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Hi everyone,

I thought I'd take the opportunity to introduce myself while the list is
still small. I think this is a very worthy project, and I'm eager to
help out in whatever way I can.

I teach physics and chemistry to 9th and 12th graders in St. Paul,
Minnesota. My school has approximately 1500 students. I've been using
Linux for about 10 months now, and I have really enjoyed the experience.
I learned a fair amount about Unix in college when I took Fortran and
Pascal, but that was about 10 years ago.

Like many other schools, we are hardly at the cutting edge of
technology. Budgets are tight, and it's a battle every time we try to
make improvements to our technology infrastructure. We have a
35-computer Win95 lab in the business department, 12 Compaqs in the
library, and an antique Mac lab. We do, however, have Cat5 cable running
to every room in the school. Unfortunately, we don't have enough
computers to plug into the jacks.

Last spring it occurred to me that if I could secure some donated
machines and a small amount of money from the school administrators, I
could build a small LAN for the science department. Linux was an obvious
choice because of the cost and open nature of the software which I
thought would provide a better learning opportunity for the students. I
rounded up 30 old Compaq 486s from two local corporations, and the
principal gave me $9000 to spend. A parent of one of our students also
gave me some Pentium motherboards with cases and other misc. parts.

Since then, I've cleared out on of the old labs that wasn't being used
very much and have placed 22 of the 486s in there. The Pentium
motherboards were built up into capable workstations that are now being
used on teachers' desks. I also purchased a PII machine to be a server
and a very nice HP 4000 laserjet for printing in the lab. In total, our
network has about 30 computers. I'm hoping to bring the first class into
the lab sometime next week. It has been a long road. I didn't really
know much about networking when I started this project, but I've had a
lot of help from our local Linux Users Group. Actually, I'm hosting our
2nd InstallFest next Sat. at my school. (I'd really like to make sure my
lab is done by then so I can show it off.)

All of the 486s are running Linux. I'm still trying to figure out which
desktop envinronment/window manager would be best for these machines.
(I'm open to suggestions. The machines are 486DX-33, 16 MB RAM, 235 MB
HD with some NFS-mounted volumes, only 512k video RAM and older monitors
which effectively limit me to 640x480 resolution.)

Now for the opinions...

If the goal is widespread use and acceptance of Linux in education, then
I'm convinced that we must "conquer" the teachers first. The vast
majority of teachers (even younger ones who have grown up with computer
technology) are not particularly sophisticated users of computer
technology. We must provide the tools that teachers will use so that
they will feel comfortable using the technology with their students.
That's why I believe an electronic gradebook is the single most
important application that we can develop.

The Pentium machines that I built are set up to dual-boot with Win95. My
colleagues who use them have *never* booted Linux despite that fact that
several of them have expressed interest in learning about it. The reason
is that we use our computer gradebooks so frequently that they see
little reason to run Linux. I hardly ever run Windows on my machine, but
when I do, it's inevitably because I need to enter some grades or print
grade reports. I guess the bottom line is that you have to provide the
tools that people need and want if you expect them to use a particular

I'm encouraged to hear that the Gnome people are working on a gradebook.
I'll do some investigating today.

Well, that's my bio. I hope some of you stuck with it long enough to get
the preaching at the end. :-)  Thanks to the SEUL people for providing
this forum. Your efforts are appreciated.


Timothy Wilson		 |  Powered by Linux  |      Check out:
Henry Sibley High School |                    | http://www.redhat.org
West St. Paul, MN  USA	 |  Proud Linux user  | http://www.linux.org
wilson@chem.umn.edu	 |    since 2.0.32    | http://www.gnu.org