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Re: [school-discuss] Slaves to Microsoft

Joel, I can really relate to your situation, it was the one we were in, and I'm not even an IT support person, just a parent volunteer that got fed up with nonfunctional classroom PCs. I've posted my story to the list, see the archives for details, but I'll also email you the presentation I did to convince the principal and the PTA leadership to switch to Linux. The key was that the entire school was in favor of it, and was willing to move forward on it even if the district wasn't happy about it; the only way to convince them was to show them. Although we had some very rocky times with the district IT leadership, we stood our ground and now they have finally seen enough of the light that their recent RFP for computer support next year stated that Linux had to be supported, and in particular that one district school had successfully deployed a version of Red Hat (K12LTSP/Fedora) and was expected to achieve a 1:1 student to PC ratio in the school by the end of the next term (that would be our school). Reason for the latter is that we've been taking in donated PCs, monitors, keyboards, and mice from companies, well over a hundred by now, and by using our computer lab PCs as classroom servers (just as you describe), we've gone from 1-2 working (but slow) PCs per class to now 5-6, with some classes having 8-9. More importantly, we're now seeing direct evidence that student performance is on the rise: teachers report test scores going up during the year much higher and faster than before; students are using the Edutainment Linux apps included in K12LTSP and learning typing much faster; students are using online reading and math packages immediately after a lesson or reading a book (i.e., not having to wait until their time in the computer lab), and probably the biggest thing is that everyone loves the computers now, parents, teachers and kids. The kids often don't want to stop playing sites like First-In-Math in order to eat lunch! One of our teacher's 1st grade class is now first in the nation in First-In-Math.

Use the higher reliability and lower total cost of ownership for Linux OSS and thin client architecture to get the attention of the principal and the PTA. Then tell them what has happened at our school, regarding student performance. One of the things I also did to convince them was to have telephone conference calls with two principals at other schools that are using K12LTSP. I'll ask my principal if she would be willing to do the same for your principal. But mount your revolution locally, I belive trying to convince district IT folks without them being able to see it won't happen until it's gone mainstream and entire states (like Indiana). Tell the district you want to do a proof of concept, and you'll make sure everything can be switched back if necessary (also how we did it).

Best of luck, look for the presentation shortly.  Daniel

Joel Kahn wrote:
I can strongly sympathize with the ideas expressed by
Jason in his posting of 3-30-06. I run the computer
lab at a primary school (K-2) located somewhere in the
Midwestern United States. (All exact locations, names,
&c, will be kept confidential. You will see why.) The
entire district is standardized on Windows XP
Professional. The decision-makers here have told me
pretty explicitly that they view "technology
education" as being the process of training young
people to live and work in a world in which Microsoft
will be making all of the significant tech-related
decisions for everyone forever and ever. As near as I
can tell, this attitude seems to be primarily the
product of a prevailing bureaucratic laziness: if they
don't have to think about anything besides Windows, MS
Office, and directly compatible programs, they don't
have to make too many tough choices. Slavery is
convenient; teaching the students to be slaves helps
to maintain this convenience.

I have successfully installed three different Linux
distros on three different old computers I have at
home. At the same time, my limited and tentative
efforts to discuss GPL and open-source software with
the school district higher-ups have been met with
consistently negative reactions. It seems clear that
pushing the issue too hard would get me fired, which
is also what I would expect to happen if it was
discovered by the wrong people that I posted this
message on this list.

During the summer break in 2005, the school district
got together the money for a major upgrade to the lab
that I run. The computer on which I'm typing this
message has a 3.4 Ghz Pentium 4 HT processor and one
gig of RAM; the other twenty-five computers in this
lab, the ones for student use, each have a 2.8 Ghz P4
HT and 512MB of RAM. All of the user data storage is
done on a 400GB network drive that has at least 90% of
its space still free. Our network speed is
*fast*--when things are working right, we can stream
online videos in ways that you have to see to believe.

According to the info that I received when I was doing
our most recent inventory, the cost of all the new
computers in this lab came to about US$33,000 (yes,
that's thirty-three thousand United States dollars).
Those of you with the appropriate Linux experience can
figure out what kind of large-scale thin-client
environment could be put together for that kind of
money. Instead, we have a vast gap between the quality
of the new lab and what is happening in the rest of
the school. Most of the classrooms in the building in
which I work have only one computer in the room, and
that one is usually relatively old (although they have
been upgraded enough to more-or-less run WinXP). Each
of the new boxes that I have in this lab could be the
server for a big group of thin clients under Linux;
instead we have children as young as five using these
monsters for what are relatively trivial tasks.

Should I stay here and try to gradually change things
from within? Should I take a job elsewhere at some
place where I can do more good and cause less harm to
young children? You folks should feel free to send me
both comments and job offers. . . . :-)


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