Linux: Best educational tool yet

2 min read
I am an ordinary teacher. In the 1980s, I had a great time with my Apple IIe Computer. I created worksheets, tests, MIDI synthesizer compositions, accompaniments and newsletters.

In the '90s, I got my first PC with Windows and accomplished all those same tasks and connected to Prodigy for e-mail, bulletin boards, news and weather, then eventually connected to the Internet and created Web pages.

In 1998, I stumbled on Linux by accident. I was looking for an affordable way to run a server in my classroom for student accounts and as an intranet Web server. I overheard the network techs in my school district talking about this free server software called Linux. I immediately did a Yahoo search and purchased five Linux CDs for $10.00 from a site called the Linux Mall.

I taught computer applications in a Macintosh lab at the time and was thrilled to be able to host student accounts using a program called Netatalk on my Red Hat 5.0 server. I discovered that I could also give the students their own classroom e-mail accounts, easily have an intranet Web server and use Netatalk as an application server as well.

Later on, I configured discarded computers and a discarded server to create an IP network in my classroom. I connected the old computers as Xterminals to the Xserver and ran all the software on the server.

For the past two years, I have been teaching computer animation and keyboarding (old-time typing) at a high school in my school district. I use Linux exclusively.

In the '80s, Apple computers were the most exciting technology for education. In the '90s, Windows applications became the most wonderful technology for school districts.

In this new millennium, Linux and open-source software surpass the previous two choices a thousand times over. I easily install and maintain software in my lab. My students enjoy having their own MandrakeSoft accounts and utilizing such fabulous software as OpenOffice.org, The Gimp, Blender, LyX, KWord (with the print-as-poster feature), Mozilla, and KDE's Konqueror Web browser. I installed all of these from the Internet free of charge.

Even more astounding is my ability to send all this software home with them on bootable Knoppix, or Freeduc CDs. There are many, many other great open-source programs and Linux distributions--too numerous to mention--available for educators to download at no cost. Also, Linux doesn't get viruses. That is a pretty good perk.

It is clearly my opinion that Linux is the most astonishing technological development ever made available to education.

Marilyn Hagle
Grand Prairie, Texas