By David Angwin, Director of Marketing, EMEA for Wyse
Thin client computers are very much the future of digital classrooms. Low power consumption, automatically updated and centrally managed, thin clients are enabling schools and colleges to install more computers per student while keeping down operational costs with improved reliability.
But, the argument for more thin computing in education is often blunted by a strongly held belief that thin clients can’t match powerful PCs for running the latest curriculum software and peripherals.
The reality is very different. The latest steaming and virtualisation software (e.g. WSM and TCX) support rich multimedia including full Adobe Flash, high quality audio and full connectivity to every kind of educational peripheral from white boards to cameras to scanners.
Teachers and students who switch from PCs to thin clients report no difference in their experience except the thin clients start up much faster, are quieter and are personalised to their settings even when they log onto different machines in other classrooms.
Given the growing number of schools and colleges replacing PCS with thin clients in the classroom, why does this the myth that thin clients fall short on running educational applications persist?
The reason is the 2006 study by BECTA that did considerable good in promoting thin clients but also set out reservations about both multimedia and peripherals. The problem is BECTA hasn’t revised these concerns in the light of the latest technology nor the experience of teachers and children who are using thin computing infrastructure every day.
Given it is four years old next year, can we expect BECTA to do a formal review of thin computing? At the very least, the 2006 report should come with some gentle warning about how much it has passed its sell by date.
Following the Queen’s speech earlier this week it looks like the government plans to offer “guarantees” to pupils and parents when it comes to education.
This announcement has not been well received by the education marketplace; being labelled “absurd” by one newspaper and described as a “whingers charter” by another (A summary of the proposed guarantees is included at the end of this post).
While the idea of guarantees for education is undoubtedly an interesting move by the government it seems that what they have proposed is very general. For example it is hard to argue with the statement that “every pupil will go to a school where they are taught a broad, balanced and flexible curriculum including skills for learning and life” but how we define if this is happening is a whole different ball game.
We are all keen to see improvements in education and whether that comes from improved learning techniques, increased ICT provision or closer alignment between the requirements of the working world and the education process it definitely needs to be addressed.
Setting general guarantees that are open to wide interpretation has the potential to cloud the major issues. With organisations like Futurelab, Naace and Building Schools for the Future working hard to ensure that the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) in schools is becoming an integral part of the education process, it was surprising to find no reference to ICT in these guarantees.
We should be focussing on what percentage of students have access to ICT, how many parents can access information on their children’s education over the Internet and ensuring that students are acquiring the necessary skills to help them in the workplace of the future. These guarantees seem to represent a set of common sense statements rather than a set of policies that can drive education reform.
For more details on the Children, Schools and Families Bill please visit http://tinyurl.com/y9pv6qa