Monday, November 22, 2010

Developing the Netbook image

It is one thing to cheerfully say we will save a lot of money by not having a proprietary image on our Netbooks. It is another to come up with a free solution - that is robust and has everything specific to the needs of the Manaiakalani project in it. We are all teachers in this project, not IT geeks!

So Russell sent out a call through the online open source community asking who would be interested in helping us out and people came, offering amazing skills to the project. Over several months on most Tuesday nights a bunch of people have turned up at Pt England School at 5.30pm - fresh from their day jobs and worked into the evening on creating an image for our Netbooks.

The design goals are fleshed out in detail here, but in short we were looking for something fool-proof, open source, that would meet all our classroom and pedagogy requirements and provide a safe environment for our students to learn in.

We also set as a goal that our students would be the technicians for these devices - meaning we would put most of the technical support money into the wireless solution and not the devices.
We wanted to develop a group of trusted students as technicians aged 10 years and older who would be able to handle most of the basic issues. Warantee issues of course would go back to the manufacturer and device repairs would go through EdTech.

Nevyn and Tom did a lot of the work on the Ubuntu based image and Joel worked on the Bios - something I never knew existed till this year :) In fact I learnt a whole heap of stuff that I never knew existed through sitting in the back row at these evening sessions.

As the 'Go Live' day drew nearer the pressure came on key people in the group to have the image ready to go for the first group of students on Monday November 15th. Obviously this meant some working through the night on the weekend before.

We have found it very interesting and entertaining to read about this from a non-educator perspective on Nevyn's blog.


Next post: Handing over to the student technicians