Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Open Source, Linux and Language Labs

Our school will be moved away from a Windows/PC environment at spring break this year and into a ThinClient/Linux system.  There has been a huge amount of uproar by some of our staff because of the impending change.  (Personally, I'm looking forward to it).  The main reason people are citing for being up in arms is software access.

Cries of "But, but, but, I won't have WORD!"  have been heard around the school on multiple occasions, and despite reassurances that OpenOffice will meet the needs of your basic word processor (and then some), there are still some very anxious and (dare I say) pissed off staff around.

However, one of the programs that 'may' not work in the Linux environment is our language lab program - CAN8.  Now, the version that we have at school is at least 15 years old (although built in Windows, looks like it's DOS based on screen) and did cost a big chunk of change.  And as much as I find it useful for students to practice on, I can't help thinking "Isn't there something better out there?"

So I've been trawling the internets tonight trying to find a) alternatives to Can8 that run natively in Linux and/or b) some open-source options.  I've found a few possibilities, but I'm not sure how they would work for French or Spanish as most of them seem to be geared towards ESL learners.

Anyone have any suggestions? Anyone running Can8 in a Linux OS?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

WiFi access for students

Lately there has been a lot of talk in our school about 21st century learning and how we need to change how we teach to address our 'new reality'.  Among the topics discussed was the use of technology (finally!) in the classroom by students. Most schools, including ours, have a policy of no cell phone use in class, and as yet, no iPads/iPods/laptops either (at the discretion of the classroom teacher). 

The conclusion being: WTH?  How are we going to allow students to use technology and be on board with technology use if we're not letting them use the technology that they already own?  I'm sure ours isn't the only district who would have a hard time funding school-owned laptops for all students, so why not take advantage of what the students have already and get them using it?

Along the same lines, students aren't allowed access to our school wifi, much to their disappointment.  Personally, if I'm doing research or preparing a lesson, I have a very difficult if not impossible time if I don't have access to the internet. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for students to not have this access. 

I know that there are security issues, and many teachers and admin get worried about appropriate use of technology and wifi, but if we're not teaching them this, when will they learn it? Would future employers not appreciate employees who know what's ok and what's not when it comes to appropriate use of technology at work?

Does your school/district have wifi at school and do students have access to it? How is security of the network maintained?