Science and technology

Digital divide? How the Asian Penguins share Linux at Minnesota constitution faculty

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” —Nelson Mandela.

On December 20, 2018, a group of 4 college students and a chaperone from the Community School of Excellence (CSE) delivered a pc to the house of a needy scholar. CSE is a constitution faculty in Saint Paul, Minnesota, that serves immigrants from Southeast Asia. Most college students are Hmong (from Laos) and a minority are Karenni (from Myanmar). During the 2011-2012 faculty yr, the college began the Asian Penguins membership, the primary Linux customers group at a Hmong faculty wherever on this planet.

The group that delivered the pc on Dec. 20 was made up of three Karenni college students and one scholar who spoke Karen, the identical language because the household receiving the pc, and will translate the Penguins’ directions for utilizing the pc. This occasion, known as a Penguin Mission, has been repeated dozens of instances since 2013, when the Asian Penguins first began giving freely computer systems to shut our faculty’s digital divide. However, this mission was totally different for 2 causes. It was the primary time we had a scholar translating into Karen (a fairly small minority at our faculty). Second, and extra importantly, the scholar receiving this pc was the final on our checklist of CSE college students ready for dwelling computer systems. For the second, CSE’s digital divide is closed!

How the Asian Penguins got here to be

At first, the Asian Penguins’ focus was very small and easy: for youths to have enjoyable whereas choosing up a couple of abilities in Linux and open supply. We began by studying what open supply software program is, the way it differs from proprietary software program, and what it is like to make use of a Linux desktop distribution. From there, we moved into some primary duties, equivalent to altering a video card or including extra RAM. Then we discovered how one can take a flash drive or disc and set up the working system. And we have been having enjoyable doing it!

During the following faculty yr, we expanded by beginning a case examine the place some college students within the membership changed Windows on their school-issued laptops with Linux, which they used for his or her schoolwork. We have been all studying quite a bit as we met weekly to debate our experiences utilizing Linux. And the youngsters obtained a thrill out of getting to make use of a Linux pc at school.

Then we made the massive leap into refurbishing computer systems. At our faculty, over 80% of our college students qualify without cost or reduced-price lunch, and most of them are both refugees or kids of refugees. Many of our households cannot afford a pc of their properties.

Taking on the digital divide

In 2012, 30% of the scholars at CSE didn’t have a pc of their properties. Considering how a lot studying can happen electronically and the way a lot of a contemporary household’s life takes place on the web, this quantity represented a problem. We determined that this was a problem the Asian Penguins may tackle.

  • First, we taught membership members how one can set up and configure Linux and the open supply applications that will be helpful to our college students and households. To make this simpler for the scholars, we created a regular guidelines outlining what steps to do and in what order.

  • Second, we began getting computer systems, first by soliciting donations after which by buying used computer systems. We sought out sources of computer systems that will permit us to purchase them as cheaply as doable.

  • Third, we began doing fundraising to purchase computer systems. Our most common fundraising was promoting snacks in school particular occasions. We held a contest for every class to gather change from college students for every week (we known as it Pennies for Penguins). We did a crowdfunding marketing campaign on Indiegogo. And we utilized for and acquired grants from foundations.

  • Last, we requested faculty workers for referrals to college students who wanted computer systems. The primary standards have been that they needed to be college students at our faculty that didn’t have already got a pc of their dwelling. We then set about scheduling appointments to ship the computer systems.

During the primary yr of our neighborhood donation mission (which we now name Penguins Provide), we gave away seven computer systems, and we have elevated the variety of computer systems given away annually. One nice aspect impact of giving computer systems away is that the publicity round our effort obtained us extra donations. Last yr, we gave away 68 computer systems, and we’ve got already given away 44 this yr.

Since we started, we’ve got given 241 computer systems away. Most have gone to our households, however we’ve got additionally despatched 14 computer systems to CSE’s sister faculties in Thailand and Laos, 5 to an anti-poverty nonprofit, and one to a Saint Paul neighborhood middle.

A easy however profitable formulation

These days, many of the college students at our faculty who wanted computer systems have gotten them. We’ve managed to cut back the wait time for getting a pc down to 2 weeks or much less. Of course, we’re nonetheless a college, and the wait instances are contingent on whether or not the Asian Penguins can come throughout examine corridor to work on computer systems or whether or not they have homework to complete!

But we have demonstrated faculty doesn’t have to do something large or costly to shut its digital divide. In actuality, the formulation is easy: get computer systems, have youngsters recycle computer systems, and provides computer systems away. Our faculty did it. Any faculty can.

The digital divide is fixable. Would you want recommendation on how one can do it? Contact me at stuartk@csemn.org or go to the Asian Penguins web site.

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