Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Using Server2Go to Teach IT Courses for LIS Students

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Using Server2Go to Teach IT Courses for LIS Students

Article excerpt

We share our experience with a software tool (Server2Go) we used in our two information technology (IT) courses in Spring 2007 term. Server2Go is easy to use and supports our needs of having labs on Internet technologies without provoking security concerns from network administrators at different levels. We discuss why a software tool like Server2Go is useful in library and information science (LIS) IT classrooms, the strengths and limitations of this particular software, and our experience in both classes. We also compare Server2Go with other similar software packages and provide tips on further configuring Server2Go to make it more self-contained.

Teaching information technology (IT) courses in library and information science (LIS) schools can pose problems not encountered in non-IT courses. IT courses often impose complicated system requirements. Setting up different software platforms for student exercises can be a challenge for systems staff, especially when Internet technology is in question. Due to security concerns, system administrators may be reluctant to install network software to open networking ports, or to grant administrative access to the students. This makes it difficult for faculty wanting to teach databases using MySQL or to install a Web server like Apache or to give students experience in setting up a wiki for knowledge management. As a result, students can be deprived of hands-on instruction or practice, although in IT courses hands-on activities are a common pedagogical method and have proven effective.

When it comes to applied knowledge and skills, students learn through their mistakes. Without hands-on exercises, students are deprived of these much-needed learning moments. They are also deprived of the feeling of achievement that is associated with the completion of a seemingly difficult task. This feeling of achievement could have motivated the learning on a different level. On the other hand, the instructors lose crucial teachable moments-many questions don't get a chance to be raised and answered.

At the Faculty of Media and Information Studies we have faced this dilemma for some time. Instructors have tried a number of alternatives: Q & A sessions based on user manuals, live demonstrations from instructor's office computers, Live CDs, even mobile labs, consisting of servers and laptop computers owned by instructors. User manuals provide good information but the language is often too technical and abstract for students with social sciences or humanities backgrounds. Furthermore, the translation from a thorough discussion of the user manual to a set of applicable skills is not automatic. The vast majority of students who received this mode of instruction reported that they obtained a vague to clear sense of how the technology works through the discussion, but they were not confident at all they could follow the user manual to implement the technology (for example, a wiki). Live demonstrations can alleviate the abstractness of the discussions, but they do not allow many opportunities for "what-if."

Fortunately, there are now options for faculty who need Internet services for instruction. One such software package, "Server2Go," provides a Web server environment for Microsoft Windows users that can run from a removable media, such as a USB drive or a CD-ROM. Server2Go consists of all open-source software including the Apache Web server, the MySQL database, and the PHP and Perl programming languages to provide a functional solution to teaching Web applications. Server2Go is donationware and can be downloaded from for free. For information on other similar software, see the "Comparison" section. Unfortunately, none of these software packages supported Macintosh computers free of charge when we were considering them.

Advantages of Using Server2Go in Teaching

For teaching IT courses in LIS schools, the most preeminent advantage Server2Go offers is a graceful workaround of security concerns which are among the top priorities of most system administrators in LIS schools and their universities. …

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