[K12OSN] Re: Making donations work better

Dennis Daniels ddaniels at magic.fr
Mon May 10 03:48:39 UTC 2004

I am Aunt Tilly's nephew,and I know a little bit more about Linux than 
Aunt Tilly, but not much more. I chose to work as a teacher and I choose 
to use K12LTSP. And, I can say my students are becoming better writers, 
better problem solvers and better readers because of the combination of 
tools a Linux network learning environment provides. My students having 
  mastered the output and analysis of:
diction, style, spell, wc
tr ' ' '
'<studentfile.txt |sort |uniq -c>wordlist.txt
are now better writers.

These tools help my students and I understand their strengths and 
weaknesses in writing. I can't imagine teaching reading and writing in 
an old school environment again. The results are too compelling, the 
power and productivity undeniable. I'd love to share this with other 
teachers... which is where this conversation should be going.

How can we, the users like me, an English teacher with only passing 
experience with Linux, help you, the developers make, K12LTSP easier for 
other neophytes to get their own K12LTSP network running and reap the 
benefits of a networked learning environment?

Message from the trenches: the number one issue is money, second;expect 
little help. Schools don't have money and if they do the IT funds go 
through Information Services, which for the most part, are MicroSerfs 
looking to protect their jobs, know nothing about Linux and spend a lot 
of their time saying "no". Yes, there are exceptions to this but they 
are few and far between.

So, donations are the only alternative aside from spending your own 
money and I'm embarrassed to say how much money I've spent on supplies 
for my students and the room;I have received %10 total reimbursement. On 
the bright side, computer donations flooded my room with just a whisper 
to the community that I could use them. Faced with a room full of 
donations came the next big problem: getting them to run on the 
network... and that's where I ask for more help. Getting older boxes 
with a variety of NICS, video cards and monitors to work on K12LTSP is a 
__no joy__ experience. Only the determination and a lot of help from a 
Linux buddy would I be able to make the claim that all of my ~33*5 
students are now able to log on, read, research the web, take on-line 
tests, and write papers everyday.

In closing, perhaps making the primary ISO a micro installer, like 
Knoppix, that puts all of the drivers needed for the NIC, video and 
monitor on the hard-drive of the client and set the bash to X -query the 
server. Ideally, for Aunt Tilly and I, it would be a matter of popping 
the CD into the computer, hooking up whatever monitor is available, 
connecting to the network, booting from the cd in the new donation, 
installer picks up NIC, video and monitor, sends a message to the server 
and writes the bash to X -query the server at boot up. This is, more or 
less, what we're doing now to get our older donated machines on the 
network. Aunt Tilly wouldn't be able to do it. It's time consuming and 
sometimes frustrating and could be totally automated in the install 
script... An option in the installer for server and 'client drivers' 
would be a big big help.

I thank you for your time, energy, and hard work on K12LTSP; it has 
changed, for the good, my 33*5 students' lives and is allowing me to 
quickly transfer skills they will need to succeed tomorrow. Anything you 
can do to make it easier to install on older donated equipment would 
greatly increase the likelihood that more teachers, like me, will 
install and reap the benefits of a networked learning environment. 
Teachers are coming in regularly asking how they can do the same thing; 
I want to be able to truthfully tell them, "It's easy".


  enormous flexibility and power that a teacher needs.

Terrell Prude', Jr. wrote:
> Steven Santos wrote:
>>> Dennis Daniels wrote:
>>>> A plea from a teacher in the treches: make it easier to get older 
>>>> machines, random NICS and ancient monitors into use as clients is a 
>>>> good thing for schools; something that Aunt Tilly the Teacher, and 
>>>> I, can use.   ;)
>> No, what we really need is a diagnostics CD (ala KNOPIX) that will 
>> boot the terminal as a semi-fat client, connect to the LTSP server, 
>> output all of the correct config options for that terminal's lts.conf 
>> entry (maybe even auto add the entry in lts.conf?) a link to the 
>> proper rom-o-matic image and maybe a nice script to create a boot 
>> floppy/HD boot image from the ROM image.
>> If we had such an uber utility, then Aunt Tilly might be able to make 
>> it work without the need for an IT guru to install each and every new 
>> donated
>> terminal.  Just pop in the diag CD, enter the proper password (to add 
>> it to
>> lts.conf), click on the r-o-m button if needed, and your done.
>> Best part is that such a utility would also be useful to IT people. 
>> How much time would this utility save you every month?  Food for thought.
> If you want Aunt Tilly the teacher to be using LTSP thin clients in her 
> class, then I have no problem with that and in fact encourage it 
> heartily.  But if you don't want to get Aunt Tilly the teacher someone 
> who knows what they're doing with technology, then get Aunt Tilly the 
> teacher a bunch of pre-packaged thin clients; you cannot expect Aunt 
> Tilly to be able to build a box at all, let alone out of a bunch of 
> donated, random hardware!  DisklessWorkstations.com sells some nice thin 
> clients, I hear; that's why such companies exist.  You don't even need a 
> boot floppy with them; just plug and go.
> *That* is the solution for Aunt Tilly the teacher, not dumping a bunch 
> of old, random hardware in her lap and expecting her to build working 
> boxes out of it.  She needs to teach.  It is *our* job as IT people (for 
> those of us that are IT people) to have the technical knowledge to 
> support her technology-based classroom teaching.  That's why we IT folks 
> get paid for what we do.

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