GCompris is a cross-platform complete educational suite for children from 2 to 10 years old, and it is part of the GNU project. It includes more than 140 entertaining activities that help little kids learn skills such as the recognition of letters and numbers, the use of the mouse and keyboard, basic algebra training, reading time on an analog clock, vector drawing, language learning through games, and much more. The program includes a simple text processor to produce documents with basic text style. Another feature is the animation tool, which can be employed as a simple and effective method to support story telling, thus improving communication with children and helping them to express themselves.
GCompris includes several activities grouped on a yellow bar to the left of the screen, from which the child can choose as soon as the program is started. Such a design makes it easy to add new activities or to adapt the program to specific needs. The program itself and all the activities are available in many different languages.
Who's Using It and How
Gcompris activity-based design makes it highly and easily adaptable to particular environments. One example of innovative use of the program is in the work done by the Insight Project of Kerala, in India. The project aims to bring the benefits of Free Software to differently abled people in the State. They found that GCompris is a powerful tool to improve the communicative and motor skills of mentally challenged persons like children with autism. The project is using and adapting the program for the particular needs of its target community.
The Insight team implemented a training module for teachers that provides instructions on how to use the different activities of GCompris when working with children with special needs, to help these children acquire abilities such as eye-hand coordination, memory, listening, and improving the child's attention span. The module addresses different levels of education, from pre-school to the primary level. A small handbook was also distributed to parents and special educators to help them understand how to use the software to improve children's skills.
GCompris is also used to help older children understand the relationship between numbers, learn basic arithmetic operations, train them in analytical reasoning, and to improve communicative skills as well as spelling, reading and writing.
Teachers report that it is extremely easy for them to implement GCompris in their curriculum since children find it intuitive and fun to use. The program is also an excellent resource for mentally challenged children and adults.
GCompris has become an important resource to speed up the child's learning process in the context of developing countries like India, where the only chance for a child of getting accustomed with computers is during school time. At school, the computers are often shared and children have limited time to access them individually. GCompris is easy to use and intuitive, so it is particularly useful in this environment because there is practically no time spent on getting to understand how the program works. With GCompris children develop quickly the motor skills required to use a computer.
GCompris respects the users' fundamental freedoms and this permitted the Insight developers and specialists to adapt the software to the children's needs, creating new activities, and proposing the innovative use of the program to help autistic children and their parents. The Insight team is also free to distribute copies of the modified version to teachers and parents, who can use the program at home without restrictions. The modified version has proved effective in improving the academic and functional flair of intellectually challenged children.