I have an awesome story that I would like to share, it involves Ampache,
Ubuntu, Chelsea School, and the use of FOSS in education.
I was made aware of a little project name VMampache during a IRC conversation
in freenode #ampache. Upon closer investigation, VMampache is actually a
school project, so I contacted Rick Goldman (the project leader) and asked him
to give me a small write up about the project so I could anounce it on the
Planet. To my suprise this is no ordinary school project.
Rick tells it best:
The Ampache virtual appliances available at 9while9.com were assembled
and configured by students at Chelsea School in suburban Maryland who are
taking an advanced technology sequence of courses called Information Systems
Chelsea School primarily serves students who learn differently; many of them
come from schools that have failed to serve their individual learning
styles [this is gingerly phrased – according to our website, we primarily
serve students with language-based learning disabilities; we are a school
providing specialized education. I thought perhaps some students might want
that obscured, although it is a compelling part of our story that probably
should be included; read relevant bits about Chelsea at
Chelsea School, meet Chelsea, and Chelsea Philosophy
We have three technology tracks at Chelsea School that are offered as
electives for some, and as substitutes for foreign languages for
We offer television and music production, graphic design and animation, and ISM.
ISM was originally imagined as preparation for A+ certification, and the
courses are structured around our students achieving that goal. The first year
of ISM focuses on software based administration, configuration,
troubleshooting, and maintenance. In the second year, we focus on
hardware: build PC-based machines for a variety of purposes, install new
hardware, troubleshoot and configure machines with hardware problems, etc.
The Ampache Virtual Appliance project came about after a sequence of events:
first the software students had an authentic assessment which charged them to
install Ubuntu 9.10 in a virtual machine, perform a list of typical OS tasks,
and configure the OS for a specific purpose. Without any prior exposure to
Ubuntu or Linux, students were able to perform all the tasks, with one
exception – they weren’t able to navigate independently to the package
manager (Synaptic was just not an intuitive name for these students). This
project helped me assess their understanding of GUI conventions, OS functions,
and to be sure they weren’t just learning rote mouse routines by rehearsing
solely in an XP VM.
They expressed enthusiasm working with Ubuntu, so I proposed another authentic
assessment: software would come up with a software solution that addresses a
real-world need; hardware would build a machine to specifications using
predominantly found objects. Given a list of possible solutions they could
provide, the software students chose to build a server that provides the
instructional accommodations and modifications that fit many of our students
learning styles: an Ampache streaming media server. Hardware relied on
documentation to build a suitable machine after testing the individual
components. Software followed customized documentation I provided to install
and configure the necessary software.
Having realized with them the potential of Ampache to positively affect
teaching and learning, I proposed that they create an Ampache solution that
we could distribute to other educators at conferences, colloquia, etc. We
decided to build virtual appliances that could be bundled with VirtualBox and
put on a thumb drive. I gave them guided technical instructions
(an incomplete outline), and demonstrated the process as they completed the
notes. They then took over; based on TurnKey Linux’s model and the TurnKey
Linux core, each class installed and configured a virtual appliance: the
hardware class built a VirtualBox appliance, while the software class built
the VMware appliance. Four of the six students committed to maintaining the
appliances as Ampache matures – even after they’ve left Chelsea School.
Clearly, the students have reacted strongly to working with Ubuntu and the FOSS
community. They are keenly interested in the next steps in the process and are
eager for feedback about the appliances. They have read and signed the Ubuntu
Code of Conduct, which they seemed to feel was common sense. They’ll be reading
some excerpts from Stallman today; I will then interview them about their
reactions to the Free Software movement and forward you what I’ve learned.
Both classes have asked to continue using Ubuntu for the rest of the academic
year, so I’ll be working out whether to scrap A+, how to creatively accomplish
A+ core objectives using Linux, or moving completely to an Linux+ or LPI model.
Our two hardware students are both asking us to create a third year ISM course.
Steven Robinson is currently a freshman in the hardware class. He’s the first
student to start ISM while only in middle school and has a strong memory
regarding hardware components and specifications. Steven has installed
Ubuntu 9.10 on his laptop,
Adrian Madison is a junior with a sincere interest in pursuing PC maintenance
and repair as a career. He’s at his happiest when he is learning new command
line arguments, whether in Windows or in Ubuntu, to accomplish tasks. He’s
running Ubuntu 9.10 at home on bare metal. Adrian is hoping for a summer
internship where he can put his skills to use.
Curtis Fawcett is a senior in the software class that is debating between a
major in English and a major in engineering. He’s an avid reader, has an
incredible memory; two of his many assets are critical thinking and
analysis/interpretation. He’s putting these assets to use by taking a college
class in CAD during his senior year. Curtis has installed Ubuntu 9.10 at home
on bare metal.
Jerel Moses, also in the software class, is enthusiastic about Ubuntu and the
possibilities it offers for customized distribution. Jerel is simultaneously
pursuing course work in web and graphic design. If he chooses to pursue a
career in technology, he may be a third generation technician. Jerel is
running Ubuntu 9.10 as a virtual machine at home.
Maurice Quarles is a junior whose at his best navigating a GUI efficiently to
perform OS tasks and maintenance. Maurice is interested in pursuing a career
in game design.
David Walton, a freshman, is also interested in pursuing a career in game
design. He keeps us laughing when we run into problems, and insists that when
Windows XP shuts down, it’s singing “have a nice day.” David, like Steven, is
an avid gamer. He is eager to start a career in game design.
My career has predominantly been as an English professor and English teacher.
However, I’ve also served as an instructional technologist, a database
designer, a web and graphic designer, and an administrator of Solaris and
Irix machines. I used Red Hat at home off and on since 1998. Neither linux
nor I were ready to adopt linux as my primary operating system. But I kept
returning to it until I tried out Ubuntu around 2005 or 2006. I kept it around
on laptops and virtual machines. This year, Adrian and Steven, the two
students in hardware, built a new machine for me with incredible speed and
power. The software students installed Ubuntu 9.10 on it, and I’ve never
looked back. I keep my XP system on a virtual machine to print, scan, and
backup my Iphone. As soon as budget allows, I’ll move to compatible hardware
and work out something for the iPhone. Otherwise, XP is just wasted space on
My eyes were really opened to FOSS while I taught English and administered the
web at WVU. My frustration with closed-source and proprietary software hit
critical mass when I was a professor and instructional technologist at
Bethany College and I became aware of the licensing costs and other
expenditures resulting from vendor lock in.
Since then, my goal in relation to FOSS has been introducing free and
open-source solutions to educational institutions. I’ve configured and
deployed Moodle at Chelsea School; Tameka Jackson, our technology coordinator,
now administers Moodle and has added Elgg to our resources. Under our assistant
head of school’s guidance, a group of teachers are participating in research
on using Audacity to enhance teaching and learning. So adoption of FOSS has
increased and had a positive effect on what’s important to us: teaching and
What we need next for deploying Ampache at the school is guidance from an
authority on copyright and fair use. What we learn we’ll document and include
in whatever we can package for distribution to other schools.
ISM Students Respond to RMS’ free software definition.
ISM students have been exposed to fragments of free software culture and
open-source culture. They read some Stallman and liked what they heard. Adrian
liked that with free software, there are less restrictions on what one can
accomplish. By extension, more innovative projects can be realized than would
otherwise be possible. Steven agreed, but added that he’s attracted by the
idea of an individual releasing something into to the world for one purpose,
but which may ultimately fulfill myriad other purposes. With such a culture,
Steven suggests it would be easier find technologies that actually fit our
needs well, rather than relying on technologies that aren’t quite right but
are all that’s available.
Both Curtis and Jerel originally thought the “free” in free software referred
to cost. Curtis now sees free software as an opportunity to have your point of
view contribute to the marketplace of ideas. He feels strongly that it gives
everyone the same opportunity to use the same software and to have a voice.
Jerel is particularly moved by the friendliness he feels this model must
create in a community.
ROCK ON Chelsea School!!!