Thinking Outside the Box – 0 to 70 Computers with Open Source Software Cost ($0)


Thinking Outside the Box – 0 to 70 Computers with Open Source Software Cost ($0)

This may not have much to do with agriculture, but it does have to do with education and providing a means for adults and children to learn with computers and open-source software. Having a computer and access to knowledge provides a way for anyone around the world to learn about agriculture and skills to provide for those around them.

Computer obsolescence is just a lack of imagination, discarded computers are truly the worlds most wasted education resource today.

For today’s children their education is barely complete, without the use of a computer they are even left further behind in the changing world. In order to become fully functioning adults, our kids need to learn basic computer skills. Unfortunately for many schools in the United States and around the world, this goal runs in opposition to slashed budgets and bureaucratic apathy which is trying to dumb down our children. What is an educator to do when he realizes that the computers that kids need are not going to be part of any budget the school has to offer?

Instead of just sitting back and “going with the flow” Robert Litt, a 6th grade teacher from Alameda County, decided to do something about the cut-backs. He needed to provide his students with computers but had no money and little support from the administration. So he set about building the computer lab his students needed using donated computers and the Ubuntu Linux operating system.

Operating Systems Huh? Why go with Ubuntu over the much more common Windows? Cost.

Most of the computers’ problems could be fixed by wiping the disks and reinstalling the operating system—but buying new software for every donated computer would be prohibitively expensive. So Robert began to research more affordable options. An acquaintance at the Alameda County Computer Recyclers suggested he use a free operating system, such as GNU/Linux.

This is one of the key issues of those hit with budget constraints whether it be in education or agriculture awareness. Computers can be expensive and having a proprietary operating system such as Windows can add to the cost. By going the Linux route, Robert was able to stick to his $0 budget and still provide the necessary computers for the students. His early success in bringing in 18 computers led to additional excitement from both students and staff. He was then able to expand the computer lab to 70 computers through these means.

This success in building a quality lab has expanded the ability of the teachers at the school to teach meaningful computer skills to the students. Thinks about what it could do in other pats of the world.

The digital divide is growing in a hidden statistic,” Robert says, “the actual teaching of technology in a meaningful way.” He shows students how to do math on spreadsheets, how to make simple websites, how to put together slide presentations, all on free software. These are the computer skills that, students tell him, they are later expected simply to know.

By going against the flow and thinking outside of the box, Robert was party to keeping the cost of education down, something that many people are trying to accomplish. It also brings in a fresh approach to teaching in the digital age. By stepping outside of his comfort zone when it comes to computers, Robert was able to expand his skill set. He now has an opportunity to share that new knowledge and skill with the students and hopefully expand the way in which they interact with technology. Something these kids and and future kids will be doing far more frequently.

check out:
I Love Ubuntu

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