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Thu 10 Mar 2005
Macs in Labs
Category : Technology/MacLab.txt
I'm still thinking about that Makmal 10 Mac Lab. It was originally meant for conducting multimedia courses.
But you could use the machines to teach the Unix stuff. Like teaching students about how mail servers work - by downloading the pieces and compiling from source, where the binaries need to go, and how the config files need to be set up. I know I've learnt a lot about Internet technology by tracing the pieces this way.
There's so much good stuff going on in the Open Source world. This is the best time to learn - on a Unix machine that's also so easy to set up, tear down, and pull apart, from a software point of view, that is.
I can visualise the process. For example, you can learn how SQL databases work by starting on a smaller project like SQLite, reading the code, and then moving on to something heavier, like MySQL.
Same for JDBC drivers. You can read the code and learn so much. Plus, DNS, BIND, Apache, PHP, SSL, etc.
You can make the training materials on the Mac, too. Keynote slides, and InDesign-produced manuals and workbooks, all exported to PDF, with hot-links to the relevant URL's for background information, and code snippets all ready to be copied and pasted into software development projects.
And you can use Apple Remote Desktop for administering the machines. And Unix scripts to keep all the machines synchronised, in terms of materials.
And organise the students into projects - to write code that will eventually be used to run and administer the training program - on-line access to academic schedules, calendaring systems, room bookings, course registrations, feedback forms, etc. - a totally paperless workflow. Because we ourselves (me and Hai Hwee) have done all that.
Better still - you can get the graphic artists and the programming geeks to pair up and work together on projects - to build systems that are nice to look at, nice to touch, yet work like a well-oiled machine.
You know, you can do a lot with all those Macs sitting in that lab. I know that I already have a lot of fun just thinking about designing just such a curriculum.