Archive for Thursday, June 5, 2003

USD 232 Board OKs technology prototype

June 5, 2003

The De Soto USD 232 Board of Education approved testing a system it is hoped would offer an affordable solution to the district's one-on-one computer technology initiative.

With the action Monday, District Technology Director Ben Crosier said the $151,000 prototype would be installed at Lexington Trails Middle School, where it will be tested and evaluated from the start of school in August through October.

During the recently ended school year, the district started introducing its 21st century technology initiative that would provide a wireless handheld computer device to each student. The thin-client system would replace full-blown laptop computers, such as those introduced at Riverview Elementary and Lexington Trails, with handheld computing devices like the popular Palm Pilot or tablet PCs just now coming into the market. Unlike the laptops, the computing devices wouldn't be programmed with software. Rather, they would access central district computer servers loaded with software programs.

Kent Hansen, systems consultant with the Overland Park-based Choice Solutions, told the Board in April the cost of hardware and software for a thin-client system was $10.9 million, while installing laptops in all district schools would carry an estimated $15.7 million estimated price tag. The laptops the district has already purchased could be used with the thin client system.

The prototype would allow 100 users to access the central services at the same time, Crosier said. The prototype's most significant cost is the $112,630 price tag for seven servers that will be housed in the district technology center in De Soto, he said.

However, Hewlett Packard agreed to loan the servers for the three-month prototype, Crosier said. The company will also make a number of handheld computing devices available for testing.

The prototype would involve a test room at Lexington Trails where teachers and administrators would check out the system and test handheld devices. Students and classes would also use the system to see how it functioned in the classroom, Crosier said.

Home computers would be able to link to the district's thin client system, allowing students and teachers to work at home. Crosier said Monday that feature would be part of the prototype so the district could thoroughly evaluate the proposed system.

The prototype is the first step in implementing the thin client system throughout the district. Should all go well, Crosier said he hoped the district could start a pilot program for sixth-graders at Monticello Trails Middle School and freshmen at De Soto High School.

"The goal is to introduce it district-wide in the fall of 2004, but that would depend on testing and evaluation," he said.

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