Sunday, February 22, 2009

Windows V Edubuntu: The Battle Begins

I really enjoyed wiping Windows of my computer last week and installing Edubuntu, an Linux distribution of Ubuntu that comes bundled with lots of applications suitable for use in the classroom. But I keep finding that I need to use Windows for so many tasks that I have previously taken for granted and I haven't worked out how to do the same tasks using Linux. I have also found that the drivers required for some hardware such as IWBs doesn't seem to be available yet in Linux. This has meant that I have had to install Windows as well on my computer and boot to either Windows or Edubuntu depending on what I need to do. What happens if I boot to Windows to use a IWB? I keep using Windows and revert to my old ways of doing things. Hopefully this will pass but it reminds me that moving to using Linux all the time as an Operating System (OS) means a lot of relearning for me and a lot of time. Time is never easy to come by when you are a teacher but I will battle on. Why bother? It's all about choice. I want to be able to have a choice in terms of OS and not feel that Windows is the only computer environment where I can work comfortably and I also like the idea of free software, especially for schools.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Parent Meeting

With any project such as this, parental support and participation is essential and I am happy to report that the school had a big roll up to our information evening, where staff spoke to Year 5 and 6 parents about the pilot IT project. We told them about developments in the Federal Government's Digital Education Revolution plan and how it would eventually impact on primary schools. Our plan for a managed wireless network in the school and the environmental benefits of using digital content in the classroom in reducing the school's carbon footprint. He then went on to speak about the origins of Open Source software and the benefits to the school community of embracing the use of it. My role was to introduce the operating system, Ubuntu and the particular distribution we are intending to use which is called Edubuntu which comes bundled with applications suitable for educational purposes. I wanted to reassure parents that the operating system uses a graphical user interface that children and parents would quickly become familiar with. I then went on to show them Open Office which is a free alternative and powerful office software suite.
We collected parent questionnaires at the end of the meeting in order to gauge parent views about what parents would like to see come from the pilot and I will spend some time next week reading through them. I do feel that the response was quite positive. We had one dissenter who challenged the whole notion of using computers in schools, but generally the response was quite positive.
This week for your homework boys and girls, I would like you to visit the Open Office website and download and install a copy to try. You can choose to save any word processing documents as .doc if you are worried about other people not being able to open and read the documents you create. I would be very interested in your feedback about it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

OLHC Primary Lismore Netbook Trial Begins

I have just started a new project working with OLHC Primary School, South Lismore, NSW. The school is getting an netbook computer for each of their 60 year 5/6 students. The project is seen as an important trial for other schools in the region for many reasons. It is the first large role out of netbooks in the primary school environment where each child will have a computer on their desk all day. The netbooks will be running a version of Linux called Edubuntu instead of Windows and the network management of the system, both from a wireless and software point of view is going to be new territory for all involved. On the educational side, it is going allow teachers involved in the trial, to really explore new ways of learning and I feel priviledged to be part of it.

For me it is very exciting (get a life I can hear you saying). I started this week by banishing Windows from my notebook computer, installing Edubuntu and so I feel that I have jumped in at the deep end. It felt quite liberating saying goodbye to Microsoft (for now anyway). For a long while I have had the feeling that I didn't really have a choice about the software I use in the classroom but after giving Edubuntu a run this week I can see that it is more than just a viable alternative. Not only is it free (and all of the applications that come with it), I like the way my new Gnome desktop works. It is only early days of course but I am very optimistic about it and know that the kids will adapt to the new OS and applications, much quicker than any teacher can.

So now the fun begins and I hope you come back and read my blog and comments from others each week in the hope that you can learn from it as well. My first task is to work out an effective way to store and recharge the netbooks each night in a storeroom at the school so if you can offer any suggestions about this it will be greatly appreciated.