Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Recycling technology assets

Last night I met up with Chris and Vic, a colleague of his from Chapter Arts in the Church Office, created on a newly constructed mezzanine floor in high roofed sacristy of St John's church over a year ago. In the free space there I have three redundant old computers set up and linked to each other. Each is running on the same set of Open Source software driven by the free Linux operating system, issued with the name 'Edubuntu' ( derived from the Ubuntu Linux operating system) , and concentrating on assembling a useful suite of educational software programs for use in schools. Like a scrap or antique dealer, I've been able to gather together these technological rejects, and with Chris's expert help, and got them all running and talking to each other (and to the office computer) for the cost of a couple of network cards and cables, plus the CD on which the program suite was downloaded from the Internet.

For ten quid plus equipment donations, we have three computers which could be deployed in the corner of a classroom, easily able to support various basic learning schemes, even collaborative learning projects among small groups of children. What I'd like to be able to do is to lay on workshops to introduce IT specialist teachers to the possibilities of this kind of DIY approach to equipping a classroom. There's rarely enough computer equipment to go round in a school, even when the IT budget is generous. A few pieces of old kit like this could help schools in a poor area get started, and help them maintain a low cost IT budget. However, I couldn't succeed in this kind of enterprise on my own.

Chris' interest - he has two small children - encouraged me to develop this idea. Tonight's demo persuaded Vic to get involved. What we now need is a few more collaborators in organising and publicising workshops to promote use of Edubuntu with old hardware. What we also need is Talk Talk to deliver their much vaunted free broadband service to the ready laid phone lines at the church. We've been with Talk Talk for nearly five months. Our phone bills have been small, admittedly, but then we don't make that many calls from church. It's the Internet connection we need most, and all our email enquiries have so far met no response. Do they really exist?

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