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Using Thin Clients In An Educational Setting

We design a model classroom for the National School Boards Association Conference to see how thin-client technology could be used in a cooperative learning environment.

According to NCES, the National Center for Education Statistics virtually every school in the U.S., or at least 99 percent of them, has Internet access, and the ratio of students to computers improves every few months with new purchases and donated equipment. However, having equipment is very different from using it. We wanted to design a model classroom for the National School Boards Association (http://www.nsba.org/site/index.asp) Conference in November 2002 to see how thin-client technology could be used in a cooperative learning environment.

INTEGRATED OPTIONS

We have visited many classrooms and schools throughout the country and have seen what is working and what is not. Classrooms that buzz with activity adapt integrated technology. They have equipment that is ready to use, fits the learning seamlessly, and is always on. Teachers and students connect to ideas and tools in a comfortable setting; they enjoy searching for answers and practicing new skills. Teachers have shifted from lecture-style instruction to activity-oriented learning. They accommodate more individualized learning and all students can achieve. The chart summarizes the qualities of Integrated versus Disconnected Technology.

Integrated Technology Disconnected Technology
Ease of Use - Consistent applications
- Security up to date
- Multiple applications & versions
- Insecure desktop
Seamless Network - Server-based information
- Server-based applications
- Easy transfer
- Floppy disks
- CDs
- Email transfers
Always On - Always available in classroom
- Access to relevant information
- Scheduled computer time
- Equipment failure
IT AND INSTRUCTIONAL INPUT

When it came to designing a model classroom, we needed input from an experienced educator and the recommendations of IT specialists. Because the classroom is so different from an office or more typical IT setting, it is essential that system administrators work with instructional users to define needs and discuss feasibility.

Shelly Luke Wille, of the San Mateo County Office of Education, created a series of project-based learning classes for the conference where participants (teachers, administrators, and other adults) listened to instructions and completed activities in collaboration. As the instructor of the Model Classroom Sessions, she required the following:

  • One device per two students located in group work areas throughout the room.
  • Teaching space in the center of the room with a projector connected to a laptop.
  • Desktop space for books, papers, and other materials.
  • Open working space for group activity such as round or long tables.
  • Access to instructional web pages and several applications.
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