices and allow interactivity and insertion of multimedia files.

The most popular format is EPUB. There are viewers of this format for all devices.

The following programs can be used for creating Epub:


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