Teaching with Linux

Starting in June, I will again be knee deep in the world of Linux, who most common folk either a)Have no idea exists or b)Fear or c)Could care less about.

I consider myself to be an advanced Linux user, but I’m sure to people who actually use Linux on a daily basis (why, I have no idea, the same can be said about me and my obsession with the Mac OS) I’m a beginner. *Disclaimer, I also use Windows too.

I’m going to torture, cough… I mean teach students how to use Ubuntu 9.10. I considered using Ubuntu 10 but for the following reasons I opted not to use that version: 1)I ordered a set of discs from Ubuntu, and that is the version they sent, so I assumed my students would do the same (order discs and get that version, yeah right like they will do that – and yes I know you can download it!). So, I am instructing them on how to use this version, so they are familiar with it; 2)I am familiar with this version; 3)I’m going to be using older laptops to install this on, and so far in my testing I’ve found that for the most part 9.10 actually still works pretty good. I don’t want to chance things and have 10.0 not work and provide a poor user experience for my students.

So, what am I going to teach these students? Well, I am going to teach them how to use Linux just like they use any other operating system (to access facebook and play games – let’s hope they do more than that). Actually, I’ve taught a few of them in the past, so they will be familiar with it, but I’m sure after last year, very few of them went home, installed Linux and continued using it. I’d actually be willing to bet a $1 none of them did that. I would have said I would have been willing to bet $100 or more but I’m sure just to prove me wrong one of them would read this and I’d be out $100 or more. I’m willing to cough up a $1 for having a student use Linux as a result of my teaching.

What exactly am I going to teach them about Linux? Okay, details, details… um… I don’t know. Actually, I do, I am working on making a cheat sheet or as I call it “Basic Linux commands” instructional aid to help them out. This is where I call upon my geek friends or anyone reading this who is a Linux enthusiast.

What are some of the basic Linux commands my students should know? – And no, “rmdir: ‘dir’: is not one… Well, actually, I will teach them that but I don’t want a bunch of jokesters telling me how I can teach my students to seriously cause problems.

The reasons I am teaching them Linux is simple. They don’t use it, and it’s something new for them. Most of them are familiar with Microsoft based operating systems and the Mac OS is really not that complicated. Plus, I don’t have enough Macs to teach them anyway. Also, running Windows XP on these old laptops I’m going to be using, is a frustrating experience for me and the students. Linux actually runs pretty fast on older machines.

Why have I chosen to use Ubuntu Gnome instead of KDE (yep, this is where it gets really geeky) again, I’m familiar with Gnome and I think KDE sucks. Ok, there you have my opinion. Why does KDE suck, because, I installed Kubuntu and saw that as a default it installed Konqueror as the default browser. WTF? Who uses that crap? Not me! Again, this is where some Linux nerd, would say, “Um, well actually…..” Yeah really, shut up I don’t care!

Ok, I think I’ve probably bored the crap out of most people by now and no is reading the rest of this…if you are, thank you, you’re a nice person. Anyway, I’m also going to teach the students how to do some basic programming. No, I’m not going to teach them Perl, Python or any other crazy stuff like that. I’m going have them experiment with Scratch. Last year, I had my students use Alice, but it relies too much on 3-D graphics and the machines I’m using can’t handle that. Scratch is just as fun and easy to use and it’s as far as I can tell just 3-D.

Well, that’s all I have to say for now about teaching with Linux, so wish me luck! I’ll need it. I’m teaching four hours of Linux each day!

Teaching with Linux
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The Real Dennis Stangl