Week 3 Assignment
I will be observing the group that works to refurbish
computers for donation. They are a sub group of the local,
non-profit, computer club. They have been meeting in a
member’s workshop for the past couple of years in order to
refurbish computers and make them ready for donation.
They are listed in the on line directory at:
px?setlang=en They work through local groups, including
the Boy’s and Girl’s Club to find homes for the machines.
They have already donated over 200 machines to groups and
individuals, including the local
Senior Community Center, the
local food bank and the local
community radio station.
OBSERVATION AND REPORT:
On Monday, 31 March, I met at the workshop and listened
and observed the work session. I asked some general
questions at the onset of the three hour meeting, but for the
most part, all my conclusions were based on listening and
It was apparent from the start, that the group functions as a
social group as much as a group of fellows that share a
similar interest in computers and technology.
I arrived early enough to be alone in the shop so I could take
photographs with my iPod.
I arrived early
enough to be alone
in the shop so I could
with my iPod.
The shop has plenty of light, lots of tools and work benches
(5), a big forced-air heater for our cold winter days, a
wireless modem, bathroom, sink, comfortable chairs, and
1 The double doors on the right lead to the store room holding more hardware.
plenty of shelves to hold spares. It has a phone, clock,
calendar, bulletin board and a couple of posters reminding
shop attendees of upcoming events and the three, triage
color codes to label to the machines in process.
I did not want to be an influence on the group activity in any
way. I told the group moderator what I was there for, but the
others in attendance did not know the purpose of my visit
unless they inquired. I subscribe to the theory known as the
quantum theory of observation. One of the most bizarre
premises of quantum theory, which has long fascinated
philosophers and physicists alike, states that by the very act
of watching, the observer affects the observed reality.*
2 The blue arrow on the left points to the shop router
3 The blue arrow on the right indicates a 7 CD disk burner
Projects - What kinds of projects are people working on?
The majority of projects deal with the inspection and
preparation of donated, desktop PCs. They are powered up
and inspected. Belarc Advisor, a free program, is used to
generate a report for each machine. I have uploaded the first
page of a 14 page Belarc report for one of my older machines.
It can be viewed/downloaded on my site at: http://sequim-
web.net/design/Belarc Advisor Current Profile.pdf
I was told that the first page of the Belarc report is printed
and enclosed inside the donated machine.
Each component is inspected for reliable operation. This
includes all drives, cables, ports, etc. The machine is
inventoried for amount of ram installed, size of hard drive,
etc. If the machine passes inspection, a licensed copy of
Windows is installed following the wipe and partitioning of
the hard drive or drives.
4 Instructions used when installing software
How would you describe the range or diversity of projects?
The range of the projects encompasses hardware and
software. In order to insure the full operation of all
components, various software drivers are required to be
installed in order to test network connections, Internet
connections, CD and DVD reading and recording, and so on.
The donated machines are different, in that there are many
ways to open the case and inspect the various parts. Some
have ATA hard drives, some IDE hard drives, etc. The slots
5 Another sheet used for Machine numbered 180
for ram vary, as well as the type of memory required. The
tiny plugs and their location on the motherboard are
different in design and size, as well as the configuration due
to the manufacturer of the motherboard. There are many
variables, which makes the job both challenging and
interesting to the volunteers.
Interests - Where do the ideas for the projects come from?
Are the projects based on individual, group, or community
The projects come from donated computers, initially. The
word has spread in the community, the local newspapers, on
web sites, BLOGS, and on Twitter. There are plenty of
computers donated, as well as all kinds of spares. Today, I
asked what kind of spares they need, and they said power
plugs and flat screen monitors. Several answered my
question immediately, and this indicated that these items
were scarce and needed as soon as possible. The individual
projects assigned or necessary as part of the total process
come from what is on hand on the day the volunteers go to
the workshop. There were seven at work on machines about
a half hour after the shop opened. At present, they are
waiting for a shipment of Windows 7 from Microsoft.
Learning Community - Do people help each other learn?
Are there mentors in the space? Is there a trajectory of
participation from newcomer to leadership roles?
The members collaborate on various duties, as there are
multiple skill levels inherent in the group. The shop owner
acts as a mentor, as he is a senior officer in the club, and the
shop tools and equipment are largely owned by him. He is
not the sort of person that barks orders. If someone does
something stupid or dangerous, there are enough senior
members on hand to point out the behavior. Work
assignments are generated on an ad hoc basis. Forms are
kept for each machine, and a number assigned. A clipboard
near the front door serves as a log of machines, machine
numbers, and who is presently working on the machine.
Everyone works together and helps each other.
Values - How do people treat each other in the community?
Are there community guidelines or values that are discussed
or agreed upon?
Everyone treats each other with respect. Those with more
technical expertise are treated like anyone else, but they are
listened to more often that others when a tricky problem
Space - Which aspects of the physical space support the
creative learning process? What materials are available?
I took a number of photographs and included them in this
What struck me most was the organization of the shop, the
lighting, the tools, the clearly labeled boxes of parts –mice,
power cords, hard drives, etc., and the amount of room
available to dismantle and work on the desktop machines.
Things are very well organized for the group.
Participants learn as they work. The free exchange of ideas
and approaches to problems and the use of good
documentation and basic, written instructions, helps to
make the process a continuous learning experience.
After my visit, I made it a point to follow up. I thanked the
host, and found some sources for hardware they need. I also
inquired as to a location for disposal of unwanted and
*Weizmann Institute Of Science. "Quantum Theory Demonstrated:
Observation Affects Reality." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 February