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[K12OSN] Interesting conversation....concepts vs. OS



Hi all,

This pretty long, but it was a vey interesting conversation I had after
presenting at the Christa McAuliffe Tech Conference in Nashua NH last
week.  
What reminded me of this was
Chuck Leibow's awesome work in getting older Mac's to boot to LTSP on a
Linux server.  What's so cool about it is the newest option of CHOICE.  In
my school we have all three OS's (Windows, Linux, and OS X)....we use them
interchangably.....we save a bundle of money too!  I will be installing
another
complete 22 unit lab next summer complete with flat-panel LCD monitors for
about $10,000.  That's it!  I will use $200 thin-clients and $250 LCD
monitors (just bought a bunch of them for this price).  There'll be no
noise...no moving parts...no heat...and it'll take about an hour to set
them all up. (maybe less).  They will be able to access Windows and Linux
terminal servers.  The students log into Linux and then click on a menu
item called "Connect to Windows terminal server"....the Windows login
screen pops up completed with everything but their password...they input
their password and away they go!  Very cool....we've been using it all
year as a complement to our Linux setup.  Gives us the ability to have our
cake and eat it too.  The Macs also run RDP to connect to the Windows
terminal server if they want.  Most users only use Windows terminal
services to do those things that they can't do in either Mac OS X or
Linux....generally specialized programs.  We're finding it an ideal way to
"wean" folks off Windows.  Anyway...the text of the
converstation is below.....hope you can follow it....I tried to organize
it as it happened......


David Trask writes:

All great points!  One idea for Feb and next year at McAuliffe is how to
tie it all together and make it so you can have your cake and eat it too!
This year I've done just that at VCS.  I put in a Windows (gasp) Terminal
Server in an effort to help bridge the gap between what we can do in Linux
and what we cannot do.  The neat thing is....we access this terminal
server via Linux....using rdesktop.  This forces the user into Linux at
first....and often times that's as far as they go, but if they need to
they can log into Windows and use a specific program (such as Publisher)
in there.  It's a great setup and was relatively easy and inexpensive for
me to set up.  All I had to do was simply put up a server....since I have
a Linux box running Samba/LDAP....and it is the Primary Domain
Controller....I simply joined the Windows Terminal Server to the domain
and voila!  It simply worked.  All the users profiles are stored on the
Samba/LDAP server and all authentication takes place there as well.  In
the end it will allow us to purchase all thin-client terminals (even for
the Windows stuff) and in some ways allow us to slowly wean folks from
Windows dependence.  It helps to smooth the political bumps too.

In my school we use Open Office, Gnumeric spreadsheet, and AbiWord.
Abiword appears to be the word processor of choice primarily because it's
totally cross-platform (Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux) and it's fast.   The
newest versions can save in .doc format as well.  I had one of my teachers
complain to me that I had not installed AbiWord on her Windows machine (my
fault....an oversight) and as a result the kids were getting ticked off as
they had to use "Word".  That alone speaks volumes.  M$ Word is available
for Mac and PC, but it looks radically different on both....OpenOffice,
AbiWord...et al basically look exactly the same regardless of
platform....that's a big plus and selling point with educators.  It's also
one of the reasons we use Firefox exclusively.

Last but not least is the notion of teaching concepts as opposed to
teaching applications.  It's an attitude shift that MUST happen in all
schools.  In my school...and especially my classroom....I teach kids to
use all sorts of apps.  I teach them that the dark "A" in AbiWord or
OpenOffice....is the same as the dark "B" in M$ Word meaning that it's
used to make "Bold" letters.  Once we teach these simple concepts....the
kids are able to go into virtually and program and figure it out quickly.
In fact, I show them these concepts about formatting, alignment,
etc.....and then send them to a completely different or new program such
as KWord and say "Type the word....Washington......make it Bold,
Italic....size 72.....green.....and center it"  and they can simply
because now they know what the different buttons and symbols do.  (I do
this with 2nd graders).....I also teach 2nd graders how to use Gnumeric,
OpenOffice spreadsheet, and Excel.  It's pretty cool.  Once schools begin
teaching 'concepts" in computing...the OS becomes irrelevant.  My kids can
and do...use three OS's during the course of a day or week.  We use
Windows XP Pro.....Windows 2003 Terminal Server.....Mac OS X on the
laptops.....and of course...Linux on all the K12LTSP terminals.  My
librarian asked me to pull all the Windows machines out of the library and
replace them with terminals since the kids appear to be more adept at
using the terminals....I was all to willing to oblige!  The kids are much
happier.  Quite often when I have my 7th and 8th graders in the lab you'll
see many of them with an iBook in their lap doing one thing and the
terminal on the desk doing another....and sometimes a Windows Terminal
Session as well.  They pick the right tool for the right job and away they
go!  In the end....these kids don't need to worry about what kind of
computer their future employer will use....they can use any computer you
put in front of them.

Ed Lawson writes:  (Ed is a lawyer in NH)

I think Dave has presented the most concise and eloquent description of
the value of teaching concepts and skills as opposed to how to use a
tool in education, the importance of being computer "ambidextrious", and
what computer literacy in education should be about that I have ever
read.

Lots for me to think about in terms of how to help schools enable
students in that way.

Ed Lawson

Bill Sconce writes: (Bill owns a consulting company called at
in-spec-inc.com)

I concur.  These words from David were an epiphany for me:

    Last but not least is the notion of teaching concepts as opposed to
    teaching applications.  It's an attitude shift that MUST happen in all
    schools.  In my school...and especially my classroom....I teach kids to
    use all sorts of apps.  I teach them that the dark "A" in AbiWord or
    OpenOffice....is the same as the dark "B" in M$ Word meaning that it's
    used to make "Bold" letters.  Once we teach these simple
concepts....the
    kids are able to go into virtually and program and figure it out
quickly.

1a) It's only us old fogies who see "changing" (as in OSs) as an obstacle.

1b) A 2nd grader is immune to fear of "change".

(The epiphany is ... that 1b is so obvious!  But I had to be, as we used to
say in Kentucky, "slapped up 'side the head" to notice it.)

2) Because a 2nd grader "gets" concepts readily, it's almost a crime to
NOT introduce two or three different ways to do any computer task, so that
the concept is conveyed instead of particular series of keystrokes.
Training
for one vendor's specific way of doing things is almost creepy - who thinks
that today's WORD, for instance, will even be around when today's 2nd
graders
enter high school, let alone enter the job market?


And this:

   > One of the biggest things I've noticed in my travels is that if you
>want
 >   to show educators something new...ya' gotta' show them who's using it.
  >  One of the reasons the E-Smith/SME session went so well is (and this
>is my
 >   opinion) I'm a user of the product and I am one of "them".  I can tie
>the
 >   end result to real world implications and have the hard proof of how
it
  >  works and how it saves money....I saw lots of wheels turning in
peoples
   > heads by showing them this.  Folks were already formulating plans in
>their
 >   heads about what to replace and how.

Completely convincing.

How can we geeks present ourselves as ready to help?

-Bill

David trask writes in response to Bill Sconce's message:

>2) Because a 2nd grader "gets" concepts readily, it's almost a crime to
>NOT introduce two or three different ways to do any computer task, so that
>the concept is conveyed instead of particular series of keystrokes.
>Training
>for one vendor's specific way of doing things is almost creepy - who
>thinks
>that today's WORD, for instance, will even be around when today's 2nd
>graders
>enter high school, let alone enter the job market?

Let me provide an illustration for this example....in our school (I
arrived in 1999)....the current 8th graders were 3rd graders the year I
began in Vassalboro.  At that time the school was using nearly all Apple
LC 580's and LC II's.  The LC 580's ran System 7.63 and the LC II's ran
System 7.1.  As the first year progressed I managed to swap out a large
number of those machines for Win 98 machines.  If you stop and think about
it....during those 5 to 6 short years....the computers and the OS's (as
well as most of the apps) that these kids were working on in 3rd grade are
now totally obsolete!  It's absolutely amazing how fast our computer world
changes when you look at it the span of a child's school years.  When the
8th graders of today first began kindergarten....Windows 95 was still a
relatively young OS....Linux on the desktop was a far-fetched dream....and
Apple still had quite a ways to go before OS X would debut with its Unix
underpinnings.  CD-R's were for the most part scarce and considered a
luxury item....laptops shipped without CD-ROM drives....(you loaded Win95
with a bunch of floppies)....networks in schools were primitive or
non-existent....the Internet was still largely untapped....email was just
getting underway....etc...etc...etc.  Now CD-R's and DVD's are commonplace
and cheap....floppy drives are a thing of the past....USB keys are
chic....Win95 no longer exists....Win98 is no longer supported...WinME
never should have been released....and WinXP is on it's second service
pack.  Linux on the desktop is becoming more common and there are large
deployments worldwide.  Apple is slowly regaining some market share.  The
internet is widely used and commonplace....email is now used by nearly
everyone....even on cell phones. Schools are networked....many are
wireless...many have gigabit backbones and T1 or greater access... And the
list goes on....  All this in a span of 8 to 9 years (or the time it has
taken our current 8th graders to move from being kindergarteners to where
they are now)  Wow!  And to think many of us invest our energies in
teaching a certain program or OS....how silly!



David N. Trask
Technology Teacher/Coordinator
Vassalboro Community School
dtrask vcs u52 k12 me us
(207)923-3100









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