Virtual desktops: Imagine the possibilities for teaching and learning

Desktop virtualization holds promises for K-12 education.
Desktop virtualization holds promises for K-12 education.

Moving from the current use of desktop and laptop computers to a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) creates many possibilities for teaching and learning.

Imagine the possibilities if teachers could gain improved access to new software, software updates, and web-based resources that support teaching and learning. With VDI, when a division approves software for use, then teachers could gain access to the software overnight. This access could be provided to teachers throughout a division, or to particular groups of teachers, such as high school science teachers or elementary art teachers.

Divisions might even be able to approve additional software because the ease of deploying the software does not require significant human capital. Teachers could better use web-based resources because of better access to current versions of plug-ins.

Imagine the possibilities if teachers could use the resources of the division network anytime, anyplace, and from any device with browsing capabilities.

Teachers, regardless of time and location, could easily view and update files that are stored on the division network. This includes grade book files, even if the grade book is not web-based. Teachers, regardless of time and location, could use the software on the division network. For example, teachers could view textbook software on the division’s network. Even if they are not at school, teachers could use the software that they use in their courses, even if it is not loaded on the computer they are using.

Teachers would no longer need to use thumb drives to carry files to and from home, school, and other locations. Even if the division uses a PC environment, teachers could use Mac computers to access the files and software on the division’s network.

Imagine the possibilities if students also had expansive access to the network. Students, regardless of time and location, could easily work independently or collaboratively to view and update their work that they have saved on the division network. Working from home or elsewhere within the parameters of licensing agreements, they could also use the software that previously could only be used at school. They could also access their library’s catalog of resources to identify and reserve materials.

Information technology staff members

Imagine the possibilities if information technology (IT) could easily update the desktops of computers throughout the division. Software would be deployed throughout the division or to particular groups of students without having technicians touch each computer. It would be much easier to manage the use of hundreds of applications throughout the division and to accommodate a mix of software that require different plug-ins. IT would have fewer worries regarding whether adding new software would break the fragile infrastructure of a computer’s operating system. No longer would individual computers need to be dedicated to particular uses because of an inability to use multiple products on the same computer.

The power of the computer on a teacher’s desktop would be less important for the user’s experience because VDI provides equal capacity for users.

Historically, IT staff members have many worries regarding older computers. Will an older computer run Windows Vista or Windows7? Will an older computer run Office 2007 or Office 2010? Will an older computer have the processor speed to run multimedia? With VDI, IT staff members and users would have fewer worries about older computers because the computers would just be portals to the virtual environment. This would allow a division to lengthen the computer replacement cycle or at least be happier with the current computer replacement cycle.

Realizing the possibilities with VDI

With VDI, students, teachers, and other staff members are connected to their division’s network through a private internet cloud. A user is no longer tethered to a specific computer in a specific school with a standardized configuration of software, blind to their needs and interests.

Laura Ascione

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