Subject: [K12OSN] general acceptance of k12ltsp in schools
Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2007 11:59:44 -0500
Barry Cisna requested feedback on the subject.
I have used k12ltsp, Debian+LTSP and Ubuntu+LTSP.
I find mixed acceptance from students. Those who come to school expecting to be able to play around that other OS are a little disappointed that the BOFH can kill a proces that is off task... Those who come to school to learn and rejoice in sharing of ideas and technology love it. In the middle are many who do not care as long as it works. Linux does work. The first place I installed LTSP had 25 Dell Optiplex desktops with Lose98. About 10% of the machines would crash hourly. I tested the system myself. If I simply browsed with Opera and used a single window I could surf forever. If I opened a few windows, it would crash in 15 minutes. If I browsed and used Word, I could crash a system in a minute. These had 64 MB RAM. I had the kids design and build with me a Linux terminal server and it ran all year without another crash. The students loved working in an AMD Athlon 2500 environment with 1.5 gB RAM instead of 400 MHz on 64MB. They were free and empowered. At that same school, not one staff member was willing to try Linux. We used a CD to boot Linux so Linux was optional. One day a visitor came in wanting to prepare a document. I seated her down at OpenOffice on Linux and she finished her task without even noticing that it was not that other OS.
Last year, I installed Ubuntu+LTSP in a new school with machines in every classroom. Compared to nothing in the classrooms the year before, staff loved it. Students loved it because it worked. Only 2 staff had problems with Linux. One needed hand-holding for anything not like that other OS and the other kept demanding new and interesting features which I was only too glad to add... The organization was persuaded to go with Linux because it was less than half the price per seat and we obtained many more printers, cameras and scanners than with that other OS for the budget. It was an incredibly small budget for a $28 million school, $100000. For that we installed 153 new seats. Four terminal servers and two general purpose servers along with 8 wax colour printers, ten digital cameras and five USB scanners. It was a lot of work but fun, too. The system ran all year with one failure of memory modules and one hard drive failure. Infant mortality, I suppose. No full time tech was needed. A staff member occasionally monitors the system and watches it just work. Professional visitors are aghast. In a school of that size they often see as few as 40 PCs, in the lab and a few in the library. The power of PCs in every classroom is amazing. It is like having a teacher's aid. An ambitious teacher started doing multimedia on a thick client and another obtained a multi-seat-X cluster. The deciding factor to go with Linux was money, but the reward is ease of maintenance and long life. Students and teachers each have their own website and several students and teachers used that to great effect. That feature took me only 15 minutes to set up. As a techie, I am just amazed at the possibilities.
My last school was a disaster. I set up a Linux terminal server in my science lab. Students used it to collect and analyze data, to do research and to prepare reports. Not one staff member came in to see what was happening even with repeated invitations. I found grade 12 students that did not know what a spreadsheet was and teachers were happy with one PC per classroom used for e-mail, browsing and chat. The school had not even applied for school improvement funds that were available. I applied for some Computers for Schools machines. I was fired without notice for vague reasons that the staff and students did not like me. It was amazing. I am not sure whether I did not fit in because I prod people to change or whether it had anything to do with LTSP. What a difference a year makes! That school is following a curriculum that was obsolete in the 1990s. All the new curriculum strongly recommend using computers in classrooms.
I have discussed Linux with many school divisions. Most are not even aware of Linux existence. One even said they were a Wintel shop, period. When I mentioned that they were spending twice as much as they needed to spend or were getting half the benefit of the taxpayers' money, they had nothing to say. A few school divisions around here have jumped into Linux but with a division there does not seem to be anything between a demonstration projects and division-wide systems. They have IT teams running off their feet trying to fight fires all over and they do not have time to think ahead to the imminent demise of XP. Most of the current equipment will have to be chucked or converted to Linux thick/thin clients. Most IT guys still think Linux is only good for servers. The policy makers only think of the bottom line and do not care what they get for it. We need to make sure Linux/LTSP is exposed at conferences. Once people have seen and used it their minds will open.