Baker Elementary School in San Jose, Calif., is getting the skinny on thin-client computing. The school recently installed a thin-client technology lab that it says could save thousands of dollars in maintenance costs in the long run.

Baker, a California Distinguished school, is recognized as a leader in the integration of technology into the curriculum. The school has been cited for its innovation by the Santa Clara Office of Education and the California School Library Association.

Located in the school’s media center, the new thin-client computer lab provides teachers and students with the genuine look and feel of personal computers, but with the added efficiency, security, and durability of a thin-client solution.

The system runs Windows-based software and contains a host of educational software packages that teachers can use in the curriculum.

But instead of installing 30 complete desktop systems, Baker has been fitted with WinTerm thin-client systems from Wyse Technology. The system connects monitors, keyboards, and small processing units in the classroom to network servers at a central location.

The software applications reside on the school’s network file servers. From the technology lab, students and teachers tap into the servers for their application needs.

“We are fortunate to have such an effective solution for our media center. With thin clients, our students can now spend more time learning,” said Baker Elementary School Principal Bitsey Stark. “We are honored to be at the forefront of schools using technology to enhance education.”

Baker Elementary was selected by National Semiconductor to serve as a pilot site for a thin-client technology lab.

National Semiconductor, which manufactures computer chips for thin-client systems, and several other companies chipped in to see the new lab through.

The donation, which is valued at $175,000, provided Baker Elementary with a complete solution. The donation included free testing, installation, and maintenance, as well as training for teachers and staff members.

National Semiconductor provided three Dell servers, 30 color monitors, staff training, and ongoing maintenance fees; Wyse Technology provided 30 of its 3350SE WinTerm thin-client systems; Computer Networks Inc. installed the equipment and provided technical assistance, training, and software testing; Citrix Systems Inc. donated its Metaframe server-client software package; and Microsoft threw in its Windows NT Terminal Server Edition and Office 97 software packages.

At Baker Elementary, the fact that thin-clients have shown to be easier to maintain has been a boon.

“We did some research and found that the teachers weren’t using the media lab to its full potential because they didn’t have time to troubleshoot the computers, or get them all up-and-running on the same applications for all the students,” Stark said. “Now it’s simple. Teachers turn them on and they just work.”

The Windows-based thin-client terminals being provided by Wyse Technology run applications from central servers. The desktop modules have no moving parts such as fans or hard disk drives, which often break down and require maintenance.

A new Gartner Group study on thin-client solutions found that they typically require 80 percent less management than traditional PCs. In one example, a mortgage bank reported that after switching to a thin-client solution, its annual cost of managing a personal computer fell from $4,458 to $550.

National Semiconductor says PCs can fail up to five times more often than thin-clients. The company says the mean time between failures (MTBF) for PCs is 20,000 to 40,000 hours–and even more for higher-end computers–compared to a 300,000-hour MTFB for thin-clients.

Upgrading is made easier, too. By handling all applications at the server, the Winterm Windows-based terminals in the Baker media lab can be simultaneously upgraded when a new version of a software application is released.

And because they have no local storage capability, there is a much smaller threat of introducing a virus or otherwise corrupting the system.

Baker Elementary is part of the Moreland School District in the Silicon Valley. The school caters to 470 students in grades K-5.

In addition to its new thin-client media lab, the school boasts of having Macintosh computers in all classrooms, each linked to the internet and districtwide intranet. Laser printers in each classroom allow students to publish poems, reports, stories, and books.

Baker was the first school in its district to implement “CU-SeeMe” videoconferencing technology, and students correspond regularly with Key Pals and others around the world.

Baker Elementary School

Citrix Systems Inc.

Computer Networks

Microsoft K-12 Education Programs

National Semiconductor

Wyse Technology