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Posts Tagged ‘OLPC laptop cart model; OLPC google apps’

First off, happy new year!  One thing I was worried about over the break was how the OLPC is going to work in a laptop cart environment (yes, my life is such that I worry about laptop carts on vacation).   The device is a user-centric design and would work well in a 1:1 environment.  However, a school or teacher might choose the more traditional laptop-cart model where classrooms share machines.  What happens then?!?

Well, for starters:

  • The journal would become something of a mess.  A teacher would have to label each machine w/ a number and assign each student that device.  Even then the device would have different students’ work in the journal’s time-line…too confusing to work effectively.
  • Students could have flash drives that they save their work to.  However, they would have to go to the journal at the end of each period and move the files over…time they could be using more efficiently.
  • The 1GB of space on the device would be shared over many users.  I’m not sure how long that would last.
  • The group networking and sharing functionality in the applications would be somewhat lost.  Students wouldn’t be communicating with other students’ names…but device names like “computer 24″

So, now that I’ve depressed you, here’s a proposed solution.  Google Apps.  In a multi-user or laptop cart environment, take the burden off of the devices and let google do the heavy lifting.  Google Apps is a email / calendar / content management system that is free for schools.  Of course, you could use any web-based OS or content management system that you like.  However, google apps is well supported, pretty easy to setup and pretty easy to administer.  Also, it’s google.  It’s not going to crash on you too often. 

Benefits include (to name only a few):

  • Email for students
  • Calendaring and resource scheduling for schools
  • Online document sharing (your files are stored online and not on the XO or a flash device)
  • Web-based document editing for Word, Excel, Powerpoint – these are “online versions” of the software you are already comfortable with using.

Problems include:

  • Your school’s policy w/ regards to student email
  • Initial setup of google apps
  • Load on your network (this is all web-based…so make sure your wireless can handle 30 machines on at the same time).

Please comment with any other ideas out there on how this can be done better.  I did some looking around to see if you could force a login screen on the XO w/ different users but didn’t find anything.  I bet the OLPC server helps to solve some of these issues too…but then you would need a server admin. 

Finally, for those teachers technically inclined enough to do a quick hack, there is a gmail activity for the XO (http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Gmail) that you can modify to launch to your school or class’ google apps page.  This is assuming you have setup google apps already setup (http://www.google.com/a/edu/). Here’s what you do:

  1. Install the gmail activity - download the gmail.xo file here: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Activities#Chat.2C_Mail.2C_and_Talk
  2. Once it downloads, click open – it should install automatically and put a mail icon on your toolbar
  3. Launch the terminal activity
  4. login as root by typing in: “su -l”
  5. edit the gmail activity by typing in: “nano /home/olpc/Activities/Gmail.activity/gmailactivity.py”
  6. you’re now in a simple editor called “nano” – use the down arrow to scroll until you see “Default path is now gmail” – change this to your school’s google apps url.
  7. Press “ctrl-x” then enter “y” to say yes you want to save the changes.  Press enter
  8. You’re all set.

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