Getting Raspberry Pi into our School Lab
- Got one into my hands to assess what peripherals would be needed (based on my memory of the labs inventory)
- Having had no access to HDMI at home, and having no equipment with composite input in the lab, I had to spend quite a bit on my own find a display solution that would work. Then came input solutions. KVM switches seemed like the best way to go; second best were logitech wireless solutions with a single rf receiver.
- This is the absolutely critical step, in our case: I made a wishlist on Amazon and then did what teachers too often had to do: shared the wishlist with social network sites. I based the wishlist on the count of students on my roster for my largest tech class: 4. I am so thankful for the anonymous benevolence that came from the tumblr community. Another essential resource was Facebook: if your facebook contacts believe in what you’re doing, you’ll find a lot of support. Ultimately, all our peripherals were donated by family, friends of family, or anonymous benefactors who came across the tumblr appeal.
- With donations in hand, I didn’t need to make too compelling an appeal for the school to purchase the Raspis x4. It must take a lot for admins to act on faith in us and to really appreciate the initiative I’d taken. We have a great team.
- Ultimately, our input devices are controlled with kvm switches (we only use the KV features. We have donated HDMI TVs for four workstations. Since they take VGA as well, switching between our Ubuntu Desktops and our Raspian Raspis is a simple matter of hitting the KVM switch and then the selecting the right source for the TV. Classroom checkout policy includes procedures to make sure the lab is back in shape for the next class.
- Configuring the Raspi lab: The Raspi’s are in Ubuntu lab, which makes things quite smooth. We should script this, but: we use Raspi config to get things straight on first boot: enabling ssh is crucial. We use sudo passwd root so students have access in case something goes wrong with their sudo access. We have remote access to the command line with ssh, but we want more: we apt-get install xrdp so we can get to the lxde desktop from anywhere in the school. Then we install epoptes-client and configure it speak to the epoptes server (/etc/default/epoptes-client; sudo epoptes-client -c to get fresh certificate relationship). Don’t forget to set the host name in /etc/hostname and /etc/hosts
- Outcome? For the curriculum, it’s too soon to tell. But there’s this: last year, tech club, an afterschool co-curricular activity, had one member. This year, 2/5 of the school participates. It’s all tied to the Raspi. Another outcome: within a week of school, 7 students had brought in money for Raspis and now have them at home.
- Note that our juniors’ first authentic writing task was to collaborate (etherpad lite) to create heartfelt thank-you letters for our donors.