Monday, December 31, 2007

Classroom Computing Hardware & Software

2:1 Classroom Computing with leveraged, network computers demands easy-to-maintain, easy-to-manage systems. Furthermore, since many software programs run only under Windows; systems that run Windows should be sought. Note that this may make the systems harder to maintain and more costly. However, if only Internet access is desired with the addition of a Microsoft Office (tm) type program (eg OpenOffice), then Linux operating systems, such as Ubuntu, should be used. Nonetheless, if Windows is selected, then free StarOffice (tm) or OpenOffice (tm) could and should be installed as a cost savings.

Leveraged network computers include thin clients and multi-user systems. If network congestion is a major issue, then classroom multi-user systems may be the wisest choice: X300 from NComputing leads the market. Hardware for computer labs is another issue.

It is best to have 7 workstations per PC, not 4 which would require more PC's, more money, with more chances for failure. Yes, each PC failure would be less disruptive, but there would be more disruptions overall and the reliability of the classroom would be less. For example, with 7 workstations per PC, a classroom with 21 workstations would require 3 Ethernet ports plus 1 for a network printer and maybe one more for a laptop connected to a SmartBoard. No switches would be needed, which are actually the main cause of network failure (students kick them!).

Future teacher computers should be capable of handling two x300 cards. It may be appropriate to place one x300 and appropriate memory in the teacher computer initially. Let teachers adjust their rooms and add workstations when they are comfortable with them and their locations. It is surmised that seven is the maximum number that supports standard classroom supplemental uses, adding additional workstations means that the class has a computerized instructional focus. In short, the x300 supports pedagogical evolution of each teacher at low cost with high ease.

Getting to this doesn't require tossing older computers. Some classrooms will have seven computers, some seven workstations. Moving computers should be expected.

Finally, the x300 forces issues with network speed to move from the classroom to either network hardware (e.g. "da pipes") or network software (i.e. pipe clogging). IT would have a network focus, not a computer failure focus.

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