I am a science teacher and my wife is a Title 1 reading teacher; both of us at the middle school level. She has started to express an interest in all of the facets of technology and classroom 2.0 tools that I have been yammering on and on about. So we have hatched an idea for her classroom and I would like input from all of you.

What would it be like to have a 1 to 1 , computer to student ratio in your classroom for an entire school year? Is anyone in this situation now? What are (or would be) the pros and cons of such a situation? It seems that it would call for a significant practice overhaul on the part of the teacher.

Now for the really tough part: what would be the most cost effective way to do it? I was reading about a package for ubuntu that would make one computer serve as ten. Anyone have any ideas? It would be pretty doable if you could make 3 computers work for 30 students simultaneously...

Tags: classroom, technology

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We love our 1:1 at SLA, but it is very, very expensive. We've got a Mac solution, and I do wonder about long-term financial viability of it. My honest goal is to hang onto various funding solutions until the $400 laptop is a reality. (Hurry up, MIT!)

It does call for *complete* practice overhaul to really make it transformative, and it also requires a server-side solution, as you really should have a school web-site that has some kind of course-management software to center the learning. (We use Moodle and Drupal as our two primary tools.)
Well ... of course the question comes down to pedagogy. Going 1-to-1 with students and then prohibiting them from using the computers in class is pointless. So a lot of the value of 1-to-1 has to lie with what you'd do differently if every student is behind a monitor.

Lately I'm thinking we might be looking at this the wrong way -- giving a laptop to every student. Maybe what we need is to put a computer where every student will be working and provide the student with a thumbdrive with portable software on it that they can carry from place to place. They get to keep their work with them. The tools for doing the work travel with them (important so they can work at home, at the library, at grampa's house where they might not have the tool suite) and you get the effect of 1-to-1 computing for about $25 a student.

The advantage is that the computers themselves aren't floating around and the incremental investment year to year is cheap (comparatively). It strikes me as in interesting "middle ground" to give the students some portability without having to worry about maintenance, theft, obsolesence, software, and all those other expenses that go into 1-to=1 laptop programs.
That is what I have begun to think as well. I checked out the PortableApps site that you turned me on to and I definitely see that as a viable solution. That is why this desktop multiplier for Linux looks so appealing. Without having to buy a lot of computers, you could outfit classrooms with student desktop stations and rely on the thumb drives for the portability aspect. But I would like to know if anyone has any experience with this set-up. Is it viable?
I've been working on this for a few years, mostly using the Linux thin-client technology to turn old computers into inexpensive workstations. (www.TechnologyRescue.com) After Katrina and Rita, we created modified some Open Source projects into a Firefox "appliance" software that allows you to deploy old computers that run just Firefox from a CD-Rom--zero maintenance, actually quite speedy even on a P2. (www.PublicWebStations.com and www.LiveKiosk.com) The two largest school districts in Canada were beta testing to consider re-deploying 5,000 warehoused computers each, and while the program worked just great for them, their boards both decided that their security policies were going to remain Microsoft only.

Both Linux thin-client and the Firefox "web client" are super-cost efficient. The former gives a full desktop environment, but because it is network-based, isn't great for video streaming. It typically costs 1/5 to 1/10 the cost of regular computers to install and maintain. The Firefox web client is even less expensive, but less flexible in terms of use (need to be using web apps only). Current estimates are that something over 100,000 computers are discarded in this country every day, the great majority of which go through an end-of-life process or are shipped overseas. 5% or less are re-used (which, environmentally, is much, much better than end-of-life recycling). So, if we wanted to put a computer on every desktop in schools, we could.

But then you come to the power/air conditioning issues. Indiana is facing this, where they are deploying large quantities of new desktop machines. The new desktops are cheap (they get a $299 machine from Dell, even cheaper from others), and they largely prefer the fat-client streamed OS approach. But they have power/air conditioning issues many places the are stopping them from putting a computer at every desk.

Desktop multiplying systems make a lot of sense. nComputing has a Windows-based system, but they have been pretty evasive about the Microsoft licensing issues up to now. There are several Linux-based solutions for this, and the more I think about it the more I like it. From a theoretical perspective, I have preferred thin client for maintenance and centralized logins, etc., but I can see that the richness of client-side apps (video) will likely make a difference.

Lately I've been using Puppy Linux, and I have to say that it's pretty amazing for a 50mb distro that will run on old computers. I've been running Firefox 2+ with Flash 9 and I really, really like it as a simple solution for having working computers.

I've been beating this drum for long enough (with little-enough response) at the ed tech shows in our Open Source pavilions that I'd given up hope... But maybe someone here will see an opportunity to gain more exposure.
"I've been beating this drum for long enough (with little-enough response) at the ed tech shows in our Open Source pavilions that I'd given up hope... But maybe someone here will see an opportunity to gain more exposure."

Steve
Please do not despair...what you are ding is very important but it takes time to get your head around it and to see its place. Just in this post I began to understand better the issues of pros and cons like video streaming.
Building knowledge and understanding takes a long time and it doesn't help that you are perhaps a "threat" to all the hocking and glitz of the vendors who try to convinces us that glitz , expensive hardware and software are the answers....
David Rogers at the Heart of Georgia Educational Training Center (HoG ETTC) has promoted the thumbdrive idea for over a year now. He as open source apps loaded on the thumbdrives. It has worked really well.
As the Library Media Teacher at Alta Sierra Intermediate School in Clovis (http://www.clovisusd.k12.ca.us/alta/), I supported the 1 to 1 laptop program throughout the school. These were mostly student purchased machines. I would agree that a "thin client" type of solution seems to be becoming more and more viable (early renditions of this were not as effective). I don't know if a thin client solution is available for laptop computers which are preferable for portability. I think the availability of network spaces (e.g. Google docs) may change the need for each student having their own computer, but this will take time. I can tell you that the teachers involved at this 7th and 8th grade school have made tremendous transformations. I think the 1 to 1 environment is critical for transforming all teacher thinking in the 2.0 world.
I wish I had a lot more time to respond to this. I am in Maine where every 7th and 8th grade student has an iBook. 1-1 is something to behold. I also just finished consulting with a private school in Indiana where they are using linux desktop solution for 1-1. Although I have seen great successes with the laptop initiative, I am leaning more and more toward the philosophy of having the technology where the student needs it. This is often not directly in their hands. We are also experimenting with Ubuntu and I do like its look. I am looking forward to reading everyones posts in your thread.
We're finishing up our first year of a one-to-one laptop program. It's been quite a rush. On the one hand, there has been a revolution in my teaching--paperless classroom, international collaboration, immediate access to information, video projects, wikis, blogs, etc. But there has also been stolen laptops, excessive Dolphin Olympics and LineRider, distracted students, and scared teachers. While it certainly has changed my classroom, some teachers just treat them as expensive paperweights...

Still, I have to disagree with the idea of tying the computers to the classroom. Having the kids keep them makes them THEIRS...They learn on their own and are able to take them home to get work done. For instance, my kids made pretty elaborate movies on the Macbooks which would have been impossible if they were stuck in the classroom.

L:et me know if you want more info...What are you talking about with the ubuntu thing? Is that a Linux app?
Access is key..do all students have equal access at school and home... In our school which has 63% of the sudents at or below the poverty level amazingly most do have access at home and for those who did not we helped provide them a computer. So while I would like to go one to one for now the lab and flash drives are working. We also teach open source productivity tools ( again to assure equal access)

I have always believed that the computers belong in the classrooms not a lab but to do that on a one to one means laptops not desk tops because of room configurations and furniture issues. I have used the laptops at the open source pavillions ( not sure which thing Steve describes above that they run) but they are fast and effective.
The movie thing is still an issue for the PC/ Mac gap.... Has anyone found a good cheap or free solution for creativity in movie making for the PC users among us? I am not very impressed with Windows Movie Maker
I'm with you on this, Barbara.
I do use MM -- personally and with my kids --- but it is clunky.
Still, it is free and that goes a long way with me.
If anyone has any other free movie editing software that they have used to success, I would love to know about it.
Kevin

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