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General Chat Thread, T & L in Computer Science in General; I have posted in a few forums asking for some feedback on this issue. I am on the working members ...
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    T & L in Computer Science

    I have posted in a few forums asking for some feedback on this issue.

    I am on the working members group for CAS and I have been tasked with helping to construct a document that would provide some support in resolving difficulties in implementing CS in schools. There are a many stories around of obstacles to T & L in this area although I have personally had very few. Some of the stories may be apocryphal, for example not being able to use Scratch because it defaulted to the C Drive or not being able to use BlueJ/Greenfoot for the similar reasons.

    I am not looking for rants here although I do understand the frustrations that some staff have experienced and I know that this is a forum.

    I am looking for specific problems and/or solutions both for Case Studies and to help us search for solutions with partners. The idea is to solve problems and perhaps lay a few myths.

    Any responses would be gratefully received either here, via private messages or via the CAS forums.

    Brian Lockwood
    Last edited by nerak99; 17th October 2012 at 12:12 AM. Reason: spelling

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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    You can probably get around deficient deficant software that can't handle simple networks by hiding the references in the filesystem layer, you can use NTFS symbolic link - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia which can point to a SMB/CIFS network share. Script this on student logon and it should be able to make the dinosoftware beleive it is just looking at a local folder on the computer.

    - If you can't win fairly, change the rules.

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    the dificulties we encountered were generally the restrictions in place stopping kids running exe files

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    Quote Originally Posted by One_Minute_Hero View Post
    the dificulties we encountered were generally the restrictions in place stopping kids running exe files
    Same here, or rather we didn't want them running exe's. We found no problem with Scratch and Greenfoot but had to use VMware for Small Basic and Visual Basic. As far as we are aware it works fine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NikChillin View Post
    Same here, or rather we didn't want them running exe's. We found no problem with Scratch and Greenfoot but had to use VMware for Small Basic and Visual Basic. As far as we are aware it works fine.
    So does that mean they can run exe's within your VMware solution?
    From within that solution can they still access their normal home directories?
    Is their username and password for the VMWare solution, synchronised with their normal login credentials? i.e does the solution offer common authentication?
    I assume the VMware is something they can run from any of the normal workstations, can they also run it from home?

    Thanks, Brian
    Last edited by nerak99; 17th October 2012 at 09:00 AM. Reason: spelling

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    Quote Originally Posted by SYNACK View Post
    You can probably get around deficient deficant software that can't handle simple networks by hiding the references in the filesystem layer, you can use NTFS symbolic link - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia which can point to a SMB/CIFS network share. Script this on student logon and it should be able to make the dinosoftware beleive it is just looking at a local folder on the computer.

    - If you can't win fairly, change the rules.
    I do not understand this answer. Is it a joke? If not, perhaps you could clarify.

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    Quote Originally Posted by One_Minute_Hero View Post
    the dificulties we encountered were generally the restrictions in place stopping kids running exe files
    Can you tell me what you did to solve the problem?

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    BTW, thank you everyone for your answers, you are currently scoring an infinite improvement on the other places I asked this question.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nerak99 View Post
    I do not understand this answer. Is it a joke? If not, perhaps you could clarify.
    What he is saying is that software that does revert to the C: drive can be redirected using a special link. As far as the software is concerned it is going to the c: drive but really it is going wherever you direct it. So really software that goes to the c: drive should not be discounted as it can be redirected.

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    SYNACK (18th October 2012)

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    Quote Originally Posted by nerak99 View Post
    I do not understand this answer.
    I think @SYNACK is pointing out that lots of software intended for the education market is difficult to install and generally get working on your average (Windows) school system. Those authors who take care over their software tend to take care over the bits that relate to teaching and learning, with installation being an afterthought. Some software is completly flummoxed by running on a network, requiring assorted workarounds as given above. Other common issues are bits of software that require their own dedicated drive letter, or software that runs as the end user but expects full read/write access to a common network file share.

    As the problem here is "educational software, in general, tends to be badly written", the solution lies mainly back with the developers. CAS as an organisation might be able to influence developers of various packages to ensure ease of installation / operation on a school network - maybe a seal-of-approval type badge or similar? A package that meets a set of criteria, tested somehow, gets an "approved" badge. For the other end of the equation, for the people installing the software (i.e. us), maybe CAS could run some workshops / hackathons to get assorted packages tested and possibly repackeged for ease of installation, along with asome easy step-by-step guides for installation.

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    SYNACK (18th October 2012)

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    Hi, our solution for computing was to install VirtualBox and use a VM to use as a standalone machine that would give an environment for the users to do what they want without impacting the networks integrity and also so that we didn't have to open everything up.

    This link shows more information that has recently been discussed - VM's for running software

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    Thanks for that clarification.
    On the point of using VMs, there appear to be (at least) two approaches. Where people have used a Virtual Box solution (EvlPhenom),

    Is this put this on every single machine so that students with the correct permissions can use the system anywhere or have the students got to use a limited set of machines?
    Can the students take their work in and out of the VM via a link so that their work is available in their home directory?

    So far as I can tell, a Virtual Solution would also allows a remote connection solution that would allow them to connect from any machine via a web browser. Any drawbacks with this approach?
    Last edited by nerak99; 17th October 2012 at 10:06 AM. Reason: clarity & grammar

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    Quote Originally Posted by nerak99 View Post
    Can you tell me what you did to solve the problem?
    moved jobs, lol

    in seriousness. we were looking at the above approach of VMs but found that lack of backups of students work/ability to print or monitor printing were too much work. in the end we allowed exes in the default folder for VBexpress in one room, whilst that was being taught. not perfect but it made the teacher happy and was only for a short time with a limited number of students.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nerak99 View Post
    Any drawbacks with this approach?
    For the virtual-machine-running-on-desktop-machine approach, you'll have to have desktop machines capable of running virtual machines - that might not be all machines in most schools. I'm not sure how licensing would work - depending on the license agreement a school uses, in some cases more licenses for Microsoft Windows might be needed. The virtual machine is going to be slower (although probably not that much), and probably without hardware video acceleration - you might notice performance on graphical games, and you might struggle with 3D. I can imagine similar issues with hardware control from a virtual machine.

    From an installation point of view, an easy step-by-step how-to guide would increase the chances of a solution actually being deployed. Actually, if Windows licensing could be sorted out (or just use a Linux distribution) a ready-to-go VM with a bunch of software all pre-installed and ready to go might make for a nice, easy distribution method.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nerak99 View Post
    So does that mean they can run exe's within your VMware solution?
    From within that solution can they still access their normal home directories?
    Is their username and password for the VMWare solution, synchronised with their normal login credentials? i.e does the solution offer common authentication?
    I assume the VMware is something they can run from any of the normal workstations, can they also run it from home?
    Ok, we install VM ware on the pc and they log into the network as usual, run the VM and select the VM image we created as a stand alone and stashed in c:/program files, give write permissions to the folder too..
    They can't access the network through the VM as we disabled the networking using the Workstation 5 toolkit. (Enable system save state, change settings and save, disable saving system state.
    They can run anything on the VM as they are administrators.
    The files they create are saved and dragged and dropped/copied from VM to their user area, this is backed up normally and enables printing, copied back into VM next lesson.

    Fiddly to set up but works well.

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