Science and technology

Student Linux membership refurbishes computer systems to help distance studying

This article is co-written by Cam Citrowske, a member of the Penguin Corps.

It was March 17, 2020, and I used to be in my classroom at Aspen Academy. The clock was ticking. This was to be the final day of college earlier than we, together with each different public college in Minnesota, would shut because of the outbreak of the brand new coronavirus. I had college students in my room throughout lunch, advisory durations, and my elective lessons all doing the identical factor—putting in Linux onto outdated computer systems so we may give them to college students who would use them for varsity at residence throughout the shelter in place order. I used to be solely going to have the children’ assist till dismissal time, however in the long run, we had 17 computer systems able to go. It was a begin.

Hi, I am Stu Keroff. I am a social research and expertise instructor at Aspen Academy in Savage, MN. I’m additionally the director of the Penguin Corps, our faculty’s Linux membership. When we began the membership again in September of 2019, I wished the children at my new college to tackle the identical sort of mission that the children at my final college had: utilizing Linux to shut the “digital divide” (see this article in regards to the Community School of Excellence Asian Penguins for extra info). The Penguin Corps gave away just a few computer systems throughout the yr, however nothing had ready us for what was coming.

It was in January that I first heard about COVID-19. At the time, it was making individuals sick in different international locations, and whereas it was a subject of debate in my social research lessons, I wasn’t involved as a result of it wasn’t in Minnesota.

By March, that had modified. Businesses have been speaking about how they’d reply to the pandemic, and it raised the dialog about how it will have an effect on faculties. Fast ahead to March 18, when all the faculties in Minnesota have been closed and transformed to distance studying—academics present classes on-line, and youngsters attend college of their properties over the web. It was an enormous change for all of us!

While it was powerful for a lot of of my college students to go to highschool from their bedrooms or eating rooms, not less than most of them had computer systems to make use of. But what in regards to the children in school who did not have computer systems? Or the households who did not have sufficient computer systems for the entire children in the home? What have been they purported to do?

Our college’s directors reached out to me and the Penguin Corps to create an answer. We surveyed mother and father to learn the way many households wanted a pc after which started working. We began by placing Linux on computer systems the college was now not utilizing, after which we gave these away. More responses began to pour in. We realized that the provision we had wouldn’t even be near sufficient. This grew to become a major problem that was in want of an even bigger resolution.

Once we realized that, we began to ask for extra. With assist from the college, we reached out over social media and within the native newspaper, asking individuals to donate their outdated computer systems to us. A lot of individuals and even some companies like Caribou Coffee and St. Vincent de Paul of the Twin Cities responded. Laptops began to pour in. Most of them labored, however some wanted minor repairs, similar to new batteries, a charger, or a tough drive. All of the computer systems wanted new software program. Linux and open supply apps have been the answer. We bought the computer systems up and operating, examined them, and left them with the college to distribute.

The college continued to take referrals, and other people got here in to choose up laptops. The workplace receptionist finally joined our crew, strolling mother and father via the software program earlier than they left with their laptops. Even although she had no earlier expertise with Linux, she was capable of leap proper in and contribute.

Prior to the shutdown, the Penguin Corps gave away six computer systems. Between March 16 and the primary week of May, we gave away 60 computer systems. This successfully closed our faculty’s digital divide.

And at what value? Since we selected to go together with used computer systems as a substitute of shopping for new ones, the one factor we needed to pay for have been batteries, chargers, a few laborious drives, and a keyboard. Total value: roughly $900.00, or a median of $12.33 per laptop, together with the computer systems we had left over, which we’re saving for the autumn time period.

The program even gave us the chance to assist individuals exterior of our faculty. Reverend Tim Christopher, a pastor in North Minneapolis, reached out to me and the Penguin Corps to ask for our assist. A single mom in Minneapolis with two school-aged youngsters wanted computer systems for her children to do distance studying from their residence. Thanks to the Penguin Corps, each children bought one to make use of for varsity, at no cost.

Aspen Academy principal Melanie Jiskra mentioned, “It was through this group of change agents that all Aspen Academy families had enough devices to continue their education through distance learning. Without the generosity of the people and companies who donated the laptops, the hard work and commitment of Mr. Keroff, and the talent, drive, and passion of the students to serve others, Aspen Academy would not have as successfully bridged the digital divide during this pandemic.”

COVID-19 offered all faculties with a problem, and Aspen Academy’s Penguin Corps demonstrated that open supply software program might be used to fulfill it. Our largest problem grew to become our largest victory.

Do you wish to know extra about how a Linux membership may also help your college or a college close to you? You can e-mail me at You also can get concepts for beginning your personal program at

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