Innovate to Educate Entry
Community School of Excellence
Stu Keroff, Technology Coordinator
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|Middle school students impact school and community with Linux.|
What innovative technology initiative or project are you most proud of, and how has it improved teaching and learning in your school/district?Community School of Excellence is a Hmong charter school in Saint Paul. Our students are either Hmong or Karenni children who are either refugees or children of refugees from Southeast Asia. Almost all of our students qualify for free or reduced price lunch. Our innovation is the CSE Asian Penguins, our school's Linux club. Community school of Excellence is the only Hmong school with a Linux users group. The middle school kids in our club learn to install, configure, and use Linux and open source software. They take their knowledge and use it to recycle used computers, which are given to needy families in our community. To date, they have given away 81 computers. They even did an online crowd funding campaign to get laptop computers for their middle school, performing all of the software installation work themselves. This campaign brought in enough laptops to fill two laptop carts. Since that time, the Asian Penguins have taken in additional hardware donations, allowing them to fill up two more laptop carts. The key to their success is the use of open source software, such as Linux. Such software is free of restrictions, so they can get the software free of charge and install it on as many computers as they like. The kids either use donated computers or buy used computers, doing their own fundraising for the funds needed for purchases, so there is no cost for the school. This program has helped to close our school's Digital Divide by providing 81 computers for the needy so far, and has helped their school by providing needed hardware upgrades at no cost to the school.
What were some of the biggest challenges to your initiative, and how did you meet those challenges?The biggest challenges are fundraising to get the computers for our school and our students' homes. We have a fundraising table selling snacks at all school special events for this purpose. We once did a fundraiser called Pennies for Penguins, in which kids brought change from home to put in their teacher's jar. Finally, we did a crowd funding campaign online called Operation Upgrade, where people could contribute electronically. Another problem that arose was determining who would get to be in the club. We cap membership each year, but always have more interested kids than we do available slots. We address this by giving preference to kids who have already been in the club and are returning, kids who have an older sibling in the club, or students who are in 8th grade and cannot wait another year (8th grade is our highest year). Yet another problem was finding time for the activities of the club. We settled on having club meetings during homeroom time or during lunch time, and small group software activity happening during breakfast or lunch.
What are the three biggest components that need to be in place for tech innovation to succeed are:
|Having a teacher that wants to spearhead the innovation. It will not happen by itself.|
|The enthusiasm of the students. They can help make your innovation more successful.|
Resources. If money is not an available resource, then look at what is available. In our case, we used free/open source software along with used computers. This made our program more affordable.