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Students Score Big Opportunities For Learning Using Linux - page 3

The Penguin at St. Mary's

  • July 12, 2002
  • By Rob Reilly

The school would like to eventually have four Linux terminals and one Windows box in each classroom. This goal can be reached because most of the Linux PC hardware can be either so-called "obsolete" equipment or machines that are donated to the school. Most of the classrooms have an existing Windows box that is usually reserved for teacher administration duties. A few classrooms have Windows available for educational software, such as the Advantage Learning Systems packages.

Currently, Baillie has bids out for the 100 Mb/s upgrade to the LAN (outside the Lab) and installation of a second LTSP server. He is also investigating the use of diskless Internet appliances (in the $200 neighborhood) for browsing and Web mail. Upgrading to 100 Mb/s LAN connections would make Linux deployment out in the classrooms much more feasible.

As St. Mary's develops its Linux technology further, Baillie has big plans to add even more educational value to the system without huge outlays of cash.

One idea is to set up a student-run Web site that would be accessible locally on the LAN. This Web site would create opportunity for the students to sharpen writing and editing skills, as well as planning and organizing the various on-line projects. It would also create an in-house showcase of student work and provide a means to distribute information that is platform independent.

Another idea is to possibly begin broadcasting one Mass per week over the Internet, using Icecast. This project would require connection and mixing of the church sound system audio to a Linux machine for encoding, a server on the Internet that would stream the broadcast (possibly ISP hosted), links to the streaming site so people could find it and the logistics and personnel to produce the show. It's a pretty big project, that Baillie is just beginning to think about.

One teacher has even expressed the desire to do a digital classroom. St. Mary's has an existing IRC server that is not really being fully utilized. Instead of chat rooms, something more constructive like "homework chat" or "book chat" would be attempted. The chat room functionality creates lots of possibilities for student-to-student and student-to-teacher collaboration, as well.

The St. Mary's School has definitely made a positive statement to the educational world by utilizing a Linux solution to satisfy their growing computer needs. The spotlight should also shine on Tony Awtrey and the people in the Melbourne Linux Users Group for volunteering their time and effort to get the server and terminals up and running. Tony's company provides Linux computing solutions in the Melbourne and Orlando areas. You can find out more about the technical aspects of the St. Mary's project on their web site at http://k12.idealcorp.com.

While St. Mary's has not made the full leap to Linux and Open Source yet, they have clearly shown how a slow and careful evolution to Open Source technologies can be done. With time and patience, economical and practical solutions can be found.

Rob Reilly is an independent consultant who writes and speaks about Linux, business integration, innovation and automotive design. He has 16 years experience in Technology, Manufacturing and the Utilities industries. He is especially enthusiastic about the progress of Linux and the Open Source movement in the business world. Visit his web site at http://home.cfl.rr.com/rreilly.

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