USB flash drives with Live Lernstick distro deliver educational software in schools

Reading Material

The map provided by imedias shows that Lernstick is mainly used in Switzerland and Austria [7]. The Institute for Research and Development at FHNW summarizes the experience it has gained in a brochure [8] that provides numerous tips and hints for teachers, educational institutions, and anyone else who wants to use the system. The "Checklist" box summarizes the key points.

Checklist

  • Take time to set up the USB flash drive and test the system extensively
  • Think about what programs the students really need, and uninstall all other applications.
  • Do not duplicate the system until it is fit for the purposed use.
  • Ensure the disk runs on the variety of computers used.
  • Procure a uniform supply of USB sticks.
  • Keep at least one USB stick as a backup system.
  • Inform the parents in advance about the use of Lernsticks. Ideally, give them a copy to take home. The appendix of the Lernstick brochure has a template of a letter to parents.
  • Most students are only familiar with Mac OS X or Windows, so assign some time for instruction in the use of Lernstick.
  • Make using the Live system mandatory.
  • Only assign homework with Lernstick, if you are sure it works on your students' computers at home.

Beyond this, imedias even cites hardware that works particularly well [9] with the system, according to the developers. This list is short and contains just two older notebook models. For more information, you can look at the detailed manual [10] (which is now obsolete in many important parts); a Google+ group exists for questions [11].

Conclusions

Lernstick demonstrates its advantages, especially in a classroom of diverse devices, and simplifies administration, providing a uniform working environment.

The system is based on an extremely stable current Debian, has been in hands-on use for several years, and even runs on less powerful computers. This makes it an interesting alternative even for facilities without additional funds to invest in educational software and hardware.

Becoming familiar with the system, along with the hopelessly outdated documentation (only in German) and an excessively wide range of software, makes Lernstick somewhat complicated in the beginning. If you want to advocate the use of Lernsticks as a teacher, you might need to plan a block of time for training your colleagues.

The Author

Tim Schürmann is a freelance computer scientist and author. Besides books, Tim has published various articles in magazines and on websites.

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