Arthur S. Alexion on Fri, 11 Jul 2003 10:50:17 -0400

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Re: [PLUG] Community Service Project

Sandy Basickes wrote:

dear People:
I do not see the big advantage of linux over win 98.
if the computers are set up, the children can use them.
they will get a feel for a computer the teacher will have to teach them. Most people are familiar with windows. They do not know linux.

Please allow my 2 cents from the perspectiveof a husband of a public school teacher. Jon's goal is to provide these computers fre of charge to students in the impoverished Chester school district. I see three issues.

  1. cost of use, i.e. application and utility software for the
     recipient families
  2. value of up-to-date Linux vs. almost orphaned Win 98 to the students
  3. teaching resources for Linux vs. Windows 98.

1. If these families can't afford a computer, they aren't going to be able to afford a legal copy of MS Office. The retail price of Office XP (non-upgrade) is more than the cost of an inexpensive new computer. The older computers being provided could have trouble running Office XP. Leaving aside the net-savvy resources available to those on this list, where are these kids going to find a legal copy of Office 97 or 2000 (even if they could afford it)?

2. This has been better addressed by others in this treat, and is probably the most debatable point.

3. Public school teachers generally (there are always exceptions) fall into the following categories, in my experience.

   * Older teachers with little computer knowlege, and a deep fear of
     exposing that ignorance.  In their classes, there is always an
     excuse for avoiding computers.
   * The fad followers.  Until recently they only knew older Apple
     systems.  They have learned MS Office (barely),  and think MS
     Powerpoint is the answer to every teaching-with-technology question.
   * Younger teachers who grew up with computers and can adapt.

The first two groups are hopeless, no matter what they are given. The third group will adapt to their resources. My wife teaches at one of the older elementary schools of one of the more prestigious, afluent districts. Her class room came equiped with 3 late-80s to early 90s Apples. At least one is a IIe; I don't know if any are Macs. The newest computer in the classroom is the Gateway Colorbook 486-50 that I gave her to use for her own word processing needs. Why start with Win 98 if this is at all typical of an upgrade path?

In short, there are very few teachers really equiped to teach Windows, and those that are could learn to teach Linux, if that is what they have. Anything the students learn today will be obsolete by the time they are looking for jobs, unless what they learn are core computer concepts that don't change and provide the basis for self-learning whatever their future employer needs them to know. Last, I think the price of software is an important factor.

One last point. Someone mentioned Linux games vs. windows games. I practice criminal law and have been in more than a few homes in North Philadelphia and similar neighborhoods. While I have seen only a few PCs, I see a Playstation or Nintendo in more than half of the homes I have visited. I don't think game availability should be a consideration for this project.


Art Alexion
Arthur S. Alexion LLC

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