Linux In The Classroom
While computers running operating systems from Microsoft and Apple have been the rule in the K-12 classroom environment, there is a move afoot to use Linux as a low/no cost, low maintenance alternative.
For a quick overview of what Linux is, start here.
With the maturing of Linux desktop software, Linux can hold its own vs. Windows and Apple for ease of use. The days of the command line and a blinking cursor are long gone.
A case study in converting from Windows to Linux by the Santa Rosa, CA elementary school district.
An introductory article by Mark Rais summarizing the benefits of using OpenSource software in an educational environment, where budgets are often tight and staffing support is minimal. This article shows the stark contrast between a Microsoft based lab and a Linux lab.
Edubuntu is a grassroots movement with the goal of getting Ubuntu Linux into schools, homes and communities. Their aim is to put together a system that contains all the best free software available in education and make it easy to install and maintain.
K12LTSP is one of many Linux Terminal-Server distributions available that are easy to install and configure.
A Terminal-Server configuration allows one powerful computer (the server) to "run" many diskless workstations (student computers). All applications run on the server computer. The Workstations are "thin" (a computer term) and have no hard drives or floppy disks.
Thin-clients are perfect for schools because they are easy to install and require little maintenance. They are reliable and immune to malicious tampering and viruses. You can use old PC's as diskless workstations or buy new ones for under $200 each.
Edubuntu maintains a list of other educational Linux distributions currently available.
With its low cost and the free support provided by 1,000's of users on the Internet, Linux should be considered as a real alternative to a Windows or Apple computer lab.
One of the big advantages of the Linux is the ability to use older (a.k.a., obsolete) computers as student workstations. Check with the local computer recycling center or community service organizations. There are probably plenty of older computers that would work for you sitting unused and collecting dust in your student's garages and closets.
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