6th Grade Teacher Builds Students a Free Linux-Based Computer Lab From Scratch
Robert Litt teaches sixth grade in Alameda County, California. Until recently, he taught at a school that lacked a functioning computer lab. For reasons that are probably clear to anyone who reads technology and nerd culture blogs, a school in 2012 not having a computer lab is a totally unacceptable thing. It occurred to Litt that if students aren’t coming out of primary education with some basic computer literacy, they’re being drastically underserved by their school system, and he wasn’t ready to let that fly. So, with no budget to speak of and in dire need of a computer lab, Litt turned to the warm embrace of free software and put together 70 computers running Ubuntu, meaning that ASCEND, the school where he teaches, now has not only a computer lab, but computers in classrooms as well.
Litt knew that the kids needed a computer lab to be well-rounded, but also that there was no money in the budget to set one up. A friend in a Linux Users Group (LUG) mentioned a workaround — computers running a Linux OS wouldn’t cost anyone a dime. Litt got some donated computers from a local non-profit and wiped the drives — in most cases, this was enough to fix whatever was wonky with the machine. Then, with some assistance from the LUG, he turned them into Ubuntu machines.
After the first 18 computers were up and running in classrooms — and proving popular with students and teachers alike — Litt’s principal put him on special assignment, giving him four hours a week off to find more computers, clean them up, and get them running Ubuntu in classrooms. Now, the school is working with no less than 70 computers after just over a year. The total cost for the lab in the end? A grand total of $0.
While it’s totally heartwarming to see teachers doing the whole Stand and Deliver super-inspiring thing, doing whatever it takes to make sure that the kids they are responsible for get a proper education, we can’t help but wonder why that has to be the case in the first place. A school without a computer lab in this day and age is a dramatically underfunded school. Though, there’s nothing less than noble about Litt taking this on his back and the community pitching in to show him the ropes. But man, that is a lot to ask of folks for something that most reasonable people would call a necessity in modern day public schools.