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nightfire117
August 17th, 2007, 11:37 PM
Just an idea that came to mind.

Some schools (few, though) have issued laptops and tablet PCs to their students. I was thinking, that, by the year 2027, would most schools be doing this? If so what OS would they use? Would it be Linux-based or proprietary, or what?

Then, I thought, what would the OS have? Students in school shouldn't be surfing MySpace or Facebook, or chatting with their online acquaintances from across the world while they're supposed to be paying attention to the science teacher. (Of course, in uni you're expected to have at least a level of maturity and responsibility to keep yourself from doing such things....)

What if there was a student OS for a tablet PC (Linux-based) that included wi-fi, about 4-8 GB storage, about 1 GHz, specially designed UI for students making it easy to access their "notebooks," "textbooks," and schedule, as well as wireless Internet access (limited?) for accessing their school's site at which they can download textbooks, notebooks, message/correspond with teachers and other students/student groups (kind of a message board system).

Also, the "teacher OS" would include integration with the website to publish notes and content, textbooks/"clippings" of web pages (can be inserted into "notebooks" - kind of like Zoho Notebook), recorded lessons, etc.

Perhaps 1 USB port, and battery charger power supply input as well. Limited desktop customization, but skinning (overall UI: toolbars, icons, etc.) and wallpaper/screensaver changing available. Not getting too crazy though.

The reason it's a tablet is for easy mobility, easier reading, writing right on the "textbook page," taking notes (dual-pane view, perhaps - top is the textbook, bottom is your "notebook," etc.).

I could mock a UI for each of these so you could get an idea of how it's supposed to function, but right now I don't feel like it, heh. Just thought this would be an appropriate place for such a post though, and that it might be of interest to some of you. I don't know, but perhaps something like this will come in the future.

~Nightfire

Alex Fernandez
August 17th, 2007, 11:45 PM
Are you trying to force the kids to hack around all the useless limitations?

Face, while you think they should not use MSN - they disagree - the system should be fully "open", in the sense they can run anything non dangerous / illegal on it.

euler_fan
August 18th, 2007, 07:23 PM
Are you trying to force the kids to hack around all the useless limitations?

Face, while you think they should not use MSN - they disagree - the system should be fully "open", in the sense they can run anything non dangerous / illegal on it.

If we're talking about machines that are loaned to the students in leu of textbooks but designed to do no other function, then I can see being much more restrictive, especially if there is other access to a regular computing environment.

The problem is the need for duplicated systems: regular computers for research, etc plus the restricted system. Why bother? Just set up a proper proxies and filtering on a hardware firewall box between the wireless routers and the Internet. You could even use a white-list outbound approach rather than blacklist outbound with a simple web-based form for teachers to submit a list of new white-list entries to the IT person. If the database is done right, it should be possible to simply append the sites to the white list database once approved (maybe IT wants to run the urls past a know bad list, for instance, and only those not on the list get added or whatever). That would solve all of the gripes about how blacklisting blocks useful sites: anything really useful a teacher with open Internet access can view, approve, and the next day it will be open to all students. Sooner or later the white-list should be pretty stable. Then just issue regular laptops of any variety and the issue is solved. Textbooks would get supplied on a CD for each class or for download off the school website or intranet. So long as they are all in an easy to edit format, everything else you wanted from them comes pretty much for free.

Since we're thinking big . . . Messaging and chat can be done for school purposes using a private IRC chat server which requires school logon (VPN?) for access and message boards for each classroom. I haven't seen any application beyond distance learning where any kind of live chat was necessary though.)

Otherwise I agree with Alex: let the kids do what they want.

nightfire117
August 19th, 2007, 09:02 PM
Are you trying to force the kids to hack around all the useless limitations?

Face, while you think they should not use MSN - they disagree - the system should be fully "open", in the sense they can run anything non dangerous / illegal on it.

I would certainly try to bypass the limitations. I'm sure you would, too.... Hehe. You are right in that they would not like the limitations, and that they would certainly try to do so. Say, 50 years from now, such technologies might be so commonplace though that using this school-loaned "PC" might be pointless.


If we're talking about machines that are loaned to the students in leu of textbooks but designed to do no other function, then I can see being much more restrictive, especially if there is other access to a regular computing environment.

The problem is the need for duplicated systems: regular computers for research, etc plus the restricted system. Why bother? Just set up a proper proxies and filtering on a hardware firewall box between the wireless routers and the Internet. You could even use a white-list outbound approach rather than blacklist outbound with a simple web-based form for teachers to submit a list of new white-list entries to the IT person. If the database is done right, it should be possible to simply append the sites to the white list database once approved (maybe IT wants to run the urls past a know bad list, for instance, and only those not on the list get added or whatever). That would solve all of the gripes about how blacklisting blocks useful sites: anything really useful a teacher with open Internet access can view, approve, and the next day it will be open to all students. Sooner or later the white-list should be pretty stable. Then just issue regular laptops of any variety and the issue is solved. Textbooks would get supplied on a CD for each class or for download off the school website or intranet. So long as they are all in an easy to edit format, everything else you wanted from them comes pretty much for free.

Since we're thinking big . . . Messaging and chat can be done for school purposes using a private IRC chat server which requires school logon (VPN?) for access and message boards for each classroom. I haven't seen any application beyond distance learning where any kind of live chat was necessary though.)

Otherwise I agree with Alex: let the kids do what they want.

Indeed, your view was more well-thought-out than Alex's. But in class, letting them do what they want (here it is used in a general sense - "everything" they want) doesn't necessarily create a learning-conducive environment, does it.... Hehehehe....

Also, anyone seen the movie Serenity based off the series Firefly? Just a source of inspiration for the idea, though I had daydreamed of similar devices before seeing that particular film. (Being a student myself, like I said before, I would try everything to get around the system though.)

~Night

[EDIT]: Incidentally, textbooks are quite useless when it comes to thinks like IM and e-mail. They're just paper and pages. Hehehe.

~Night

Alex Fernandez
August 19th, 2007, 11:21 PM
I would certainly try to bypass the limitations. I'm sure you would, too.... Hehe. You are right in that they would not like the limitations, and that they would certainly try to do so. Say, 50 years from now, such technologies might be so commonplace though that using this school-loaned "PC" might be pointless.



Indeed, your view was more well-thought-out than Alex's. But in class, letting them do what they want (here it is used in a general sense - "everything" they want) doesn't necessarily create a learning-conducive environment, does it.... Hehehehe....

Also, anyone seen the movie Serenity based off the series Firefly? Just a source of inspiration for the idea, though I had daydreamed of similar devices before seeing that particular film. (Being a student myself, like I said before, I would try everything to get around the system though.)

~Night

[EDIT]: Incidentally, textbooks are quite useless when it comes to thinks like IM and e-mail. They're just paper and pages. Hehehe.

~Night

Yes, but the fact is - if you allow them to do enough things, like IM, without having to bypass stuff - they are more likely to do the work... I'm just using my self as an example (I'm only 20 now - so it was not that long ago I was in school).

Any time I had lessons with computers (be it IT or just using word for biology) I always found that hacking the school system was 100x more fun than actually doing the work (I came close to being expeled from school twice for bypassing most of the network security and gaining the admin passowrds) - if I was provided with pre-installed MSN etc clients, I'm more likely to do the work than to spend ages bypassing restrictions on running .exe's and such like.

euler_fan
August 20th, 2007, 12:46 AM
Yes, but the fact is - if you allow them to do enough things, like IM, without having to bypass stuff - they are more likely to do the work... I'm just using my self as an example (I'm only 20 now - so it was not that long ago I was in school).

Any time I had lessons with computers (be it IT or just using word for biology) I always found that hacking the school system was 100x more fun than actually doing the work (I came close to being expeled from school twice for bypassing most of the network security and gaining the admin passowrds) - if I was provided with pre-installed MSN etc clients, I'm more likely to do the work than to spend ages bypassing restrictions on running .exe's and such like.

It's the difference between the person who says "I have the freedom, and that is enough--back to work" and the person who says "I have the freedom and screw the work. It's boring and I want to have fun". I think there is a legitimate (if perhaps overblown at times) concern that more students are in the latter category than the first. Combine that with I think the justifiable concern on the part of network admins that untrusted people messing with their networks is dangerous (the worst threats are from insiders after all), there is good reason to lock things down.

Of course, the problems is that doing so requires real IT resources that many places just don't have.

I'd rather keep computers out of schools than sacrifice literacy, mathematics, and science. Once those tools are in place it is usually easy to teach someone computing--they already have the critical thinking skills necessary. Going back and trying to teach literacy, math, and science latter tends to be much harder.

Besides: with all due respect to the teacher out there who love to assign projects with an Internet or computing component, I learned more about electronic research in one debate season than I did in everything else I've done since starting high school. And give me a break: how many of those projects couldn't have been just as useful is the kids were required to use the books in the school library. One computer (say $1000) buys plenty of useful and informative books with MUCH longer useful lives.

nightfire117
August 20th, 2007, 04:25 PM
It's the difference between the person who says "I have the freedom, and that is enough--back to work" and the person who says "I have the freedom and screw the work. It's boring and I want to have fun". I think there is a legitimate (if perhaps overblown at times) concern that more students are in the latter category than the first. Combine that with I think the justifiable concern on the part of network admins that untrusted people messing with their networks is dangerous (the worst threats are from insiders after all), there is good reason to lock things down.

Of course, the problems is that doing so requires real IT resources that many places just don't have.

I'd rather keep computers out of schools than sacrifice literacy, mathematics, and science. Once those tools are in place it is usually easy to teach someone computing--they already have the critical thinking skills necessary. Going back and trying to teach literacy, math, and science latter tends to be much harder.

Besides: with all due respect to the teacher out there who love to assign projects with an Internet or computing component, I learned more about electronic research in one debate season than I did in everything else I've done since starting high school. And give me a break: how many of those projects couldn't have been just as useful is the kids were required to use the books in the school library. One computer (say $1000) buys plenty of useful and informative books with MUCH longer useful lives.

Well-said, indeed. I have nothing more to say. Hehe. I really liked your argument. :)

~Night