[K12OSN] Linux for High School students?

Chuck Kollars ckollars9 at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 10 22:09:19 UTC 2008

This is a general Linux-in-education question, not
really a K12LTSP question nor even a thin client
question. Hopefully this isn't too far off topic, as I
don't know where else to post--

My general environment is a high school (which is very
different from lower grades) with something like one
computer per four students (plentiful but not assigned
to individuals). The computers are in classrooms
(including "study hall") and the library, not in
"labs", so adult supervison is spotty. Students use
the computers in kiosk fashion, except with access to
their own network "home directory". Use is mainly for
web access, presentations, and word processing (use of
other applications is very very low). 

I'm looking into deploying Linux workstations into
this environment. Security, maintainability, and
usability are paramount issues: Is bootup fast enough
for impatient students? Will computers resist breakin
attempts by students for ten minutes until a teacher
comes by? Is IT automatically notified of repeated
breakin attempts (indicating the need to move the
computer to a better location)? Can computers be
"unlocked" fairly quickly by IT staff for maintenance?
Do systems react gracefully to impatient students
pounding on keyboards and mice?  Do disks never ever
fill up? Do systems react gracefully to "forgotten"
CDs still in the drive? Can system configuration files
never be trashed? Are all peripherals (CD, USB sticks,
sound) usable by all students? Do systems react
gracefully to repeated abrupt power-offs? Will abused
systems restore themselves to usefulness without
manual IT intervention? 

I've been surprised that even distributions
specifically aimed at education don't seem to address
the concerns of this environment all that well. I
expected to just follow a HowTo; instead, I've found
myself "rolling my own" solution too many times. Is
there a cache of useful information or a better
specialized distribution I'm unaware of? Am I missing
the forest for the trees? Is Linux really as new to
the semi-anonymous high school environment as it
seems? Has anybody else had a similar experience? 


-Chuck Kollars

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