Recorded Conversation with Robert Arkiletian about K12LTSP

Steve Hargadon steve at
Mon Aug 28 15:22:43 UTC 2006

A conversation with Robert Arkiletian who, in addition to teaching
physics and computer programming at a secondary school in Vancouver,
has created fl_TeacherTool, a program for K12LTSP installations which
allows the teacher to view, control, broadcast to, and communicate
with individual student desktops.

We discuss the barriers in schools to implementation of Linux thin
client and how he overcame them. Robert also describes in detail the
features of fl_TeacherTool. Will only really be of interest to those
working with LTSP or K12LTSP, or thinking of it.

One of the most interesting things to me about the interview was
Robert's description of how he was effective in getting approval for
his Linux thin-client lab--and why many such labs have required an
"inside" champion. He describes:

   1. How helpful it was to show that if the lab didn't work out, the
server he was going to purchase could be used for some other purpose;
   2. How he set up his workstations as dual-boot machines, so that
Windows could be used if there was dissatisfaction with Linux;
   3. How helpful the K12OSN email list has been for technical support.

These are options that only an "insider" can really effectively
provide. But even as an "insider" at a school, and showing the
tremendous cost savings, it can still be difficult to get approval for
a Linux thin-client lab. I think, in large part, this is because Linux
is unfamiliar, and it is unrealistic to think that schools will be
willing to take the risk of trying a technology that is not well
known. As more publicized installations of Linux take place in schools
(Indiana, for example), and as Linux is seen as a viable desktop
alternative, then the tremendous cost savings will then have an
opportunity to become a compelling factor.

It has been interesting to watch, however, how some schools have been
able to overcome the barriers to implementation of Linux. I would
argue that these are typically schools that just don't have the money
for traditional computing resources, and have to look outside of the
box through sheer desperation. At that point, I think they are
somewhat shocked, and then pleasantly surprised, to find out how
inexpensively they can provide basic productivity computing.

I continue to be interested in the compelling story that is beginning
to emerge more publicly related to computer use in schools:

   1. Schools have spent a lot of money on computers, and had to cut
other programs because of funding issues--now their computers are
getting old and they're being asked to spend comparable amounts again;
   2. Schools haven't seen academic improvement because of computers,
and most students get limited time on computers each week;
   3. Schools that have installed less glamorous, inexpensive computer
solutions are able to give the students and teachers a more
significant opportunity to integrate the computer into their
   4. Where the computer is able to be actively integrated into the
curriculum, there is student and teacher enthusiasm, and there are
reports of significant academic improvement.

It should be interesting to see how this plays out.

Steve Hargadon
steve at
916-899-1400 direct - (Blog on Educational Technology) - (Refurbished Dell Optiplexes for Schools) - (Linux Thin Client Solutions) - (Web Access and Content Delivery Solutions) - (Disaster & Shelter WebStation Software) (Public Wiki) (Public Wiki)

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