Hands-on, intergenerational learning volunteers

… does it get any better than that?  I’m not sure that it does.

Last weekend, I woke, dressed and was forced to be semi-coherent by 9am.  Fortunately, the elementary school that we were working on was two blocks from my house.  One of my colleagues from the Medford (MA) Public School’s Technology Advisory Committee, Maxim Weinstein, proposed what, in all fairness, was a pretty hair-brained scheme a week earlier. The committee was discussing how, as part of our school-wide technology upgrade, the sluggish 7+-year-old PCs that had graced teachers’ desks were to be decommissioned.  Max volunteered, “You know, it wouldn’t take that much to install Linux on the newer ones… add some minimal software and every elementary school classroom could have its own computer for accessing the Web.”  A great idea that moved into hair-brained territory when Max suggested that this could be accomplished in a single day, with a few volunteers moving from school to school (four schools in all).

So I volunteered to help, undeterred that I still occasionally forget that Linux is not Charlie Brown’s best friend.  Max and Richard Trotta, the Director of Digital Media for the schools, posted calls for volunteers in the newspapers and the city blog.  And last Saturday morning, a motley crew composed of local teens (male and female), committee members like myself and residents invested in providing students better internet access congregated outside the first school, around the corner from my house.

The school cafeteria was home to a sea of old tech:

an infestation of old mice…

a sea of decommissioned monitors…

We spent the morning lugging new monitors, CPUs, keyboards, mice and mousepads, speakers (and don’t forget the network cable) into approximately 30 classrooms.  We were all given a CD, a thumb drive and a set of instructions on how to install Linux onto the new computers. It was heartening to see these volunteers all bounding around the building, working to get these installed.

Long story short: it worked like a charm.  Thank you, Max.  But we only completed one school in one day.  Looking forward to another weekend day or two doing the same for other elementary schools in town.