[GLLUG] Internet Utopias Survey

Bernard Peek bap at shrdlu.com
Sat Nov 23 17:45:30 UTC 2019

On 23/11/2019 15:49, Christopher Hunter via GLLUG wrote:
> On 22/11/2019 20:16, Chris Bell via GLLUG wrote:
>> On Friday, 22 November 2019 19:51:16 GMT John Winters via GLLUG wrote:
>>> That rings a few bells.  I've written some FOSS software for schools,
>>> but in my experience of dealing with school IT people their 
>>> knowledge of
>>> IT is generally slight to non-existent.  To make matters worse, there
>>> are some big suppliers to schools who really prey on this deficiency.
>>> They very much rely on schools having no-one capable of calling out
>>> their bullshit.
>> A friend was asked to set up a server and some desktop computers in a 
>> local
>> junior school. The school had a contract with a major education 
>> "provider"
>> which required their IT system to be provided and maintained only by 
>> that
>> company, and the school was not allowed to access the system, so the new
>> computers were to be a totally separate independent system and hidden 
>> from
>> the contractor.
> I've recently been in exactly that situation!  The school want to 
> teach the basics of computing to 8 - 11 year-old children and 
> purchased a boxful of Raspberry Pi 3B boards and cases for them. They 
> also bought a boxful of power adaptors, and initially used their 
> existing USB-connected keyboards and mice from their 
> contractor-provided PCs.

That shows the success of the Computing At School project. I had a small 
part in kicking that off. We got a lot of pushback from sysadmins. 
That's understandable because they were often teachers Shanghaied into 
taking on the extra work to save money and given no training. The FOSS 
community gave us a lot of their time reassuring harassed teachers that 
installing Python wouldn't bring the world crashing down around their 
ears. The project has been a runaway success and now it's quite common 
for six year-olds to be programming simple games using Scratch.

I've seen it from the other side too. I managed a team of engineers 
supporting a secondary school. It was one of the first to provide 
laptops to all of the students. We had a particularly enlightened Head 
who knew his own limits and didn't ask for miracles. In other schools 
the first time a student downloaded some smutty pictures there would be 
an inquisition. He appreciated that we were in an arms race against the 
little darlings and saw it as a part of their education.

> I constructed a Raspbian image with a few educational extras for them, 
> and taught the three teachers and the teaching assistants how to use 
> "Etcher" to write the cards.  I also gave them a brief tutorial on 
> getting the SBCs connected to the  wi-fi network.  All of them have 
> joined their local LUG and this has given them more knowledge and 
> abilities that they can pass on to their pupils.
> I had to open up the school wi-fi network since the contractor had 
> locked it down to only allow connection of "approved" machines (ie: 
> the ones they'd supplied) and they charged £120 per machine (plus 
> call-out charge) just to simply add an over-priced computer to the 
> network!

There was one particular specialist in the education sector that was 
full of tricks like that. "Reassuringly expensive" is the phrase. I got 
my own back a while later when they dropped the ball and I ran an audit 
and pen-test on their head office systems. Very satisfying.

> Shortly after my changes, the contractor visited the school and 
> fortunately didn't notice the changes to "their" routers (their 
> "engineers" are of the "monkey see, monkey do" variety), but we 
> decided that discretion was a good idea, and now the school has a 
> second "pupils" wi-fi network!

It's quite possible they looked the other way. Some of those engineers 
are very nearly human.

> The contractor-provided PCs are mostly gathering dust now.  The 
> children really like having their "own" little computers and have 
> taken to proper programming very quickly.  The original PC-based 
> computer "education" was to have consisted fo lessons on using various 
> MS "Office" packages - hardly a proper computer education!

Yes. That's why the CAS project was started. This week I was at a 
meeting to kick off a new project.being funded by the Royal Academy of 
Engineering. We need more engineers in the UK and just as importantly we 
need teachers to understand what engineers do. The Academy is looking 
for successful engineers (they mean you chaps.) to volunteer some time 
to go into schools and tell the inmates what a spiffy time we engineers 
have in our work. How else are we going to train the next generation of 


Bernard Peek

   bap at shrdlu.com

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