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Re: [school-discuss] Speaking at regional ACSI convention
Doug Coats wrote:
I have been meaning to reply to this question, and having been given the
incentive again from a similar posting on the k12osn list, I would like
to offer my humble insight. For those subscribed to the k12osn list, I
apologize for the duplicate posting.
I am speaking at a couple of workshops at our regional ACSI (Association of
Christian Schools International) convention. One of them is about using
Linux in the school. I assume most of the attendees will have little or no
experience and probably most just curious. I have promoted it as using
Linux as a Microsoft OS and App replacement for the desktop with enough
power to get the server side of computing done also.
How would you approach this? What would you HAVE to include to feel that
you have done justice?
We are slowly acquiring a good deal of experience in approaching schools
with the benefits of an Open Source Software lab. In a recent
presentation at an ilearning conference for our Department of Education,
I think I finally found the zone.
What I like to do first is to demonstrate the software. Using a donated
laptop installed with the K12LTSP, I go through these slides:
though earlier in the year I used these Webmin heavy slides (Webmin is
featured prominently and appropriately in Skolelinux) at our eSchool
They emphasize that Open Source Software labs provide a vendor neutral,
standards-compliant learning platform that provides free software tools
that can be integrated into existing curricula in order to meet or
exceed NCLB Mandates. I draw attention to the job creating potential,
the economic development opportunities, and the education innovation and
entrepreneurship opportunities (ala Bill Kendrick and his Tux* Suite).
I think that in the future I will not show screen shots of the programs
but instead actually launch them. At any rate, I stop halfway through
and explain that this is all great. Now all we have to do is to use
this free software and install it on the computers we have at our
schools, or we can just get new ones with the money we can save on
software. Problem is, there aren't any or many computers in place
already, and there is really not money to be saved and then spent for
Here begins the magical pitch. I ask, 'What if I could show you how to
extend the resources of existing computers and turn previously discarded
computers into fully functional workstations?'
Out of my bag comes the switch. Out of my bag comes two network cables.
I explain that just as your cable box gets its programs through a
high-speed cable, the version of Linux that we promote for schools
enables a central server to power previously discarded computers with
the speed of today's supercomputer.
Next comes the magical Dell Box. Seen here already naked
its case cover is removed by pressing two buttons, its cd and floppy are
quickly released, and I can hold this up and show that, hard drive free,
it looks like and borders on being trash.
While removing the parts I explain that this method of setting up a
computer lab enables the school to use either computers that it
currently refuses from the community for being too slow or computers
that HOSEF can donate to it to create a complete computer lab. I plug
in the peripherals, I plug it into the switch, I plug the switch into
the server, and I plug the overhead into the client. 30 seconds later I
callously pick up the booted client and say that this junk is now treasure.
I log in, and I complete the presentation from there. I explain how
using these components from NewEgg
and donated computers from HOSEF we were able to set up a 30-client
computer lab at Enchanted Lake Elementary that cost the school 3344.17
and that was written about here
Incidentally, our new build list is now this one:
So, I now have the audience enthralled and interested. This is where we
have a lot of strength because we already have a laundry list of DOE
schools running Linux that we can refer them to. One of those is an
Adult School where we have donated a lab and now hold weekly workshops
and classes, for free, as a community service. By partnering with the
Honolulu Community College (heavily Debian based for core network
services) we are able to store hundreds of ready to roll clients.
This is also where we as a community are most exposed. We still don't
have out of the box documentation and curricula to make this immediately
valuable. The Skolelinux folks have written a bunch of great
documentation and simplified the install as much as possible, just as
the K12LTSP folks have. The fact is, though, without national support,
without a backbone of easily attained documentation, we are vulnerable.
I have to no avail implored IBM, Novell, and HP to get on board with
this tremendous opportunity to sell software, support, and hardware.
I end the presentation by explaining that we by no means promote the rip
and replace philosophy for diffusing this OSS innovation. If a school
is comfortable with and well-served by a proprietary application, it
should be left alone. We do emphasize, though, that there are OSS
alternatives, as we all know, to many name-brand apps that are worth
considering. We propose that Linux labs be used as the workhorse and if
there is money leftover to spend that it be used for support, training,
and that delicious Apple hardware so good for multimedia education.
That is how we approach it. I could say so, so much more, but I'll save
it for other threads. If we can serve as a reference, or if our DOE
success is of value to you, please exploit us. Below my signature are
some links to other press. Soon, very soon, two one-hour videos will be
put online from my TV appearances on a DOE program in which I install
and demonstrate the K12LTSP on live TV. Hosted by a seasoned teacher,
he asks all the right questions, and I hope that once online this will
be a valuable resource for all of us.
R. Scott Belford
The Hawaii Open Source Education Foundation
PO Box 392
Kailua, HI 96734