How One Teacher Built a Computer Lab for Free Using Ubuntu

You should all see this wonderfully inspiring story of a teach who created a school computer lab for $0 using old computers running Ubuntu. There is a fantastic video you should see that is part of the post.

  • http://twitter.com/jspaleta Jef Spaleta

    He’s moving to a new school in the fall… what happens to that computer lab that he set up at the school he is leaving?    Will the school be making an investment into keeping it running? Will the next teacher that replaces him be as comfortable challenging themselves to step outside their comfort zone with technology and learn how to administer that lab without any organized or purchased training materials?

    Having an extraordinary person taking on the challenge of cobbling together equipment and spinning up labs isn’t the problem.  This people are members of a maker culture, and collectively makers are maybe 1% of the population in any professional setting (outside of IT and R&D). This guy is part of the 1% of the educational workforce that has the internal motivation to build technology solutions like this. But these sort of people are extraordinary, and this skill or personal characteristic  or whatever you want to call it is most likely not evaluated as part of the hiring process or part of their job performance.  Institutions that have these people have them only by sheer luck.  And when such a person leaves an institutional setting there is typically no process in place to identify a replacement based on critical skills for this sort of technology problem solving.  So when they go, so goes the institutional ability to think out of the box. 

    The yet to be addressed problem is how to make this sort of ability to interact with technology a compelling need at the institutional level. How do select new staff, how do you train existing staff to be part of the maker culture?  

    -jef

  • https://launchpad.net/~lyz Elizabeth Krumbach

    Since Robert did the great work of reaching out to local resources, the non-profit that has been working with him (Partimus.org, which I’m on the Board of Directors for) has been in touch with the school he’s leaving and we’ll be doing our best to continue supporting them. But you’re right, on the ground support is vital for these kinds of deployments and Robert’s work has been exceptional, it won’t be easy to maintain.

  • http://twitter.com/jspaleta Jef Spaleta

     I hope your last sentence was meant to read “won’t be hard to maintain”

  • Anonymous

    More reason to put some time into a labuntu spin and solve some of the deployment and maintenance problems that keep making ubuntu hard to use and keep in these environments.

    if anyone is interesting in lab deployable ubuntu, please do email me.

  • https://launchpad.net/~lyz Elizabeth Krumbach

    I wish :)

  • http://twitter.com/jspaleta Jef Spaleta

    Is there any way to get ahead of this problem with your Partimus hat on? If you could have caught Robert at the beginning of his solution integration what would you have nudged him to do differently to make it easier to handoff the lab and maintain for the next person ? And what would you have raised the danger alarm for him to avoid entirely? Is there anyway to bake those sorts of opinionated decision making into into the tools he reached for?

    -jef

  • https://launchpad.net/~lyz Elizabeth Krumbach

    Robert did everything very well, in fact his school is probably the most hands off one we work with (we work with 6 of them).

    The problem with maintaining the lab moving forward is one of resources. Partimus is still a very small organization and it’s completely volunteer-run at this time (we’re looking into grants, but those take considerable time to apply for too!). Without someone like Robert on the ground doing most of the work, we’ll need to step up our involvement unless someone in the school does, which, as you mentioned, takes a maker. Stepping up our involvement means we need more resources, and it’s not easy to find volunteers who can spend the kind of time we need on this.

    All that said, we are working toward finding these resources, so while it won’t be “easy” I am hopeful that we’ll be able to continue to support that school.

  • http://twitter.com/jspaleta Jef Spaleta

    acknowledged. admin manpower as critical and replaceable need.