Tonawanda News

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December 1, 2013

Niagara-Wheatfield teacher 'geeks out' to refurbish district's cranky computers

Tonawanda News — WHEATFIELD — Edward Town Middle School had a problem.

The district purchased several computers to help it meet its one-to-one computing initiative four years ago. And as anyone who owns a computer can attest to, a four-year-old machine can get slow and cause more problems than they solve.

In a 40-minute class setting, having a computer require about five minutes to turn on and load its necessary programs can be extremely detrimental to learning.

So John Mikulski, an English Language Arts teacher – and self-professed technology geek – at the school developed a solution that involved keeping the computers around, alive and the meant the district didn’t need to replace the old, dilapidated machines.

“We have these devices now that are no longer serviceable that are out of warranted, so there’s not a lot we could do with them,” Mikulski said. “We still have a great need for accessibility to technology at the middle school. So with permission ... I was given the opportunity to take some of these computers that were seen as obsolete or no longer serviceable and have my way with them, play with them a little bit.”

He dug right in and immediately saw some favorable results. Off the bat, he uninstalled the operating system of the computers, which was out of date. In its place, he installed an open source base program from Linux, which meant it is completely free to use, unlike Microsoft’s or Apple’s programs.

The Linux logo is a penguin, which inspired Mikulski to name his project The Penguin Lab.

Not only is the program free to use, Mikulski said, the open source aspect allows the programs to be completely customizable. Any setting is flexible in these not-so-new machines almost considered expendable or inoperable before he got going.

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