In this post I introduce you to Piratebox – a way of communicating and sharing files in the classroom with no internet connection.
How cool is that?
I’ve experimented with a lot of tech in my classroom. I’ve used wiki’s, blogs, set up mobile phone polls, used a whole range of edtech products and services and I’ve come to one conclusion:
If it doesn’t work for ALL the students ALL the time then it’s no use
If the success of the tech depends on whether the learner has an Android or Windows phone – then that’s no use to me.
Because that’s exactly the kind of problem that will occur in a real classroom.
So, this is the first in a series of posts entitled
decentralised tech – #edtech tools that empower.
How does it work?
Basically, the piratebox is a portable router that you ‘hack’ into – but don’t worry, you’re not doing anything illegal (the existing software on the router is GNU open source).
With the firmware and software added to the router your learners (and yourself) are able to access the router via your wi-fi facility on their phone/ tablet/ computer and download files.
This means that you can share readings, pictures, music or anything else with your learners and you don’t need an internet connection.
This is ideal for jigsaw readings, setting tasks, group work.
Here are instructions on how to build a piratebox.
So have you used it with your learners?
No! Unfortunately not, I prepared a whole lesson this week with 3 readings on the piratebox – in pdf, doc and html form. I put the docs in 3 different formats as I think that all devices can read one of these formats, and html files (you can save MS Word docs as html files) just open in your browser, regardless of the device you have.
I wanted learners to download the readings on their devices and answer some questions. But I was unable to do the lesson for reasons beyond my control.
But I still wanted to share piratebox with you all as I think it’s a really great tool!
Is it easy to set up?
Well, it wasn’t for me – but I don’t have any real coding or tech experience. It took me two days of fiddling around, typing in code, re-installing the software and a lot of time hanging around in the Piratebox chat room (big thanks to <MaStr–> and <mikshaw> for all their kind assistance).
Can you give any tips to those thinking of making their own Pirate box?
Yes! Here were my ‘pain points’:
1) You’ll need to download Telnet. This is a tool which enables you to communicate with the router. MAKE SURE that you download PuTTY (Telnet) WITH the SSH facility.
You will need to communicate using Telnet (look at the row of buttons under ‘Connection type’) in stage 9 of these instructions but then later you will need to use SSH after you have set up a password in stage 2 of Post-installation instructions.
2) I had problems installing Piratebox which meant that when I got to stage 4 ‘Activate the Kereha Image and Discussion Board’ I was unable to see the code, and definitely not able to change the ADMIN_PASS and SECRET.
I got round this by then uploading the firmware ONLY first – and then uploading the software separately later on. And then everything worked – I could set up the Image and Discussion board (stage 4) and change the passwords.
I did this by following the steps for ‘Upgrade Pirate Box’ – this might also work for you too.
3) When you enter in the passwords in stage 4 of post-installation you need to use the vi editor to do 3 things. Firstly, familiarize yourself with the vi editor – it’s a little weird at first. There’s a cheat sheet on the Piratebox website and I found this guide useful.
Firstly, change the ‘CHANGE ME’ words ONLY (you will see this in the code) in both ADMIN_PASS and SECRET.
Then delete the hashtags at the beginning of the lines containing ADMIN_PASS and SECRET (otherwise it won’t work).
Then remember to SAVE and EXIT.
4) Also, make a note of the stages you go through, so you can explain them clearly to someone on the chat room or on the Piratebox forums.
Any more advice?
Be patient – wait for the software to load. You might think it hasn’t worked – but it might have!
In the final stages you should say ‘Pirate Box’ appear in your list of wireless connections. Here is piratebox on my list of wi-fi connections.
Also, get someone who is a ‘techie’ to help you!
I hope that you found this post useful! I’ll be focusing on more decentralised tools over the following weeks.
Good luck with your Pirateboxes!