How far away are we from using Everex computers, freeware and online apps?

My questions is this:

How far away are we from schools being able to use something like Everex's $200 gOS computer and nothing else but online applications and freeware?
This would drastically reduce hardware and software costs. Then increase Internet bandwidth with the extra cash.

A students supply list could be pencils, pens, 3 ring binders, account to Zoho, account to Google Apps, etc.

>How much of your curriculum could be taught using free online apps and freeware on gOS?

>What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks to this?

The reason that I bring this up is that I'm new at my school and we've recently been having a lot of tech meetings lately where I'm trying to convince the school that an 8 year rotation of computers to at least a 4 or 5 year rotation (8 years is scary I know). They keep mentioning the costs and I threw out the idea that we're not that far from cheap computers using a gOS, for example, and nothing else but online apps and freeware. They looked at me like I was nuts.

Am I? :)

Tags: Everex, Mac, OS, Windows, X, applications, freeware, gOS, online

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Well, I think we'll still need to have some higher-powered computers for a few applications (like movie editing, graphic-intense simulations, etc.) but you raise an excellent point. We would probably be better off having just one lab of pricey computers in each school, but then equipping every kid and teacher with a low-cost laptop for the more common and less resource-intense applications that would benefit their normal school day. Kind of like how every kid has a pencil, but we also have specialty art supplies for when those are needed. We would certainly benefit by getting away from the idea that we always need "art supply" quality in our computers when "pencil" quality would allow us to provide more ubiquitous access to students.
So few classes are using software that demands high-powered computers. I bet at least 90% of all computing in school is office software, browser, and email client. One or two expensive mobile labs and perhaps several machines in common spaces would be enough. Inexpensive hardware (a free software) would be sufficient for the rest.

I am frequently frustrated by the lack of computers at my school. We have one computer lab for both the math and science departments (25 teachers). I actually feel guilty when I sign up for two consecutive days! There's an unwritten rule that no teacher can sign up for more than 2 days in a week. I administer my own Moodle website, but use it primarily for review and reinforcement because I don't have consistent access to computers. The machines in our lab are next to be "rotated out." I think it would make more sense to rotate in inexpensive laptops (I've read great things about the Asus EEE PC - $375 at buy.com). Smart shopping could yield two mobile labs and an open classroom (one less "traveling" teacher) for the price of 1 lab full of powerful machines.

Derwin, be sure to post any success you have, I'm interested.

-Jake
Hi Derwin--

I don't think we're very far, but then, that's what my company is trying to do, so maybe I'm biased. But as we talk about moving towards web apps and away from installed apps, the idea of any necessary rotation at all gets kind of weird. As long as they can run modern browsers, some basic frameworks (e.g. java), and monitoring/security software as necessary, not needing to run anything else installed means computers can stay relevant for more years rather than fewer. While it's true that for a class specifically devoted to, say, video production, you might need computers that can run Premier, most kids making videos for their regular class projects will easily be able to get by with things like jumpcut. Just one example.

Back to my bias, though... why be so bent on gOS? Check out what we're doing and -- although you should keep in mind our site is only 20 days old -- you'll be able to see that education-specific apps are more applicable to classroom use than any gOS.
I think we are very close. I think we still need higher powered computers in our computer classroom, I teach Flash, Video Production etc. I want the power to be able to do new things coming down the pike.

That being said, I believe the majority of the computers in our school could be low powered, with Open Source software and maybe Linux for an operating system. We never have enough computers in our school, and the main thing they need to do is internet access, word processing, email and maybe presentation software. With the proliferation of online software (google docs for example) we should be able to save enough money in hardware and software to double the number of computers in our schools.
Great thread, and great feedback. I have some experience in this area which might be worth sharing.

I tried the gOS, which I have run with my kids. I have a lot of experience with Linux and Firefox, and here were my two initial reactions. 1. It is really a single-user OS, and so you can't save online passwords or the next user will have access to them. And that's hard to communicate and actually oversee--since it's so easy to accidentally save a login setting. 2. I felt the layout was confusing, since the icons at the bottom sometimes opened new windows and sometimes just a tab of another window. I will say that I'm glad it's getting a positive response, since the idea of web-based computing has A LOT to be said for it.

I helped to start www.publicwebstations.com, a small linux download which provided just Firefox. We set it up for use so that refugee stations after the Katrina and Rita hurricanes could get Internet access going fast. Firefox-based computing platforms are really compelling because 1) their maintenance is almost nothing (no viruses, no spyware, most upgrades are to the web programs which don't affect the local OS), and 2) training is reduced dramatically. I think the iPhone is actually a pretty significant example of the value of this trend, believe it or not.

I also think that the delivery of curricular materials via the web could allow student computing which will be below $100, and seems like an inevitable solution--except that politics and money will make this much harder than any of us would like. There is also a lot of investment in curricular materials, and that can be a very practical problem.

But I really, really want to encourage this discussion, and have several books next to my bed on Linux / Knoppix / LiveCDs that I want to get to (I am not a great programmer) in order to figure out how to produce a program that is *custsomizable* (Firefox needs to be upgraded, there are networking configuration issues specific to school settings, and there are those great add-ons which you'd want to have) and easy to deploy. Over 100,000 computers get discarded every day in this country, and if we had the political/educational will, we could easily have a web-based machine for every student, and one in their home as well. (You do then get into other issues related to 1:1 computing, like heat generation, outlets, etc which pull toward newer, low-watt devices--losing the immediate environmental benefit, but potentially being good long-term solutions.)
100,000? Man, that's a lot of systems that could be used. Are there schools that will throw Linux on older systems and use them as web-based machines?

I've been in the international teaching network for some time now (Kuwait to Pakistan to Sri Lanka and now in Chile). Our realities are much different than most schools.
There are some schools putting Linux on old machines, but you have some real hurdles to this. 1) Techs who are mostly MS certified; 2) Technology decision-making that operates in a political environment, with commercial vendors having a vested interest in maintaining use of proprietary programs; 3) Lack of true integration of computers into education in a transformative way--meaning, keeping a set of existing machines running is currently perceived as more important than getting a computer in front of every student. If you talk to most people outside of ed tech, they will tell you that the computer has not changed education, and that we maybe spend too much money/time on them in schools already...
I've wondered for a while now, would schools be allowed to use the software you've set up for the publicwebstations.com project? Being able to take old computers and turn them into useful Internet machines would be an incredible (and nearly free) bonus for schools.
The publicwebstations software is free and freely available, but it's limited in that we haven't produced a product that lets you configure, then build, the software to your own needs. I think it really needs to happen, and I'd like to build a team around this idea. I'm imagining a menu system that asks you what you need, then creates the .iso file specific for your implementation. Then you can use on your old machines as a LiveCD or install on the hard drive. The technology certainly exists to do this.

I can tell you that we talked to the two largest school districts in Canada, both of whom had 4,000 or so used machines in storage, and had empty ethernet drops in every classroom--something like this would have been a HUGE benefit to each classroom. Both districts liked the idea, but their boards shot it down. Questions about security (Linux is very secure, of course, but it's an unknown to most people) were voiced, and political/financial issues were assumed (by me).
The publicwebstations.com product is not perfect (I played with it a fair bit this past summer) but it's a great way to put old computers back to use. I work in an independent Christian school here in Manitoba. The advantage of that is that the administrators (who make a lot of the choices) and the tech people (who actually know how things work) communicate regularly and trust each other's judgment. We just might be able to make it work (with the benefit of free software, of course). There are way fewer layers of bureaucracy to get in the way. Thanks for making the software available.
Thanks for all the feedback!

I like the art supply analogy, Jeremy, that's a good one, I'll use that tomorrow in our meeting.

I agree with you there, Jake. It seems like our philosophy or models of 'rotating' computers isn't keeping up with the drop in hardware costs. I like your idea of more of 2 mobile labs and an open lab. We're in a Mac school, both good and bad, which locks us into higher computer costs.

Jack: I've already registered for chitch.at but haven't had the opportunity to get into the details yet but it looks good. I'm really open to any OS that would allow us to get more computers in the school and still cover the curriculum.

Indigo196, you bring up my concerns as well especially regarding services that may be down. I don't think anyone here is ready for a new model...going from a 8 year rotation to 4 is a big enough jump already.

And that is mine concern Gary, getting more computers into the school. The teachers are wanting them but the admin looks at the bottom line, understandably. I know when I was in Sri Lanka, hp would sell us computers with Linux instead of MS. We had to pay a yearly fee to MS anyway.

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