Saturday, September 05, 2009

Our "New" Linux Lab

Linux is for human beings...
I'm proud to work in a school tech department that is so focused on environmentally responsible computer practices and policies (I might also add that our department is one of the "greenest" in the school, with 3 of the 4 department members commuting by bike each day to work). This is in large part due to the vision and leadership of our school's Tech Director, Steve Taffee. We're certainly not perfect in all areas as a department and there is room for improvement, but in many respects I think our school is at the forefront of the "Green Computing" movement. This is especially evident with our "New" Linux lab that Steve and Adam Contois (Help Desk/Sys Engineer) deployed this past summer. I write "New" in quotations because the lab itself is new, but the computers in the lab are actually circa 2002 IBM desktop computers with old LCD displays and reused keyboards and mice. These old IBM computers were replaced last year in our language learning lab by new HP desktops. When we made the decision last spring to relocate our 17" iMac computers from our iMac lab to a newly created "Digital Arts Studio" in our fine arts center, instead of purchasing brand new replacement computers we decided to re-use the old IBMs to fill the void (I might also add that this move saved our school a significant sum of $$$). The computers feature a pretty standard installation of Ubuntu Linux, which includes Open Office and a folder of games. I'm amazed at boot times, application loading speed, and the all around solid performance of computers that TCO models are telling us to put out to pasture.

Initial student reaction to the computers in this space is typically, "These are ugly." But when they consider the environmental impact and when they actually use the computers, the students really seem to appreciate and enjoy this resource. Quite honestly, after 10 minutes of web browsing and working in our new web-based email system (Google Apps), the students seem to completely forget that they are using a different operating system. We had a full class of 17 students in the lab for the first time this past week and the performance was quite solid, especially considering each student was authoring in Google Docs, a web based word processing environment.

On Tuesday of this past week we had our first "Linux Lab Open House." We invited students, teachers, staff and administrators to come take a look at the Linux desktop operating system in action. We only had a few people attend, but it proved to be a very nice introduction to Linux as an operating system. See the video clip below from Tuesday's open house. We're hoping to have a second open house at some point in October and we're going to try to invite parents as well. We're even considering doing a "Make-it-take-it" type of day where students/families can bring in their old computers and we'll help them load Ubuntu Linux.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


  1. Jerry Swiatek1:16 PM

    This is great!! We have many older computers in storage right now at my school and I've been encouraging administration to let me put Linux on them and create a new lab for internet research and related activities...their response has been less than enthusiastic though. Great job guys!!!

  2. Jerry, thanks for your comment and kind words. I know the position you are in-I used to work in a school that was very policy driven and would never make room for different ways of thinking about how to deploy and manage school-wide computer resources. Good luck with your is only a matter of time and budgetary constraints before your administration comes around to the idea of leveraging linux in the learning environment.