Tonawanda News

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December 1, 2013

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


Tonawanda News — With new operating systems, he then took to making sure they acted more like cloud computers, rather than requiring them to log in to the school’s network any time they turned on. After all, he said, that connection time was a large chunk of what cause a five-minute boot-up for the old machines.

“That’s becoming the standard now,” he said of cloud computing. “When you start to leverage cloud computing, students can access their files from anywhere, which means their own devices, they can access them at home. It really just adds to the capabilities of technology.

“And not only can you set security features, you can set what kind of access the (students) have. We can also include things that are useful for our students specifically,” like links to specific websites, online textbooks and even their own grades through the district’s portal.

Much of the work was Mikulski’s doing, though he did have some help. He said he set out from the beginning to not just get these decrepit computers working again, but also to make sure the students knew they could do it themselves. So he recruited some of his trusted charges to assist.

“After making what I thought was my perfect Penguin netbook, I gave it to some of my more tech-savy students and said, ‘see if you can break this, see if you can make this no longer work’” he said. “That allowed me to see what they could do well, what they couldn’t do well with it and what kinds of security holes (they found).”

From this “perfect netbook,” Mikulski was able to use a process called cloning to make exact duplicates of his creation throughout all of the rest of the computers. He made 34 copies for a working set of netbooks soon to be available for teachers and students to use.

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