Introducing Open Source to Middle Schoolers

Posted: March 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

At my kid’s school, a couple of times a year the parents are invited in to teach electives to the kids. I thought it would be fun to try to introduce the kids to something fun, and along the way expose them a bit to the open source world.

Now, I am not a graphics person. I have no mad photo editing skills. However, every once in a while I take photos of my kids and swap their heads to just to get a laugh. I figured this was a skill I could teach kids to do that in about an hour. The next step was to incorporate open source. I figured I would not be allowed to install the Gimp on the machines. So, I decided to create a live image for the kids to try on the school computers. I went out to the Fedora Spins Page and created a variation of Fedora 17 which included the Gimp and defaulted the background to the school logo. The desktop looked like:


The next step was to get my live image into school. I made the image small enough to fit onto a CD, but I figured it would be fun if the kids could save their work. I went to work, explained what I was going to do, and begged for donations. I got great support from Mairin Duffy and Robyn Bergeron from the Fedora Project; Theron Conrey from the Ovirt Project; John Adams, David Huff, and Paula Weigel from Red Hat. They were all very generous:


With a bunch of USB keys, I went to work burning the images onto the keys. My son did a couple of test runs for me to make sure things worked, and I learned a bunch about burning live usbs. For example, now know where my laptops hard drive is mounted because I blew it away :). I ended up building the images with the following command:

livecd-iso-to-disk –reset-mbr –home-size-mb 45 –delete-home –force –noverify –unencrypted-home /home/bkearney/code/spin-kickstarts/Lourdes.iso /dev/sdb1

The day of the electives, I ended up having about 20 students over two classes. In each class, I explained about open source, and what Fedora is. I also explained what a live USB was and that they would be running Fedora. We then powered up the Gimp and went through a quick tutorial of putting Darth Vader’s head on top of Tony Stark’s Body. The end product looked like this:


Then they were allowed to play around with a set of faces on the images. I saw things like Taylor-Maximus:


Beyonce Obama, Sorcerer Tim Sherlock Holmes, and Terminator Black Widow. The usb keys would freeze up if they kids saved them. I am not sure if it was how I built the keys, or the hardware.

All and all I think the class had fun. They got to learn a couple of basic photo editing skills, they were introduced to Fedora, and they got to take  home the USB keys and maybe show it to their friends and family. In case you were wondering, I did hide the “Install to Hard drive” option. Although it would be cool to have them use Fedora at home, I figured I may get an upset parent or two. It is still in there tho, so who knows!


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