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KDE 4 Schools / KDE @Schools

The Survey

Short survey: Elementary school teacher Germany

...and remarks from others (Nuno, Marco, ...)

1. IT-environment.
They need a cheep, easy to deploy and maintain IT-infrastructure as a basic environment for their 1-5 computers in the classrooms to offer their students access to the Internet and computers.

In Portugal it's 1 laptop per kid and a slightly biguer laptop aka not a netbook for the teacher.

2. A platform to collaborate.
(I don't like the idea, but at the moment) They use IT to control the students. There are some (commercial, closed sourced) webbased services that offer some tasks for the students and the teachers get informed about the activity of their class. Some services include the option to compete against others (in your class). The possibility of real collaboration (beyond classroom boundaries or creating something or learning together) is not practiced at her school.

[Nuno]: Control is by far the best thing we can give the teachers in order for this to work, Right now the computers are not used at all in the classrooms because of that, as soon as kids turn on the computers they go straight in to games, or the web in order to find flash games. So the teacher no longuer as any control over the class and in no time he will tell the students to close the laptops.
The only way it as been used so far is to do litle works, search the web at the request of the teacher etc, and as a reward system "if all of you behave nicely today tomorrow you can bring the "maganhães" tomorrow.

[Marco]: this is a wider and older problem beyond of what software to use, historically teachers see the only valid work as work done alone, any form of team work is cheating.
this is hopefully changing but really slowly, is one of the most radicale things.

3. Training software.
They use some individual training software (like math- and vocabulary trainer) to offer the possibility to practice alone. To have those applications on mobil phones would be nice, esp. when they have gaming elements. At the moment they only use (buy) software that is approved by the education department and delivers exactly the content that is defined by the education department.

[Nuno]: In the specific software I have some ideas that can really really help the
class, but depends a bit on the hardware, (i see a trend in this market for
tablets in the near future), Me will need to talk again to the manufacture of this devices here...(maybe i can get us a few devices with a specific set up, including touch screen or the digital paper)

[Marco]: that is an area we can offer something really good, but yeah, that approval makes it a no go for countries that have this mechanism

4. Non-IT rulez
IT is only a small element in education. The main part is done "offline".

(5. They don't care about the OS as long as it's Windows. Yes, there are still many prejudices and MS is visiting the teachers regularly with special offers of Windows and Office (less than 50 EUR) for them.)

[Marco]: Yes this is the main problem , note the students but the teachers, kids learn anything extremely fast, but teachers think they don't and frankly they don't care specially wen it was imposed on them as political marketing, that forced them to take classes.They also prefer windows as its what they know (pretty badly). And the main problem is, its just extra work on what is a very tiering job and they don't like changing the way they have allays done it.

Now the fact is that windows sucks just as bad as we do in helping the teacher, and this creates a once in a life time opportunity for us.
I think that if we create a work flow that matches the traditional class and the way a teacher prepares a class right now we would be lowering the teachers barriers alot.


[Nuno]: yeah ask them about the control part, tell them "what if you could see what the kids were doing in a given shared application and could help the finish exercises?", ask them, "What if you could prepare a class with the available applications for that class and once the students would log in they would have a set up controlled by you?"

From my experience this is what they really want and once i tell them i get really positive vibes, as it fits the way they work now plus it gives them extra control over the class.

The needs


The laptops should not distract the students from learning (e.g. playing games during lessons). => Controlling the software on the computers as well as the internet connection. [Personal remark: I am not a fan of controlling. Aren't there other ways?]

Are there any concepts how to integrate the computer into school / learning / lessons? Do computers support the current learning processes or distract? Having the vocabulary online available might reduce the efforts to learn them.

Is there specific content available that could be used in classes with no (little) work for the teacher? (e.g. a teachers sharing plattform etc.)

The needs in schools are different. A few scenarios:

1. One Laptop Per Child: Every child has it's own laptop in the classroom and at home to learn with it and to learn about the computer itself. The PC are (should be) integrated during major parts of the lessons (making notes, working on given tasks etc.). They are also used at home (e. g. for homework).

2. A view computers in the classroom. This computers are only turned on for a limited amount of time and for special tasks (enrich the lessons or to give the students a tasks during free lessons).

3. There is a computer room with enough PCs so 1 or 2 children can share one together. This room could be "booked" for special  lessons (IT stuff as well as other subjects).

4. The students have own PCs at home or can use those of the parents. They can train on their own or do some projects / homework on those machines and send the results to the teacher.


What we provide // Where we stand

Usefull stand alone application for practacing, selfteaching / learning and teaching.

1. IT-environment.

1a. Easy to install, maintain and use state of the art desktop / environment

the plasma desktop scripting and the kiosk lock down could be quite a bit a selling point at the ease of deploying and maintaining part. [Marco]

1b. A platform to collaborate.

2. Working tools.

  • Impress/Kpresenter for presentations
  • VYM for brainstorming / MindMapping,
  • Writer(OOo)/KWord
  • Development tools (python, php, perl, java, ...)
  • MySQL, ... as database
  • Scribus for publishing
  • Teaching tools (moodle, ...)
  • Library management (OpenBiblio?)
  • Kontact/KMail/Kopete/konversation for communication
  • Software on OpenSUSE l-i-f-e http://wiki.opensuse.org/openSUSE:Education-Li-f-e#Educational

3. Training software.

4. Non-IT rulez / Easy and usefull integration into the lessons.

Easy access to relevant data, websites, training material, ...

  • Links / content for teachers? Teacher collaboration plattforms. Creating / planning stuff together. "Costsharing"
  • Chat/E-Mail / Easy communication Teacher-Teacher, Teacher-Students, Students-Students

5. Content according to their teaching schedule (sometimes needs to be approved by authorities)

6. Strong arguments / advantages / ... agains the products used at the moment (MS Windows and Office).



KDE has so much more to offer than "only" software. I still remember the inspriring athmosphere at Demola (Akademy2010). There were

  • workshops to spread new ideas and knowledge,
  • many tables or sofas with intens discussions,
  • quiet hacking (learning and produceing something valuable),
  • "young" delevopers asking the experienced for help and seconds later they worked together, finding elegant solutions.

Just imagine a school where students could learn and work in such an enviroment.

I beleve that every child is curious and wants to learn. At the moment not every school is able to provide a context to support that curiosity and fascination. Don't we have the knowledge and skills to build such environments? Cound't we offer that as well?


"Technology rules at Open High where their approach to learning embraces the idea that teaching shouldn't be as static as the textbooks on which it's based. Shattering traditional methods, the Open High School of Utah curriculum is built from open educational resources. These resources are the foundation for their content and are aligned with Utah state standards to ensure the highest quality educational experience. The teachers enhance with screencasts, interactive components, and engaging activities to create high quality curricula for their students."

Copied Text from Whitepater

    • Case Study: 700,000 KDE Powered Linux Netbooks for Education in Portugal (2008-2010)
      • Scope of the Project

In 2009 the Magalhães Project [1] provided elementary school students across Portugal with 400,000 Classmate PC netbooks http://www.classmatepc.com/. The project was sponsored by the Portuguese government and had a very positive outcome, not only within Portugal but also in the broader global comunity, serving as an example of how it is possible to empower students and give them an early start with technology.

These netbooks feature a dual-boot software installation that includes both Windows XP and Linux Caixa Mágica 12 [2]. According to Caixa Mágica, traffic on their software update servers indicates that the Linux option is in common usage among the students.

An additional supply of 300,000 updated netbooks are scheduled to be deployed in 2010, bringing the total deployment for this project to 700,000 systems. This second phase of deployent will serve the needs of children who are starting school in 2010 as well as the teachers who didn't receive systems for their classes in the initial deployment. The 2010 edition of this netbook is also a dual-boot system, but this time with Windows 7 alongside Linux Caixa Mágica 14.

      • Version 1 With KDE 3 (2009)

KDE SC 3.5.7 was the default desktop environment in Caixa Mágica 12, as SC4 wasn't yet available on the platform. One of the main challenges facing the team was to create something that was not only easy to use but which also provided students with quick access to the most important tools for their work.

According to Flávio Moringa, Project Leader with Caixa Mágica, "We realised that the most straightforward way to do so was to have 'SuperKaramba' [3] running, with a desktop widget. In KDE3, Superkaramba was one of the applications that allowed the placing of widgets containing animations and pseudo-transparency on a user's desktop. Therefore we developed a widget for Superkaramba that displayed four different segments on the desktop, all of them with quick links to what were thought to be the most relevant applications. Among countless other tweaks we also created a fairly big menu button, so it would be easier for the end user to know where to click in order to access the remaining applications, and increased the size of the taskbar so as to improve the visibility of its icons."

File:Http://plasma.kde.org/media/magalhaes 2009.png

Evidently this approach had its limitations, including:

  • Superkaramba had to be run as a service during KDE start up. Sometimes it would fail, resulting in the interface not being shown.
    * The widget configuration was found to be too difficult for many of the users
    * Icons would sometimes become "hidden" when they were placed on the desktop due to the fake translucency inherent to Superkaramba
    * Reactivation of the widget if it was closed was not simple and eluded many of the users
      • An Upgrade to KDE 4 in 2010

In 2010, "Caixa Mágica" chose to move to KDE SC 4.3.2 for the project. This was the latest version available in Caixa Mágica 14, replacing their KDE 3 option. The main challenge they faced was maintaining the consistency of the 2009 version while using a completely new and different version of KDE. This was important so as to make the interface transition as smooth as possible for the user, and therefore avoid disruption and re-training.

Flávio notes that "The optimal solution came to us rather quicly on account that most of the issues we had encountered in the 2009 version of KDE3 had already been fixed in SC4". In particular, the team found that:

  • The KDE Plasma widgets do not need an external application and already work with real transparency
    * Due to widgets being one of the key features in KDE Plasma workspaces, adding and removing widgets is straighforward and easy to do
    * The desktop was set to the default Plasma desktop layout, thus assuring that no icons
    could be placed on the desktop, "ruining the original look and feel". Still, the users can easily switch to the more conventional icons-on-the-desktop paradigm using the "Folderview" option in KDE Plasma Desktop
    * The widget they incorporated ended up looking very similar to the one in the 2009 version
    and works by accessing folders on disk. Reconfiguration of any application that is shown in this Plasma widget on the desktop can be performed swiftly by the teacher or IT support staff: "all you have to do is create a new folder and place all the sub-folders and
    applications you want within it," according to Flávio.
    • Resulting Benefits

With the KDE SC 4 based solution, the handicaps which the team ran into with KDE 3 were addressed. Flavio observed, "We profited from a cleaner environment with broader configuration options. It is also more stable in terms of the intended graphical design due to desktop effects, removable devices notifications, etc. In all regards we consider that the whole setup process we envisioned for this project was much easier to accomplish with KDE SC 4 than it had been with KDE 3. That being so, it has resulted in clear advantages to the developer as well as to the end user."

For a project with 700,000 units to build, deploy, and support, such triumphs are critical to success.


This page was last edited on 10 October 2010, at 17:37. Content is available under Creative Commons License SA 4.0 unless otherwise noted.