viernes, 17 de diciembre de 2010
Linux in a University Workshop
Yesterday, Mechatotoro and I were in charge of a workshop on technology and education for a congress at our university. The basic idea was to apply Freire's philosophy that education needs to be eye-opening and mind-freeing while the current approach to technology is somehow acting conversely in the classrooms.
We conducted several experiments showing how both teachers and students take technology for granted and generally view it as a positive, monolithic and inclusive force while in reality it hinders meta-cognition and favors linear, algorithmic mental processes (not to mention it also excludes individuals.)
As part of the workshop, we exposed our audience to two Linux distributions: Mandriva and Mepis.
The sole concept of Live CDs helped the participants observe that the symbiotic relationship between hardware and software (in this case, Windows) responds to economic and political factors. Why is it that nobody told them before that you can use a CD, DVD, USB or even a memory card to boot a computer with an alternative OS when Windows fails? Of course, in Windows culture, someone gets the benefit when "computers" crash. Again, are the computers (hardware) to blame or is it an OS failure? Very few had actually thought about that before.
Interestingly enough, the teachers who initially had problems locating Microsoft Word on Windows XP had no problem finding and using OpenOffice Writer. They didn't have any problem locating and using some basic software tools for teachers like the calculator, the drawing program, or the spreadsheet, either. Again, if all those tools are there and are free, why is it that nobody had told them before they could use them?
Needless to say, the neat appearance of Mandriva and the eye-candy of KDE helped debunk the stereotype that Linux is only a black screen with cryptic commands. The concept of virtual desktops and the desktop cube seemed to attract their attention quite a bit, too.
Then, we discussed viruses and malware. While Windows didn't see them and the lab antivirus failed to detect four viruses stored in my USB pendrive, Mepis Live CD put them in the spot. I showed the participants how to get rid of USB viruses with Mepis in two clicks (literally). I also showed them how to rescue files stored on Windows using Mepis Live CD.
At the end, we had several issues to reflect upon: Was Linux hard to use? Was it useless and undependable? Why aren't teachers being empowered with this knowledge and conversely, they are kept in a technological paradigm that directly contradicts new cognitive and pedagogical tendencies? (Freire, Vygotsky, and even Gardner come to mind)
I hope our workshop may have contributed to a new technological paradigm in education...at least the participants seemed quite satisfied and motivated. I am thankful they attended the workshop.