UBERMIX: It’s Time To Upgrade!

Posted by Thomas Hartley On Tuesday, August 11, 2015 0 comments
Hi. My name is Thomas Hartley, a tech director for a K-8 district in Southeastern Wisconsin. Jim Klein asked me to be a guest blogger and I couldn’t be more excited to share my experiences and resources with the Ubermix Community. I hope you enjoy reading. If nothing else please check out the resources at the bottom of the page - in the spirit of open-source - what's mine is yours :)

My Ubermix Story:


Shortly after graduating from Beloit College five years ago, I entered my teaching career as a hybrid K-8 computer instructor and technology integration coach in a rural lake community school in southeastern Wisconsin. Last year, I was promoted to the position of district technology director, along with teaching.


The first change I made as technology director was to halt our district’s switch to Chromebooks. We had always imaged our student laptops with Windows 7 and were switching to Chromebooks to make laptop management easier. I agree with many of Jim’s reasons for sticking with a full desktop OS, as opposed to the web-based restrictive Google Chromebook model that has become popular in educational circles over the past few years. I saw Windows as a difficult OS for students to manage without administrator rights and malware was a common problem. Instead, I asked the school board to approve Ubermix 2.0 as the 1:1 operating system. Their only concern is a common one, “Can the laptops still do everything they can on Windows?”. To paraphrase my answer: “Windows cannot do everything Ubermix can!”


Our district has 3 Windows labs, a Mac lab, and iPads for classroom stations. Often times schools go with one OS and forego the great things offered by each! Obviously Linux is the best :) but applications like Kodu are a must when teaching young children programming. After a year, I can honestly say Ubermix met every student need of our district with the exception of specialized Wisconsin State testing software. Our teachers preferred testing in the labs rather than the 1:1 devices, so this was not an issue. (We did not do Smarter Balance- in which case ubermix is compatible)


After one year of using ubermix, I have no complaints. I have plenty of ideas which I send Jim’s way and often find implemented in the next ubermix changelog. This year, my tech department only had to repair hardware failure and laptop breakage rather than dealing with virus-ridden laptops needing a lengthy Windows re-imaging process. Middle school students like to sit on laptops, leave pencils when closing lids, and expertly drop them in ways to break their laptops in the most peculiar ways :) Ubermix allowed us to focus on repairing laptops swiftly without being kept busy with OS-related issues.

In my next post, I will discuss how we made the switch from a Windows only school to a 1:1 program using ubermix. After a couple years of creating custom images, I will include some tips on customizing your image. Below are a few resources that would be useful to anyone in a K-8 setting. I've also included my changelog for my 2015-16 ubermix image.

Resources:
DESKTOP & WEB RESOURCES (This is money! Credit to Rachel Ryan Hartley & Our entire Staff for using these resources & helping compile them into one place.)
WCSCOMPUTERS (My “Learning How To Learn Website”, tons of resources & a technology skills scope and sequence for a K-8 district)


Any opinions in this blog post are solely my own and not that of my employing district or administration.

Follow Me on Twitter: @hartleytek
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