Getting the most from your lab
Newer versions of all the software components of the Edubuntu lab will be released from time to time. Often this will simply be the result of ongoing work to improve the software, but from time to time bugs will be discovered that represent security risks.
As a rule, only Edubuntu lab system administrators will be able to perform software updates on the classroom server. Care should be taken when upgrading software, as it is possible to break things by installing incompatible versions of programs or by uninstalling packages that you really need.
Not all upgrades fall into the same category, and they should be approached differently.
- There are application upgrades or new installs, when you want to offer a new program or updated version to your users. This can be done easily using the Synaptic Package Manager.
- There are upgrades that fix security issues. In a trusted environment that is not directly exposed to the internet, such as an Edubuntu lab, many of these will not be as critical as they would be in an open environment. The risk of upgrading system software on the classroom server should be weighed up against the importance of the fix.
When you do want to upgrade software, there are various ways of going about it. The two main options are as follows:
- In the first place, you can get the source code from the author's site. In this case, you would have to configure, compile and install it locally. This should not be necessary unless you have specific reasons to do it.
- In the second place, you can get the precompiled package for the software from one of Ubuntu's distribution sites or from a CD-ROM, and install it using the Gnome desktop (XXX: details). This is the usual way of working. The Edubuntu CDs from which the classroom server is installed contain a huge amount of software, not all of which may be installed from the outset. Users who are not system administrators, and who therefore do not have the right to install software for other users, may still install software locally by compiling it themselves, and installing to their home directory. If they do this, they will need to adjust some environment variables (such as PATH and MANPATH) to include ~/bin and ~/man if they aren't there already. This can be a good way to learn about new software without destabilising the system for other users.
If your server has enough resources, expanding your Edubuntu lab is simply a matter of attaching more thin client workstations to the network.
Other uses for your lab
No one will know the needs of your community as well as you, and the resources (as far as equipment and available skills are concerned) will vary from school to school. Therefor the following should only be seen as an example of the kinds of possibilities you may explore, and should not limit your thinking.
Edubuntu labs primarily fulfill an educational purpose, and so training outside the context of the school's curriculum is an obvious avenue to explore. This can include extra lessons for learners who are curious and want to go beyond computer literacy lessons, or basic skills for those who have trouble keeping up.
In the interests of sustainability, volunteer training is also very important. Edubuntu labs are installed by volunteers, and rely on volunteers for maintenance and support. The school can recruit them from its community and the parents of learners, so that those who are interested are able to assist in the installation of new Edubuntu labs.
As part of community outreach, the school can invite interested parents to the Edubuntu lab in order to introduce them to the environment their children are learning to use. Since the Edubuntu lab software is freely available for installation at home, this can empower the parents to learn from their children and put the software to work at home.
If there are other groups who need computers for their activities, it may be possible for them to share the lab under supervision.
The Edubuntu lab can be used for school projects such as an events calendar or a school newsletter. There is also Open Source software available for libraries, and an enterprising computer club could put the catalogue of the school library on the Edubuntu lab network.
General computer literacy
XXX: "Office" stuff -- Word processing, Spreadsheets, ... Making screen shots Downloading stuff from the Internet Organizing your files