Reading this article got me thinking again about a set of ideas I was playing with back in 2006 that helped lead to the Activities concept: use case specific Containments.
Right now we have a few containments (Desktop, Folder View, Panel, etc.) but they are all general purpose containments. They are meant to be general containers that can contain random sets of widgets in any sort of layout. Useful, no doubt, and absolutely required.
I don't think they are suitable for every use case, however. Listening to one of the people involved in the desktop roll out in the Gran Canarias at Akademy a couple years back, it became rather apparent that they really wanted to use the desktop in a way that most people didn't. They fudged a solution together, but it was a hack.
The article linked in the first paragraph above brings out another interesting point. Now, they could do what they want with some kiosk settings, but it would be a rather bore to do so and I'm not sure how teacher friendly that would be.
The bits we already do alright with is that you'd need to lock down console access so students can't run arbitrary things and then provide custom menu layouts and sets of apps on the desktop. Still, not exactly a five minute job and I think it should be. Locking down console access is one kiosk entry, but the menu arrangements and setting up the kiosk groups: quite a bit more time and a fair amount of technical details. Not teacher friendly.
Given how often teachers end up having to do the set up themselves, this is important. So I think we ought to have a set of containments and widgets appropriate to the classroom, then it's just a matter of creating an appropriate Activity, changing the panel a bit perhaps and voila.
Thing is, I'm not a school teacher and that means I shouldn't be the one to design this thing. If you are a school teacher, you'd be the "right" person for this. In fact, I would like to see a small group of educators or education IT support staff get together and brainstorm what a perfect desktop would look like and work like. I'm not suggesting a full classroom system with grading and all that stuff (I'm not insane ;) but just the desktop bits. What would make it work better for you?
I've created a page on our developer wiki where you can go and start putting ideas down. Feel free to use pictures, words, whatever. We can sort it out and then figure out how to implement it. I get the feeling this could make an awesome Google Summer of Code project.
But we need you, the educators, to step up and give us feedback. Not sure when the last time you were asked to help design a desktop just for your needs, but now's your chance.