This is the second article in a series about open-source software tools for English language teaching and development: Part I | Part II

Open-source platforms can be beneficial to TESOL professionals because they allow for adaptability, are flexible with how you can use them, provide sensory stimulation that activates important domains for English language acquisition, are designed for collaborative engagement, and can be shared and used generally without restrictions.

Why should TESOL educators use open-source platforms?

  • Platforms can be utilized and modified to provide targeted instruction.
  • Teachers can provide explicit instruction to build upon content area and language learning objectives.
  • Students can learn through collaborative engagement, which provides authentic learning environments for English language acquisition.
  • Content creation and integration can be tailored without restrictions and created for specific academic purposes.
  • Students learn 21st century technological skills, including computer coding, while learning English.
  • Instructors can network and/or collaborate on projects including utilizing open source for flipped classrooms.

Listed below are additional open-source platforms that TESOL professionals can use for various aspects of content preparation, classroom instruction, activities for skills development and more.

Education software

KDE Education Project is an open-source project that is full of software tools for teachers to use. Content is broken down by applications and subjects. Applications can be reviewed and chosen based upon instructional and learning goals.

KDE specifically has language-learning tools that are useful for activities that students can complete to develop English language learning skill sets. Click on "Applications," "By Subject" and "Language." Then click on "Language Applications." The list of language applications includes:

  • Parley: a vocabulary trainer
  • Kanagram: a spelling trainer
  • KLettres: an alphabet trainer
  • KWordQuiz: a flashcard quiz platform

There are also content-area specific applications on KDE that can be used as learning supplements for subject matter classrooms. ESL students would benefit from these platforms because they are interactive and can be used to scaffold and engage. Some of these applications are:

  • KTurtlemm: educational programming software that would be useful for group activities.
  • KGeography: a geography tutor that could be used for social studies classes.
  • KBruch: a useful program for when fractions and percentages are taught in mathematics classes.
  • Kalzium: interactive periodic table program. This can be used in science.

Other platforms

Kazam is a screencasting platform. It can be used to create videos of an instructor's computer screen. Teachers can demonstrate how to complete a project or task, instructions for a project, or even record presentations in PowerPoint or Prezi. Demonstrations can be presented on an interactive whiteboard or uploaded to a learning management system such as Moodle (which is also open source).

Assessments tools can be utilized for determining student progress on performance indicators. To create learning portfolios, teachers can have students use Mahara. Mahara has a social media aspect as well as enabling users with the ability to upload materials and create learning journals.

Rogo is another open-source assessment platform. This platform allows educators to create formative and summative assessments. Rogo also enables the integration of video, audio and images with assessment content.

Nicole C. Engard, a school librarian and an open-source educator, has a Delicious page where she has a large list made of additional open-source platforms that could be utilized by TESOL professionals. Teachers can review the platforms and determine which ones may fit their instructional interests and needs. has a large list of education articles that discuss in detail numerous open-source software tools to use in for lesson preparation and instruction. The articles are extremely diverse in topic, so there are many educational tools that are applicable in TESOL.

Content-area tools can be used along with classroom teachers in inclusion English language development settings. Ideas of two such open-source platforms are computer programming tools Alice and Scratch.

Teachers use these programs to teach students how to code. Some of the language might be advanced, but ESL students in an inclusion setting in collaborative groups should be able to work with the programs.

Projects for students can be co-authored by the classroom teacher and ESL teacher so that students use the software tools to meet a content-area goal while developing specified skills for English language development. Content area goals can be mathematics, science and even English language arts, where students program images for which they write stories.

ESL students can be partnered with groups of native English-speaking students so they receive buddy support with the sometimes complex language requirements. Integrating computer programming in projects for targeted intermediate and advanced English language development can also help provide a fun stress-free learning environment for ESL students as well as potentially accessing background computer knowledge of students.

You never know, maybe that ESL student sitting there quietly is actually a computer whiz.

To utilize open-source platforms in schools, teachers need to check with the school district and IT department to determine if such platforms can be used. Some school districts limit the ability for these programs to be installed on district computers. Teachers should make the case for why these programs are so useful to English language instruction.

Resource lists such as this, as well as others, can be used to demonstrate to school districts the massive learning opportunities available to English language learners, and really all students. This is due to the large number of open-source options and subject-specific content that such resources provide. Approval of open-source content can be used by all teachers and therefore benefits ESL students more in inclusion settings.

This is why painting the picture and proving the case for the known learning outcomes is so important. To do this, one must become familiar with what open source is and why it is so beneficial for ESL students.