LTSP = Linux Terminal Schools Project?
In June Bristol Wireless were approached by Eddie Smith, Chair of Governors at St Werburghs Primary School to demonstrate our Linux thin client technology. On Monday 2nd July 2007 Bristol Wireless took the 12 volt LTSP suite plus three desktop thin clients to the classroom for two weeks since the school wanted to investigate the potential of using Linux for learning.
We went into the school and set up 12 x 12 volt PI vintage laptops long past their sell-by date and 3 standalone Compaq desktops with two CRT monitors and a flat screen monitor. The latter served as examples of what faster client could do when connected to the new Dell dual core processor laptop with 2 GB of RAM that acted as the LTSP server. Understandably, they preferred the Compaq machines to the PIs; the screens had a better resolution and users felt that they responded faster. On day two, when the server had been locked away overnight, it failed to pick up an internet connection when the server was restarted. The problem? We’d forgotten to enter the IP in the resolv.conf file (doh!). That fixed, the rest of the two weeks went without a hitch. We were expecting a few support phone calls over the 2 weeks, but there were none! In the absence of the school ringing us, we rang them to find out how it was going and they told us fine. 🙂 Indeed, it went so well that when we collected the kit from the school the kids expressed a wish to keep it.
Bristol Wireless will be talking to St Werburghs Primary again in September for some more formal feedback but it all sounds positive so far. One issue that did come up was that the small children didn’t have much to do on the suite, even though we had loaded gcompris. Ideally, we should have given all the staff a run through of and let them become familiar with the huge range of educational software available for Linux (e.g. KDE Education Pack, TuxPaint).
Eddie Smith, the Chair of the school’s governors, declared: “I’m impressed by the extraordinary possibilities offered by LTSP for increasing use and availability of IT and saving money at the same time. However, I am disappointed that e-learning credits cannot be used for non-commercial software solutions”. In addition, Eddie saw a further drawback in the conservatism of the teaching profession: teachers might not want to venture outside their software comfort zone.
One of the most surprising outcomes of the whole venture was the response of Scott, the school’s IT technician, whose attitude changed from “I know about Linux and it’s not for me or the school” to “this is great, let me show it to everyone I know”. He is now rumoured to be running Ubuntu at home…
What a great success story! This needs to be shouted about, it is spot on!
We know that Free Software can really help an organisation make better use of their IT budget and this is a canonical example. Furthermore it is clear that Bristol Wireless has the capacity to reliably and rapidly deliver its technological expertise. The quotes from those involved are wonderful and clearly demonstrate that when people with an open mind are given good advocacy, they can then move “their software comfort zone”, and reap the rewards of Software Freedom.
Thanks for your kind words Matthew. 🙂
I think it’s wonderful that the children at St Werburghs Primary have had a chance to experience free software. The one note of regret I would sound is that, as with most tales of the use of Linux and free software in schools, the said use has come about solely because of the enthusiasm of a member of the teaching staff or governors. The next generation is not being taught ‘IT’ in most schools (despite it being called that on the curriculum), it’s being taught Microsoft when in fact pupils should be encouraged towards platform agnosticism. However, before any great advance in the use of free software in the classroom can take place, a great deal of work needs to be done on our civil servants and politicians (who cannot see any further than the solutions provided by big business) and whose own record for IT projects is nothing less than disastrous.
Free software operating systems in schools council offices and hospitals and businesses. We have no money!, we must make cuts!,we need to save!!! how much can be saved through out the country if Free software operating systems were used instead of Bill Gates’ s very expensive system of windows 7 a copy of which costs more than £100.00.
The ammount of monies saved would in fact off set the welfare benefit system allowing fiscal change without pain to those who need it. How long will Bristol city council continue to ignore what is in fact the biggest saving in the city to day if used by them businesses would follow I am sure.