How One Teacher Built a Computer Lab for Free

The problem? An underfunded school needed computers for the classroom. Budget? $0. Staff involved? Just one: Robert Litt, a sixth-grade teacher.


With the help of his local LUG, he got Linux up and running on his 18 donated machines. Suddenly, they were fast. They were clean. They worked well in the classroom. Robert was invigorated, as were his students. His principal saw how excited they all were, and decided to give Robert four hours of teaching leave per week to give him time to find more computers for a full lab for ASCEND. And so Robert became a “teacher on special assignment,” as he puts it.

Finding computers was less difficult than he originally anticipated. Most families and businesses have an old computer (or ten) sitting in storage. Robert began to call businesses and ask for donations of equipment they’d otherwise be sending for recycling. People were generally very receptive. Most people would rather their used computers do good than rot in a landfill or get shredded; they just don’t usually know how to get computers to where they are needed. “Underfunded schools are starving in the midst of plenty,” Robert explains. “Discarded computers are our nation’s most wasted educational resource.”

For old computers, specially old desktops, there’s nothing that comes close to Linux distros. They run on everything, they are fast, they are nimble on resources and they can give you a lot of simple free software for basically everything that you want to do.

I personally recommend and use Linux Mint. It’s not perfect but it’s a great OS, much easier to maintain than Windows and much, much safer too.