Tech Talk Live Blog

Five Ways to Get Involved with Ubuntu as an Educator

Elizabeth K. Joseph

Educators are important members of the Ubuntu community. However, many educators who may use Ubuntu in the classroom, and may even be power users with the system, ​believe they cannot make a difference in the community.

However, this is not the case! Users, including educators, can make a dramatic impact on the development of Ubuntu without having skills beyond that of what regular users may have. The following are five tips specifically aimed at educators for contributing to Ubuntu, whether you only have a few minutes or can contribute for several hours or days per month.

  1. Support

One of the most valuable things about the Ubuntu community is the vast amount of free, volunteer-driven support provided by the community across several platforms. You can be a part of this community too, whether you are more comfortable on mailing lists, chat, or forums, there is a place for you.

Internet Relay Chat

Ubuntu Users Mailing List

Ubuntu Forums

StackExchange (Ask Ubuntu)

You do not need to be an expert to provide support, just know a little bit more than the people asking the question. Perhaps you have the same hardware as someone having hardware troubles, or happen to know where a particular setting is because you used it last week. Time investment is fully dictated by you, whether you answer one question a year or a dozen per week, the help you are providing to users continues to foster this vibrant community.

  1. Documentation

The Ubuntu documentation team is completely run by volunteers, and they can always use help. Did you find a flaw in the documentation shipped with Ubuntu? Report a bugor use the following command on your Ubuntu system, which will also  collect information about your system so the documentation team has a better idea of how to tackle it:

ubuntu-bug ubuntu-docs

Want to get involved with helping more directly by fixing a bug in the documentation? The documentation team maintains instructions for new contributors to submit fixes to the team for both the Desktop and Server documentation:



Did you find a problem on a page on the Community Help Wiki? You can sign up for an account and fix it, learn more here.

Questions about how to contribute to any of these resources can be directed to the documentation team either in chat or via their mailing list, details can be found here.

Work on documentation can take various levels of time and commitment, whether you get deeply involved with the community to write docs, or simply inform the team when you find a problem, all the contributions are important and valued.

  1. Quality Assurance

Manual testing of the upcoming Ubuntu release is a valuable contribution to the community and only takes a couple hours per month. The community maintains two trackers for recording tests completed by community members, and for any milestone (Alpha, Beta, etc.) to be released a certain number of tests need to be completed.

The first tracker is the ISO tracker.

You download an ISO and put it on a USB stick or DVD and follow instructions provided on the tracker to complete a given test, from Live Session testing where you do not alter the contents of your system, to full installation testing.

There is also a package tracker.

This has manual test cases for specific applications to make sure there are not bugs or regressions in the latest version being introduced in the upcoming release. If you are particularly interested in certain applications for your environment, you may want to find the application in the tracker and run through the test with a Live Session ISO image for that day and report the results.

Learn more about the role of a manual tester on the QA Team wiki.

  1. Participate in an open source or education technology conference

If you are using Ubuntu in your classroom today, you may consider participating in a conference on education or open source to share your successes and challenges. Some open source conferences, like the Southern California Linux Expo even have Education tracks especially for this purpose.

Charlie Reisinger, from the Penn Manor school district in Pennsylvania, routinely speaks at open source conferences about the work he has done to bring open source software into his school. He also did an inspiring Tedx talk on the topic: Enabling Students in a Digital Age: Charlie Reisinger at TEDxLancaster.

Jon Roberts, from the Davis school district in Utah, gave a talk at OSCON in 2013 titled, “Using Open Source in the Classroom Every Single Day” where he talked about how they have deployed open source in their classrooms and the tools they use.

Robert Litt of Oakland, California has also participated in conferences, speaking at the EdSurge DIY Learning Pavilion in 2012 about how he built a computer lab for free.

The work of all these educators has been shared widely in open source communities and there is always a thirst for more.

  1. Make your deployment known

Perhaps one of the most valuable things educators can do today to contribute to Ubuntu is simply talking about their usage with their peers online. Many education centers around the world are starting to weigh the benefits of open source and use of Ubuntu specifically, and are looking for experience and feedback from existing deployments.

The Edubuntu team maintains a map of known Edubuntu deployments. Adding your deployment to this team not only shows other users where other deployments are, but is inspiring to the developers who are working on Edubuntu, most of whom are not paid for their work and can only participate in their free time as volunteers.

You can also maintain a blog. Being active on social media can also help get your deployment known. I volunteer with a non-profit in the San Francisco Bay Area called Partimus. We seek to update our blog whenever we make progress at our schools. We share details on our blog. You can also learn about the work that Charlie is doing at Penn Manor from their tech blog, or see how Robert is using free software to develop freely available courseware for schools he is working with in Oakland.

In the Ubuntu community, you can also share information about your deployment. You are encouraged to “share screenshots, talk about your favorite desktops and tools, and generally hang out with your Ubuntu friends in a friendly, relaxed environment.”

Elizabeth K. Joseph is an Automation and Tools Engineer at HP working on the OpenStack Infrastructure team which runs the fully open source infrastructure built for OpenStack development. In addition to her work on OpenStack, she is a member of the Ubuntu Community Council and the co-author of the 8th edition of The Official Ubuntu Book. At home, she serves on the Board of Directors for Partimus.org, a non-profit in the San Francisco Bay Area providing Linux-based computers to schools in need.

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