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Students Score Big Opportunities For Learning Using Linux - page 2

The Penguin at St. Mary's

  • July 12, 2002
  • By Rob Reilly

Being a Catholic School, the St. Mary's educational program is reviewed yearly by the Diocese. During the last review, the Assistant Principal, Nancie Rowan mentioned to the Assistant Superintendent of Orlando Diocese, Sister Linda, that St. Mary's was using Linux in their Technology Lab. Sister Linda had heard about Linux and asked to take a tour. Baillie logged into one of the Linux terminals for her and went through the basics of navigating around the KDE desktop. Sister Linda took it from there and experimented with the StarOffice word processor and spreadsheet applications. She also looked at some of the presentations produced by the students using Presenter. When she was finished she told Baillie that using the terminals wasn't much different than using her machine (non-Linux) in her office.

The students have migrated to Linux much better than Baillie would have predicted. Many of them had played Java-based client/server Civilization type games on their PCs at home. Baillie didn't have time to install the game for them, but didn't stand in their way. While playing games at school isn't generally thought of as a productive activity, learning how to set up Freeciv for use over the LAN, with multiple users and client machines can be a worthwhile project. The students took it upon themselves to install the game on the server and work out all the permissions and configuration files that were needed to make it run on the Linux terminals. "Now they are fearless," Baillie said with a proud tone in his voice. The students, by the way, were 6th graders.

There are other student accomplishments. Fifth and eighth graders were assigned projects that had a visual aid component (computer presentation) and a speaking component (the student-led presentation in front of the class). The teacher would first import the OpenOffice.org document (that had been saved in PowerPoint format by the student) from the Linux Terminal Server into their Windows classroom machine via the network. The Windows machine was hooked up to a 19-in. TV monitor located at the front of the classroom. The students then bravely did their talk to the class while clicking through their screens on the PC and TV monitor. The biggest problem with the whole operation was that the file sometimes didn't get exported as a .PPT file correctly.

And let's not forget the third graders. Their assignment was to put together simple web pages about their favorite Saints. The students typed up the initial content using Mozilla Composer. They then drew pictures of the Saints using The Gimp, saving them as .JPG format. After the graphics were done they were placed in the web document, again using Composer. All files were saved in the /home directory on the Linux Terminal Server and were accessible by teachers using a Samba share. The teachers used FrontPage to drag and drop the finished web pages to the school's web hosting server. Similar projects were done under the Pioneers ABC theme using the same techniques.

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