Alberta elementary school squeezes in thin clients

An Alberta elementary school will be one of the first to receive a network of thin clients by virtue of its proximity to the province’s SuperNet project.

C.P. Blakely school in Sylvan Lake is rolling out a pilot project later this spring for 22 Sun Ray computers attached to a central server.

The Grade 3 through 5 students will receive Java-based smart cards which contain their work profiles. The cards can be inserted into any one of the workstations, so students can pick up work where they left off.

An independent board of academics will review the pilot to determine if it’s right for other schools in the area, said Dot Negroponte, acting deputy superintendent for Chinook’s Edge School Division, which governs C.P. Blakely. “”(The terminals will) probably be in three different locations because they want to see the movement between (rooms) and have the kids be able to move between maybe a pod in the library and a pod in the classroom,”” she said.

Access to the province’s high-speed fibreoptic network, SuperNet, will mean the terminals will have fast access to the Internet and actually be able to connect with other area schools. SuperNet, scheduled in mid-2004, is a 13,000 km high-speed network which will link 4,700 schools, libraries, hospitals and government offices.

If more schools use the network, students will be able to collaborate on work remotely. Students will also be able to access traditional school software like Microsoft Word and Inspiration, a visual learning tool.

The project has been championed by Alberta Learning, the ministry reponsible for the province’s education. The C.P. Blakely network server will be managed on site by teachers and administration staff, giving them access to Alberta Learning curricula. It also means they’ll be able to control the content that reaches the children.

“”There’s a central server . . . and the administration will be done on the server, so if there’s new content to push out, everybody gets it immediately,”” explained Garry Rasko, Sun Canada‘s marketing development manager for the prairies.

“”Mobility with security is what we’re talking about — especially in a school environment where you want to ensure that you filter and manage what the students have access to,”” he added.

Sun Ray thin clients have been in use in Canada’s educational system for some time. About 3,500 of the units were deployed in four Saskatchewan school districts two years ago, and they are also being used in the pharmaceuticals school at Memorial University in Newfoundland.

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